I cannot be late for my father
I’m six years too late to the life I’ve always wanted. In a perfect world clear of the coronavirus pandemic, the current semester for my post-graduate program was meant to end last month, making me qualified for summer term to redo a bar subject for which I got a 5.0 last year. But the semester of redoing my life has gone down the drain.
My irrational id dictates that I partly blame this on my parents for refusing to lift a finger for their only daughter whose academic performance was promising enough. Six years ago, I quit my two-year job as a guest lecturer, went home teary-eyed, and hollered to my throat’s utter strain for every eavesdropper to hear that my parents owed me a “proper education,” something that money could buy. Something which I knew they couldn’t afford.
A series of hollers echoed in our house—my parents frustrated at having an ungrateful, immature firstborn who refused to be sorted as an investment scheme for their old age, and me for hanging on to deep cuts from my Grade 7 self who begged to save both my father and myself. They turned me down, naturally. I ran away from home with nothing but the clothes on my back, and high hopes that I was skilled enough to save money for law school matriculation.
In the cases we were taught in law school, civil and criminal cases have prescription periods as to when wrongs can be redressed judicially; that cases must be filed within the period prescribed, as the years between the filing of the case and the actual damage itself render the memories of parties incoherent and muddle the resolution. But my memories of our family from more than a decade ago, aboard our owner-type jeep with my mother dropping the bomb, remains vivid. I was seated in the backseat next to my only sibling when my mother said: “Way ana rabay trabaho injong papa (Your father has lost his job).”
I was only a few months into high school, but that moment was the beginning of a trauma. Back when I had yet to give college a thought, my father’s promise of sending me to a good university was completely snuffed out. From that proactive kid who finished top of the class in elementary, who went the extra mile for projects and school plays, I suddenly transitioned to the taciturn self I have been for years now. My confidence cracked under the weight of the loss of the mobility and security my family had.
From what I gathered, my father and some 20 others who were all employed by the government were terminated due to a change in administration. Their combined income was peanuts, but the issue here was whether the decision that had led to their termination was just, lawful, or compassionate. They pleaded to the court that they be reinstated, their lives be given back, their dignity restored. The law said no.
My law school buddies and those artsy law school b/vlogs I follow on social media believe in the mantra that a law student’s first taste of injustice is law school itself. That the moment a student debates a civil case, professors have already been predisposed on whether this shaking and sweating mass of fat deserves a passing grade. Injustice can come in varying shapes and sizes, after all.
Some might weigh this as being capricious, whining instead of just opting to juggle work and school. I know classmates who have desk jobs by day and classes in the evening. But I’m as average a student as the next person, and I dare not compromise my grades lest my school transcript be more deplorable than it already is. I cannot afford more failures.
My law school journey only started in 2019. In 2013, when I inquired about the tuition at a university in the Visayas, I felt a lump in my throat thinking I might have to cut my meals and other necessities, and moonlight in another job just to get by. If only my parents empathized with me when I came running home to them, imploring them to send me back to school, I wouldn’t be in this state of worry that my life would be laden with regret. I choke on the missed chances, the squandered years that are now behind me. I cannot be late for my life any longer.
But before others raise an eyebrow toward my apparent self-entitlement — I have been raised in a financially challenged household and my bragging rights could only rely on academics. I am entitled to an education, and even when, by God’s bidding, I do pass the bar, I still cannot go back in time, with a four-letter word prefixed to my name, and defend my father’s cause. Traveling through an alternate universe and coming out in this one happens in fiction, but not here. In a world that permits time travel, this would have convinced my father that I am worthy of support, that for me to champion his cause, he has to send me to law school so I can travel back in time and stand by him in court.
I have never consoled my father, nor talked him out of his depressed state, even as it was affecting me and my academic performance. My knack for words has been abused and objectified in the jobs I let go of — from hosting to writing reports, speeches, correspondence, press releases, etc .— but my father has never had the chance of hearing a phoneme of consolation from me, then and now. I fervently wish deep in my heart that the words I write here will console my father as he struggles to raise our family, fighting for what he believes is just.
I can no longer be late for my father.
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Aibel, 29, is clueless but surviving.
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