Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bird Bath


So this is how it feels. This is how it feels when you lose someone you love so much. You feel numb, frozen. You can’t see or hear anything but you know it’s there and after a while everything starts to sink in down to the deepest part of your being. Then your world starts to shake and you start crying as if you won’t ever stop, and just before you can even wipe the last drop of tear from your eyes, you find yourself crying again and again and again.


My name is Samara. I’m standing by the huge glass window of my room, staring at the peaceful view of my little hometown. I’m thinking about the things that I’ve done in my life, the things that I’ve gained, the things that I’ve lost. It’s been three years of traveling and working and finding answers to my unending questions. Finally, I’m home again.


Why do people always think of home during times of confusion, of loneliness, of failures, of loss? Is there something about home that wipes away all these? Is home enough to give comfort to a broken spirit and relief to a hurting soul? Perhaps yes, because I am feeling them now.


It’s four in the afternoon; I go downstairs to see if my two younger brothers are in the living room. Josh is 20, James is 22.We grew up together and we’ve been close since we were kids. When I reach downstairs, the living room is empty. I go straight to the kitchen and I smell the sweet aroma of milk and eggs. I know right away what Mom is doing.


“Hey Mom, where’s everyone?”


“Your Dad is at the veranda; your brothers are out playing basketball.”


“I’m glad you’re still making your specialty dessert.”


Mom loves to make leche flan. She’s been making it since I was young.


“Sometimes I get tired or even lazy but your Dad and your brothers crave for it so I keep making some at least twice a week.” She cuts a slice of her leche flan and places it on a saucer. “Here you can have this.”


I immediately take a bite. I haven’t had a taste of that flan for three years. ”Mom, did I ever tell you that you make the best leche flan in the whole entire world?”


She laughs. “Yes, you told me once when you were 15.”


“I’m 25 now and I can assure you, you’re still my bet.” I smile and give her a wink.


My mother stares at me lovingly and says,” I always knew you’ll grow up into a fine lady.”


I look at her. She’s 48 years old and she still looks beautiful. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be just like her, beautiful, graceful in every way, kind and loving. I look in her eyes and I see the love and sincerity that is there, and without even asking it, I know my mother is proud me as she has always been.


“I owe it from you, Mom,” I say with gratefulness in my heart.


She smiles and takes another slice of her flan, puts it on a saucer and hands it over to me, “Give this to your Dad, he’s waiting for it.”


“Ok, Mom…” I take the little saucer.” I love you, Mom.”


“I love you too, baby.”


I’m walking towards my Dad. He is sitting on his favorite wooden chair, facing the garden, reading his newspaper. My Dad just turned 50 this year, but like what I’ve always seen before, he is still the same Dad who is strong and fit. My Dad is a civil engineer. He was also a wood carver. He loves art and beauty. That’s the part of him that I love most but I wasn’t able to become an artist like him. I tried but it didn’t work out so I just stick to writing, reading and dancing.


I gently place the flan on the table beside him and sit on the chair on the other side of the round coffee table.


“Thanks,” he says.


We are both facing the garden now. My mother never fails to impress me with her gardening skills. Everything looks tidy and totally gorgeous.


“How’s life treating my little girl?” He adjusts his glasses and glances at me.


“Well, it has been kicking me hard these months and I’m just glad I’m home.”


“When are you going back to work?” he asks.


“I’m not going back, Dad. I just finished the contract this month. They wanted me to renew my contract but I didn’t sign.”


“Good.” He folds his newspaper and takes a bite of Mom’s flan.”Hmmm…”


It’s amazing how I could still see the same expression on Dad’s face every time he gets a taste of Mom’s dessert.


“How are you, Dad?” I ask staring at my Dad realizing how much I miss him.


“I just turned fifty and my life just keeps getting better. I have a great wife, a lovely daughter and two awesome boys. What more can I ask for?” He gives a deep sigh and says, “I don’t even understand why I deserve all of you?”


