I thought I was an unwanted child. My father always told me so. When my brother and I were growing up he would always tell us that we robbed him of his dreams, and for almost my entire existence I have felt guilty for even being alive.
I grew up in a defunct family. My mother left my brother and me in my dad’s custody to work overseas when I was only three. My dad said she must have set off with another man in Saudi and forgot her responsibilities.
I remember vaguely that I had just been weaned when my mother left. My earliest memory was of me on her lap, being breastfed. I thought that it was only a dream, that years of abandonment made me feel thirsty for her love. It would be 20 years later that I learned that I was wanted, that although my conception was a mistake, my birth was a choice.
As my father’s younger and only female child, I always tailed him. I was a curious child. I always looked at the things around me and asked him why they were as they were. My personality mirrored much of my dad’s, making me his favorite, if you could call me that.
It was normal for this curious child to ask why my family was unlike that of my childhood best friend Micah. My dad would tell me and my brother, if he was listening, that it was all my mother’s fault, that she threw our lives away when she left and never came back. And we kids were his daily cross he had to send to school and feed by himself.
I knew where my dad was coming from. I knew, during the times when he would tell us during siesta, or when he was angry, that he never wanted us to be born, that it was his failed dreams talking. I should say that my dad is a good person. I could see it in how he treated people. He would have sent all our house help to school if he had the money. He treated his clients well, and almost always paid for the filing of their cases. He was an activist at heart and did not tolerate corruption. He also stayed single to provide for my and my brother’s needs. I have always looked up to him, so much so that I wanted to achieve his dreams, disguised as my own, until I carved my own ones in college.
As much as my dad was cool, he was the complete opposite when he got mad. He was strict and would hit my brother and me when we got out of line. As his “favorite,” I was spared much of the beating. My brother was not as lucky. Being more like my mother, he got beaten black and blue. There were times when he would not be back for months, and I never understood how he could defy my dad so much. I loved my brother, but I always took my father’s side.
Things only got worse when I was in college. I occasionally got messages from my dad that he beat Kuya again because Kuya came home late, that Kuya would not cook meals, or that Kuya was an airhead who forgot his place in the house. In my last year in college, I received news that my brother left home for good after passing his board exam.
My dad was seething mad. I was, too. For one, I was thinking of him. He’s old, and someone had to attend to his needs. I was studying in Luzon and the thought of him alone in Zamboanga did not help me at all in my studies. I could only blame my brother and mother for being so selfish as to leave.
Later, my half-brother told me that everyone has their reasons for leaving. I knew that, but I also knew that people are responsible for certain things. For two years I was heaving with anger at my brother. The earlier 18 years were filled with apathy for my mother, fed by my dad’s one-sided stories.
Two days ago my mother came home to celebrate the birthday of my nephew, her first grandson. Upon seeing me she cried and hugged me. I was stiff as a board, having seen her only thrice in my lifetime. She said sorry and told me she loved me and my brothers. I slept it off, convinced that it was another of her antics. I won’t be fooled, I told myself.
In the morning, I woke up to everyone bustling around for my nephew’s birthday party. I went to her room and was only supposed to look at what she had for me from the United States. I really do not know how it went from there to her saying that she wanted to finally live in the Philippines with her new husband, and that the only thing holding her off was my anger toward her.
She explained why she never came back. Apparently, my dad was beating her, and in his desperation to get my mom to send money over, he threatened to kill my mom’s dad. I knew those were empty threats. I knew my dad, but the beating would also have stopped me from coming back if it were me. My dad was apparently a habitual domestic abuser: He beat my mom and hugged her afterwards; he tried to have me aborted when I was five months in my mother’s womb, only to get the meds to save me from abortion. My mom told me that she fought to have me, and that she breastfed me until I was three. That accounts for my first memory.
My mom said that she had sent money home, and that as much as she wanted to see my brother and me for the times she was in the Philippines, the fear of getting beaten held her back. She cried. Hard. I felt warm inside. I felt happy for being finally wanted. I cried, too. And talking with my mom has not been hard since.
After everything that happened, I am very lucky to be even writing this. But nothing has changed in my life. If anything, the drama cleared my foggy life story. It did not make my dad less of a man; it only made him human in my eyes. I do not love him less, but I would not want to marry a man like him. Also, my mom has been redeemed in my eyes. Apparently, she is not as stupid, selfish and unmotherly as I thought she was. She is actually smart and selfless, having braved five years of being beaten until she finally left.
I guess I cannot change my life. I still have the same defunct family. My brother is still angry at my dad, and my mom and half-brother and sister-in-law will all leave the country by May’s end. But I can at least ditch all my baggage so I can move on to the next chapter of my life.
Mayumi Hayag D. Teves, 23, is a research analyst in a data provider company and a hipster wannabe.
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