Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Jun and Kikay, the Dynamic Duo (from a letter sent out to my high school email group, 2008)
Here's a question - of all the things that you've learned from your parents, what is it that sticks out the most?
As is my wont, I'm asking a question so I can answer it first :-).
From both my parents, I learned generosity of spirit. Here's a Kikay and Jun Taruc story. When we were growing up, my Mom used to go to church every morning. One day (I must have been 15 or 16) , she saw a lady in one of the front pews crying. Something about the lady must have caught my Mom's attention because she (mom) went up and asked the lady what was wrong.
This story needs a visual. The lady looked like...uhh...a hospitality worker in one of the night spots (there was an American military base where we lived) but ..uhh...past her prime :-). Those of you who remember my Mom can imagine the contrast.
Anyway, the lady told her that one of her parents was sick in the province and she didn’t know how to help. My mom brought the lady - her name was Dory, I remember - home and when my Mom found out that she had taken a beauty course(talk about career changes), my Mom asked her to be her regular manicurist (you get home serviced for everythng in the Philippines) so Dory could have extra income .
One day, Dory was in our house around lunchtime so my Dad invited her to eat with us. After that, every week-end for about a year, Dory was a regular at our Sunday family lunches and because my parents treated her decently and like a member of the extended family, everyone else did as well.
Dory died in a car accident about a year after we met her. A few years after when my Dad and sister Grace were sick - my Mom would tell us to pray and ask for Dory's intercession because she was sure that Dory was in heaven.
From my Mom (who passed away December 2006) - I learned that to be true to the spirit of giving, you have to give away something that you like not just something that you're ready to discard. It's very easy to give something that we're ready to throw away. But my Mom always told us that true generosity y is to share something that remains of value and use to us. Whenever there was a charity or clothes drive for example, my Mom told us not to donate the pinaglumaan (what we had outgrown) toys or clothes that nobody could use anymore but the ones that we liked and could still use.
From my father (who passed away in 1990) - here's something I wrote to family and friends a few years ago which I saved in my yahoo sent box
A few months before he died in 1990, my dad started a correspondence with a 12 year old boy studying in Antique (a province in the Philippines where my Dad spent a few of his growing-up years.) It started as a English-subject project for the boy. His teacher was an old classmate of my dad.
They would write regularly and my Dad would always look forward to his letters and he would reply promptly. I had already started working at that time and, after a while, I got bored with his regular updates about the correspondence.
It was one of those things my Dad liked to do. He corresponded with a lot of people, kept in touch religiously and filed all his letters systematically.
If he was that way with the people he wrote, you could imagine the way he was with us. There was never a day where he failed to show me – in whatever way - how much he loved me and my mom and my sisters and how proud he was of us and how happy we made him by ....just being.
My dad kind of embarrassed me in that way. I always thought he was too sentimental, too emotional, too attached to the past and had difficulty moving on. While I loved my Dad, I would always tell myself that I would be different. Where my Dad wasn't successful, I would be. Where he was weak, I would be strong.
Something strange happened to me today. It started like any other regular work day...you know, the usual stress and problems and back to back meetings. Mid afternoon, I was told that I had a visitor. I had some time before my next meeting so I had the visitor brought in.
It was the 12 year old boy. Except, well now he's a 24 year old man. He had graduated from college. He had moved on from Antique and he said he's been trying to look for me over the past few years. He tracked me down from an old press release about my company.
At first, I was suspicious - "what does he want?". He didnt want want anything. He wanted to know where Daddy was buried and he wanted to ask my permission to visit Daddy's grave. Just that. Nothing else.
I didnt know what to say. So, instead, I listened. He told me how much my Dad helped and inspired him. How much interest my Dad showed about his plans and dreams and aspirations. About how Dad would tell him about how proud he was of his wife and children, of his brothers and sisters, about how much he loved all of us. About how he waited all these years -to finish school, to work, to get to Manila - so he could visit my Dad's grave and honor him.
When my Dad was already sick, he was more emotional than ever. I thought he was being clingy and needy. I guess we could all have paid him more attention. I guess we could have spent more time to just sit down and talk with him and tell him how much we appreciated and loved him.
I guess having this boy he never met meant a lot to my Dad. Somebody who sought his advise. Somebody who responded to his stories. Somebody who showed a genuine interest in what he had to say.
What my Dad must not have realized was how much he meant to this boy. But my Dad was like that - he would love and share unconditionally and not expect much in return - just the privilege of being able to give what he can. All of us who knew him know this.
For the longest time, I thought my Dad didn’t have a successful life -the kind of life I've tried to build for myself.
But this afternoon, I realized that my Dad is one of the most successful men who ever lived. He touched people. He is not forgotten. He remains alive in the memory of this boy, this man, he met only through letters many, many years ago - so alive that a driving force in this boy's life after so many years was to be able to visit his grave and honor him.
How many men can claim that for themselves?
I am proud to be my Dad's son. I am proud to share his name. I am proud to count myself among those whom he loved and touched in his lifetime. I wish I could live the rest of my life like him. I'm not sad as I write this - my Dad would not have liked that. I write this to celebrate his memory and his life.
This isnt a sudden realization. As I've grown older, I've been realizing more and more how much I have in common with my Dad and how much I miss him and how I wish he were here to share in what I have now. This afternoon just put everything in place in the most wonderful, clearest way.
Dad, wherever you are, I love you. We love you. You are not forgotten.