I give a sweet laugh and say, “Oh, Dad, you’re just one blessed guy.”


“I obviously am. So what are your plans now?”


“There’s an international agency stationed in the city. It’s totally in line with what I do. They have been inviting me to work with them even before I finished my contract in Vietnam. I talked to them yesterday and I guess I’m giving it a shot.”


“I suppose you know and love what you are doing.”


I smile. “Yes, Dad, I definitely do.”


I was a nomad - if that’s how everyone would view the way I lived my life. I have worked with an organization that does charity work for poor communities. I lived
in mountains and sometimes in areas near the sea. I love what I do. I meet people and lots of them. I could see the world in a much bigger picture and was able to help those in need in my own simple ways.


He finishes his flan and takes a sip of his coffee.


“Dad…”


“Yes…”


“Just a question…”


“Sure.”


“Why do you always let me do the things that I want?”


“Why, don’t you like it?” he asks in a soft voice and looks at me.


“It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just that all these years, you never said no to anything that I wanted to do.” I look at him intently.


“Ok…so what’s the question again?” He is smiling this time. I love my Dad’s smile.


“Why?” I ask the question with a sense curiosity inside me.


He faces the garden again and keeps silent. I face the garden too waiting for his answer.


“Can you see that little bird over there?” he asks.


“Yes.”


There’s a tiny little bird bathing itself on the bird bath in Mom’s garden. It looks so lovely and innocent.


“A bird bath is made for birds so they can drink and bathe if they have to. It’s like a place of comfort for them. But the existence of a bird bath with all its ability to give comfort to the birds doesn’t mean that birds should stay there for the rest of their lives.”


I look at the bird. It wiggles its tail trying to make itself dry.


“Where you are now is your home, Sam. But since you were a kid, I told myself that someday you’ll grow up and would want to fly away, even farther than I could think of, and I was right.”


My gaze is still fixed on the little bird.


“Everyone deserves to live, Sam; I don’t want you to miss that.”


“Thanks, Dad... But, didn’t it cross your mind that I might choose a wrong way, perhaps.”


“You have no idea how scared I am every time you walk out that door, pulling your trolley bag behind you.”


“But you still let me go.”


“Yes.”


“Why?”


“Because I trust you. I have to trust you or else you will not learn.”


His words are sensible but I know there’s more than just the sensibility of his thoughts. My Dad loves me.


“But it doesn’t end there Sam…I also had to pray.”


I look at my Dad. His eyes are on his lap. My vision starts to blur, and before tears start to stream on my cheeks, I wipe my eyes with my fingers.


“Thank you, Dad.”


The air is cool and I enjoy the soft touch of heaven’s breeze on my skin.


“Do you still dance?” Dad asks.


“Yes, Dad…We usually have a cultural show twice a month. It’s like a show for a cause. We do the traditional Vietnam Dances. It’s fun and interesting. I like it.


“That’s good.”


Dancing has been my passion since I was six or seven. I did ballet and folk dancing in school. When I was thirteen, Mom and Dad started to bring me to dance night parties during the Paete town fiesta. My Mom would let me wear a dainty floral dress and ribbons on my hair. Daddy would say I look like a princess. When the party starts, Dad would take me to dance with him first before my Mom. We would dance the ballroom swing. How I miss those days.


“We haven’t danced in a while, Dad…Too bad I missed this year’s town fiesta.”


“You should witness the town fiesta next year. I’m proud to say that Paete’s fown fiesta just keeps getting better every year.”


“That’s fantastic!”


The last time that I witnessed the town fiesta was when I was twenty two. That seems like a long time ago. I just can’t wait to see it again.


Two birds land gracefully on the bird bath and start drinking. They look like friends or lovers.


Dad takes another sip of his coffee. ”So how’s that artist you’ve been telling me about before?” His face looks light.


“Jacob?”


“Is that his real name? I thought I heard Jake.”


“His real name is Jacob but I call him Jake.”


