“No Dating Until College”

I wish I could share one solid piece of advice my father would give…you know, something that’s a life truth neatly packaged into one or two sentences. Kinda like Lieutenant Dan’s advice to Forrest (Forrest) Gump and Bubba of always keeping your feet dry. But, I can’t because I don’t have that one special saying from my dad.

Instead, I have a whole mess of memories of him, the most influential man in my life, and you can’t neatly place these experiences in a simple quotation.

Today is an emotional day for me. Remembering him and feeling so grateful for September 13 because today is his birthday so as far as I’m concerned everyone and their mama better recognize. What a special day today is because it’s the day the universe picked for him to come into the world.

He would’ve been 65 today.

I wish you were here to see how Eileen and I’ve grown. I wish you would’ve been here to see me graduate high school, be Prom Queen (wait, what? I know, right?), then college, then turn down law school to be a Kindergarten teacher (a great one, at that), then go back to school, graduate with my Master’s, direct a university office (the first of its kind at an institution of higher education in the entire southeastern region of the U.S., mind you), then eventually let all that go to return to the motherland, the country you left in your youth, to teach third graders in the public school system.

To converse with me in Tagalog, to hear how I navigate around Metro Manila in jeeps and trykes and buses, to listen to my stories of haggling at the palengke, my love for street food, and tales of sorrow with figuring out a way to make sense and peace with the daily injustices I see and experience from poverty to corruption to some people just straight-up being douches.

Not to sound too “resume-y” (though I already do), but yeah, Dad, I know you’d be so proud of my accomplishments. And even though in damned-near to being an adult (or maybe I’m just an adult in denial), I still want to hear your praise and approval…some sign of your vibing on my ish. I mean, after learning the hard way how to know my worth and recognize my own power and not let anyone ever take that away from me again, I celebrate these accomplishments even more, and not just for myself, but for the service I know they gave others. (Steps off soap box).

I wish we could still have our talks about nothing and everything. About life, Jeopardy, and Eileen’s sloth-like lifestyle (which, OMG, has totally changed. She’s super efficient now, Dad. Like, when did that happen?!) About dealing with tough people and basic bitches, basically. I’m fairly certain you would use that term, too.

I would like to think that if you were here, we would talk about the men in my life (though right now, we wouldn’t have many…or any…to talk about).

Come to think of it, maybe this is your parting words of advice–“NO DATING UNTIL COLLEGE.”

I’d like to think since I did make it to college and graduated not once but twice, you’d be okay with me dating, but who knows? I remember how you smoked not one, but two cigarettes when Eileen told you a boy asked her out.

I still remember the time a boy called for me at home and you answered the phone. I was so scared you’d get mad at me but instead you took me to get lo mein from Panda Express (again, you and the cheap Chinese food) and just asked me twice or three times why a boy would be calling me. I was in 8th or 9th grade and I knew you weren’t mad, but just horribly uncomfortable. And worried. You looked and sounded mad worried.

I guess you just hated the idea of your “little princesses” growing up.

Well, we’re grown up, Dad, and your little one is missing you terribly on your birthday. But, I’ve dried my tears that just flow from me now (I’m thinking there’s some magical spiritual effect being in the Philippines has on me or maybe all the tears I didn’t cry for the past 12 years are now just making their way to the surface) and I’m choosing to celebrate your birthday instead of mourn it.

The best way I can honor you is not by following your one quotable quote but rather, by doing what I learned from you: living life.

Cheers, Dad. Happy birthday.


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