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Ok luv u

After more than a decade of texting, I’ve concluded that our parents, especially our fathers, have standard text messages: “Cge” (which means they agree with whatever has been said), “Bkt?” (which means they demand an explanation), and “K” (which can mean almost anything from “sure, no problem” to “sure, go ahead but if I find out, you’re dead”).

My dad uses all three. Sometimes he uses all-caps, which makes him “sound” angry or impatient even if he really isn’t. For him, text messaging is supposed to be quick correspondence. In our case, it’s always a conversation despite distance.

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The distance between my dad and me is mostly geographic: I stay in a boarding house in Quezon City and he stays in our house in Laguna. In more ways than one, texting helps bridge that gap. There was a time when I only texted him to ask if I could hitch a ride home and he only texted me to ask if I planned on coming home. He would tease me about my old texting habits, saying that I used to text him only whenever I needed something, especially money.

Our conversations used to be close to empty. Despite our habit of talking about the NBA, debating about current events, and sharing useless knowledge, our exchanges hardly had anything remotely personal in them. I never talked to him about my fickle frustrations; he never talked to me about his problems at work. We kept secrets from each other, mainly because I didn’t think he’d understand and maybe because he thought I shouldn’t worry about his problems.

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And, boy, did we keep secrets from each other! I informed my dad about my decision to forfeit my scholarship and shift out of engineering only when I was already a journalism student. And he never knew about the protest mobilizations I joined until he saw me on TV shouting, with my fist raised high in the air.

But just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be bigger, more life-changing secrets than those I have kept from him, it took my dad three days before he told me about his conversation with a doctor who had diagnosed my mother’s ailment as leukemia. A month later, my dad was confined in hospital because his health suffered as he struggled to cope with my mom’s death. I wouldn’t have known of his condition had my cousin heeded what he said: “Don’t tell my daughter. She might be busy doing something important.”

These past two years, things have changed between my dad and me. I have made a conscious effort to text him more often, telling him about my day and asking him about his. During our drives home I try my best to stay awake so I could talk to him more. And he tries harder to understand the stress I choose to inflict upon myself by going to protest rallies and working in far-flung areas, and having dates with friends in the most ungodly hours of the day. He admits that he finds it difficult, but he also tries to find solace in believing that I am happy doing what I do.

Maybe it’s because we now share a loss so great that we can hardly keep our other, slightly less significant sorrows a secret from each other despite distance. Or maybe it’s because there are way too many “unli” promos, making it harder to find an excuse not to call or at least text every day. Whatever the reason, my conversations with him now sound more like something I share with friends, complete with the occasional laughter accompanied by a bad word.

Once during a drive home, my dad asked me if it was normal to still miss my mom two years after she died, and if it was normal for moving on to be so difficult. His question surprised me, but in my heart I knew I had the right answer.

I told him about the One-Third Theory, which states that the average amount of time one needs to move on from a relationship should at most be one-third of the duration of the relationship. As an example, I told him how difficult it was for me to move on from a relationship that lasted only a year and a half and how hard it was to accept that I will never again share a conversation with the person I loved because he simply just wasn’t there anymore.

I then reminded my dad that he’d been married to my mom for 23 years when she died, and that they’d been together since they were teenagers. I lightly punched his arm and joked: “If you move on in less than five years, then it means you no longer loved mom during your 15th anniversary.” Always the witty one, he quipped: “When I saw you after your mother gave birth to you, I actually doubted if I wanted to be with her for more than five years. I never thought I’d have an ugly baby until she gave you to me.”

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By then we were both crying, but it was mostly our laughter that filled the car.

Yet this newfound closeness is reduced to silence whenever my dad texts his standard reply which almost always ends our conversations: “Ok luv u.” He texts me those three words every day as our conversations wind down, and after all these years I still feel uncomfortable telling him that I love him more than anything.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always tried my best to reassure my family members, especially my dad, that I love them by coming home on their birthdays no matter how busy my schedule is, by always choosing family gatherings over previously scheduled commitments, and by keeping my mouth shut when I have the license to say “I told you so.” Believe me, any child would know the amount of love and patience it takes to not say those words, especially if one is absolutely right.

But then I’ve also lost enough to know that not being able to say how much you love someone is beyond uncomfortable and how painful it is to know that you no longer have a chance to say it because you waited too long and it’s now too late.

So, Pa, here’s my reply to all those times you’ve texted “Ok luv u.”

Things are not always OK, especially on days when we are absolutely miserable because we still miss mom. Sometimes I hate the books I read and sometimes you hate the drivers on Edsa; sometimes I’m not sure if I can go through another day without writing poetry and sometimes you’re not sure if you can go through the day without thinking about mom. It’s difficult having to live with so many ugly things and being separated from the things you love.

But I do love you, Pa. For all that it’s worth, know that I love you in the same way I know how much you mean it every single time you text “Ok luv u.” I guess I just don’t have enough courage to say it as often as you do. Maybe I’m just too proud. Maybe I’ll try harder.

Maybe “Ok luv u” is something I’ll learn to say soon enough. Maybe I can try starting today.

Pa, everything will be okay. I love you.

Marrian Pio Roda Ching, 24, describes herself as a multitasker who copes with life’s tragedies by jogging around the UP Academic Oval, writing what’s hopefully poetry, and buying books in bulk. She says she had never talked to her dad about heartbreak until the night she told him about the One-Third Theory.

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TAGS: family ties, fathers, featured column, human interest
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