“Oh…so how are things going on with the two of you?”


Jake. That big hole inside of me. I hate to use the term ‘hole’. I find it so mediocre since everybody uses that term every time they get themselves broken hearted, like when someone leaves them or their loved ones never come back. They would say, the people who left them leave them holes inside that they couldn’t bear. But I guess they’re right. When somebody important to you leaves, there is really that hole inside of you that you don’t know how to fill, or maybe you know how but you just don’t want to fill because just the mere existence of that hole makes you feel closer to whatever feelings that you still want to hold on to.


“We broke up,” I say.


“Your Mom actually told me that. What happened?” My Dad looks and sounds like he doesn’t feel anything. His expression is so dispassionate.


“We failed to agree on the certain things.” I say in a strained voice.


“Like?”


“My job which includes my charity projects with the organization.”


“What about it?”


“He wants me to come home and stay here for good.”


“Ok…” He finishes his coffee. “And you didn’t agree?”


“Of course I couldn’t just leave what I was doing, Dad. It’s my ministry. It’s part of my life and he knows it.”


“Nobody wants to wait forever, Samara.” He looks at me with a touch of comfort.


“I know.” I give a sigh.


“By the way, could you explain to me why I haven’t met this guy ever since your relationship started? I mean, I’m not playing the role of a protective Dad here but I’m just wondering why?” Dad tries to be playful and his mood is so light. It seems like he’s enjoying the question and answer thing that’s going on.


“We had a plan that he would come here and meet you, Mom and the two boys but we broke up a month before we could actually fulfill the plan.”


“Ok I get it...So who made the decision? I mean about the break up?”


“Me.”


“Surprising.”


“I’m used to leaving things behind, Dad.”


“But not the very important ones.”


My head is bowed down, I’m playing with my fingers and at the same time I’m thinking if Daddy is right. But I don’t want to think anymore. The past months were months of torture for me.


“Have you tried dating other guys after him?” he asks.


“No.”


“Why not?” He takes off his glasses and wipes the moisture with the hem of his shirt.


“Because I don’t want to, Dad.” My voice sounds a little frustrated.


“Why?”


“I think it’s going to be difficult.”


“Can you explain further than that?”


“If I would date a guy, I know I will just try and find Jake in him. I would ask myself: Does he think like Jake? Can he draw like Jake? Or is he like Jake? I don’t think that would be fair, Dad.”


“My question is, why would you look for Jake in other guys?”


I keep silent.


“Someone has to fill the hole, Sam.”


“I don’t want anybody else, Dad.”


I was studying in the university when I first met Jacob. He was practicing his profession as a graphic artist back then. He is five years older than me but we were friends. We used to hang out together, go shopping together and do the usual things that normal friends do. He started courting me during my last year in school. I turned him down twice (but he said it I did it thrice) since I wasn’t ready for any commitments, and I was thinking that we were friends and it was better for us stay that way. But he was persistent. It took him a year and a half before he could make me say ‘Yes.’


Aside from my parents, Jacob is one person in the world who knows me well. He can tell what I feel. He knows how I think, what I would say about certain things or on certain situations. He knows my fears, my frustrations, and my dreams. He knows what I’m capable of and what I cannot do. I could tell him even the tiniest details of my thoughts and my secrets. He was my best friend.


“So my little girl still has hopes, huh?” Dad teases me.


“Dad…you know you cannot just turn off feelings in a snap.” I’m starting to sound desperate.


“Of course…”


“And…we’re still friends…we talk sometimes, over the phone.”


“You call him or he calls you?” Dad is smiling again.


“Both.” I think I’m blushing.


“Well…not bad.”


We are both looking at the garden. We can see the sun slowly setting on the purple horizon.


“Dad…”


“Yes?”


“Why is love so difficult?”


I look at him and he smiles.


