Choosing to be the better man
“Do you think I could kill my father?”
It was not a question. It was his answer to my question.
We were discussing the various sentence structures on how to ask questions and how to answer them correctly one afternoon in my English class.
Everyone was tasked to compose meaningful sentences as part of their grammar practice and communicative activities.
I was walking around, checking on my learners and asking who already had an answer, when he raised his right hand. So I acknowledged it.
“Do you think I could kill my father?” he confidently said.
Many of his classmates laughed. It was the kind of joke they expected him to say. But I felt like the world became devoid of noise, and the silence began creeping in.
I couldn’t form the right words to answer him. Perhaps I should have said, “I think you couldn’t” — but I didn’t. I realized at that very moment that I couldn’t afford to handle the situation carelessly; I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire.
I knew how much the boy resents his father, because I can relate. His father left him, and my father did the same thing. “Who am I to judge?” was actually my first thought.
Our only difference, however, is I have never wished ill on my father. I also hated him, but my wish has always been happiness for him. It may sound ironic, because I created a formidable wall between us, but anger is a feeling that needs to be let go.
My sixth-grade student is actually the most creative kid in class, and one of the brightest. I am sure that a brilliant future awaits him, especially in the field of arts.
While the psychological effects of growing up without a father are no joke, you will be amazed to know that that kid in my class is a strong one.
As long as the topic isn’t about fathers, he shows positivity toward dire situations. His resiliency springs from a family that loves him and supports him wholeheartedly.
I was certain he didn’t really mean what he said about his father. Maybe his “jokes” are just his way to unload his baggage, to release his anger. He probably loves his father, and just wants his dad to love him back.
Or maybe I will never know.
I always believe that childhood scars are forever. These scars are not easy to mend or cover. They’re so deep-seated that they linger as you grow up.
I was lucky that my father was present during my elementary years, but my siblings didn’t have that privilege. So I also see my brothers and sisters in that kid in my class.
His question was a cry of pain. We all feel pain; it is inevitable. But I’ve come to realize that, while we may feel incomplete, we don’t need our father to be happy, because sometimes the presence of the rest of our family and friends is all that matters.
I couldn’t force that kid to forgive his father. I also didn’t want to sugarcoat anything. And so I told him again what I had told him many times before, and what I have told myself, too, all these years: “Yes, you are the son of your father. But you are not your father. You can always choose to be the better man.”
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Jackson G. Orlanda, 24, is a public elementary school teacher in Bolinao, Pangasinan. He is a graduate student in language and literacy education at the University of the Philippines.
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