“It’s difficult because the love that you are talking about is something that you don’t give to anybody else. It is something special. It’s difficult because it is a choice. And when you choose that means you are responsible for any consequence of the choice that you make. When something is special to you, you give more of what you already have. At one point you sacrifice, you persevere.”


“Is there any way to make it easier?”


“The last time I tried, well…I just believed in it…Perhaps it can work out with you too.”


I keep my eyes fixed on the sunset. Believe? I do believe…but it doesn’t help a lot. Believing that something good will happen is excruciating. It takes a lot to do it. I hate it. But I still do it anyway.


“Just be patient Sam… Pray for it and wait for the answers.” Dad slowly stands and says,” Come, I’ll show you something.”


We are walking towards Dad’s haven. It’s his sanctuary, his paradise. It is an open wilderness hut.


“Oh, Dad…I miss this place.”


The place is filled with Dad’s wooden sculptures and his other woodcarvings. The floor is a little bit covered with wood debris. The smell of wood fills the whole place. It reminds me of my childhood years when I used to play with my brothers in this haven. Daddy would make us wooden toys, wooden soldiers for my brothers and wooden dolls for me. On my 18th birthday, Dad made me a huge wooden bed with rose carvings. He knows how much I love roses.


“Your Mom needs a new stand for her new set of porcelain.”


Dad leads me to a smooth light brown stand which is about six feet tall. The style is simple, very minimalist with some tiny butterfly carvings on its edges.


“It looks elegant, Dad.”


“Thanks…Your Mom’s porcelain are full of floral paintings so I have to make a simpler stand so that the porcelain’s designs will shine.”


“That’s very nice, Dad.”


No wonder I loved Jake. He is so much like my Dad – intelligent, thoughtful, and creative.


“So what about Jake? You told me once he’s also an artist. What exactly does he do?” Dad is putting together his gouges, chisels and wooden mallets of different sizes and places them in his wonder box.


“He’s a graphic artist.”


“Is he familiar with wood carving?”


“No…he’s more into sketching and painting.”


“Interesting.”


“Yah…”


I pull a stool from a table just near where I am standing and sit facing my Dad.


“How are you and Mom?” I ask.


My Dad and my Mom have been together for twenty seven years. Dad was my Mom’s first love. In their relationship, Dad is the quasi-serious and the quasi-funny one but creative at the same time while Mom is the sweet, loving wife any man would wish for. I adored them even when I was little. They were like the perfect couple for me. That’s when I started to tell my self to look for a guy who is exactly like my father. Then I met Jake.


“We are still doing well…Thank God,” he says. He pulls another stool from the table and sits beside me.


“Your Mom is a gift from heaven, Sam.” He looks at the dark sky. “I don’t think I could make it without her. I mean she has always been there for me. I’m so blessed to have her.”


The stars shine above the sky like diamonds spread out on a black canvass. How I missed this view. I look at Dad. He is smiling at the sky.


“Mom’s also blessed to have you, Dad.”


He gives a sweet laugh, “I’m glad you’re home, Sam.”


“Well, I guess there’s no place like home.”


“You reckon not.”


“Dinner’s ready!” It is Mom calling. Suddenly, I realize I’m hungry.


“Come, your Mom doesn’t want to wait when it comes to her special Filipino cuisine.”


“I’m starving, Dad, let’s go.”


I am holding Dad’s arm and we are walking towards the kitchen’s back door.


“So, what are you going to do with your artist guy?” he asks in a plain voice.


“I’m not sure, Dad. He knows I’m home and now he’s like playing hard to get. Men…Maybe I’ll just kidnap him and get a priest or a pastor to wed us right away. What do you think?”


He laughs so hard. “That’s my girl.”


“I love you, Dad.”


“I love you too, baby.”


There are three things I like about love. First, it hopes for better things to come. Second, it believes in its promise to hold on. And third, it perseveres in whatever it encounters – happy or sad, rough or smooth, bitter or sweet.






June '10

1 comment:

  1. this really makes me wish i had a daughter myself :)

    ReplyDelete