Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

From a ‘son’ to a ‘father’

Posted on August 20, 2005 by jimparedes

My first really serious talk with Roman Mabanta, my father-in-law was around May 1977. I asked for his daughter Lydia’s hand in marriage. I remember him waxing sentimental saying that he had wondered often what this moment would be like, a stranger asking for one of his daughters’ hand in marriage. And now here it was!

Throughout my life with Lydia, I had known my father-in-law as a strong yet distant figure. He sat at the head of the table, often quiet, but quite imposing in his presence and when he felt the need to express his conservative moral views to us, he did so with emphasis. It was difficult to imagine that he would enjoy a ‘wala-lang‘ kind of conversation even if once in a while, we actually could, and that was a big deal. It was better not to engage in banter though unless there was a point to it. He was quite a serious man. Sometimes, I feared him, tiptoeing around him so as not to arouse negative judgment or comment.

Not too strangely, I also admired him because he was mostly what I was not. He was a lawyer, a man who dealt with the concrete issues of life–property, money, ownership, rights, justice, fiduciary trust (he explained this to me one time, thanks dad) and stuff like that. His world revolved around the corridors of power and wealth which demanded measured responses. I guess this was part of the territory and had become embedded in him. I was, in many ways in awe of him. I saw myself on the opposite end– an artist, a man who delves in ideas and abstract things like art, music, poetry, creativity, literature, etc. In short, he was, at least in my eyes on the reserved and serious side of life while I lived on the relaxed, and more easy going side of the street. But one thing we both had a passion for, albeit expressed and appreciated in different ways was our deep interest for the spiritual life! But even here, we were not exactly on parallel paths. He found God in the traditional Catholic way while I did through a more oblique, circuitous route, and continue to discover God largely outside of any tradition. He spent a lot of time in prayer, as I did my zen sits. His faith gave him great solace. It was the bedrock of his existence, and for that I admired him.

But we hardly talked about religion then, not early on, and when we finally did, it was close to the end of his life. We mostly talked of other things–politics, the news of the day, his law firm, etc. A light but memorable conversation occurred at the onset of my married life. I remember talking to him about the difficulty I was having making ends meet which I had blamed then (as I percieved it) on Lydia’s extravagant spending habits. What should I do, I asked him. Half-smiling, he looked at me, and with a playful wink said that based on his own experience with my mother-in-law, the only solution was to ‘earn more’! And even if it was said with a laugh, it was advice seriously given and earnestly taken!

Other talks I had with him occurred when my mother-in-law was gravely ill in the US. Those were times when I first saw glimpses of his vulnerability, that behind the veneer of decisiveness and distant strength was a man who could also have big doubts, as it became obvious he greatly needed support from others. In fact, he felt dependent on his children for many decisions that had to be made. It was a turning point in how I knew him. It opened up a more intimate, human side of him which his family was seeing for the first time.

After mom died, I saw him reaching out to his children and grandchildren more. He still had it in him to stress the obligations and duties that he wanted us to adopt in living out the faith. But at the same time we also saw a softer, more relaxed, less judgmental, and approachable side of him. One could banter with him, make jokes and he would smile, laugh more often. He also seemed to enjoy everyone’s company more, and allowed himself opportunities to bond with his loved ones perhaps realizing the tenousness of life since mom’s death 3 years ago. My own children would kid around with him, and he seemed to enjoy being a doting grandfather generously giving in to their requests for this and that–a job he used to relegate to his wife. We had a chance to travel together during one Christmas vacation to Davao and even if I knew he was missing Mom a lot, he was light and fun to have around. He was making up for lost time. When Lydia had her bout with breast cancer, I even recieved a few concerned calls from Dad asking how I and the rest of my family were as he even offered financial assitance to tide us through the mounting expenses of treatment.

Dad (center), in the midst of family he loved and who loved him back.

When it was his turn to be diagnosed with cancer, he was devastated. Lydia and I were not surprised. Statistics say that a great number of husbands follow their wives to the grave within 3 to 5 years of losing them. Throughout his illness, few things could make him smile. One of them was Ananda, his great grand daughter who could make him forget momentarily what it was like to suffer. Perhaps because her middle name was Aleisha, close to the name Alice, the love of his life, she could do no wrong except delight him even if for brief moments.

During his last days, I took the opportunity to get to know him more, to bond with him, and to help him cope. Perhaps, I needed to do that for myself too. During one of our many talks, I expressed to him how I felt I never really had a dad since my father died in a plane crash when I was six. I explained to him how long it took me to call him dad but I was glad to do so and that I am able to talk to him. I told him I loved him that day, and in the following talks, I would tell him so repeatedly. He was teary-eyed. He always had a problem expressing himself emotionally, and more so when people did so to him.

During one of our last times together when his voice had already been reduced to just a soft, barely audible whisper, I made an attempt to bring comfort to him amid his pain. He was clearly suffering and miserable. He wanted to die and join his beloved Alice as soon as possible. If he could have his way, that moment was as good as any. I sat beside him, gently rubbing his hands as I always did, and told him that I was so sure that strangely enough, amid all this pain, God was here in the room with him. I asked him to just focus and stay in the moment, and leave tomorrow’s suffering for tomorrow, and just be here for the ‘gift of now’ which God was dispensing every moment. Eternity was now. God was here. We just had to stop resisting seeing Him. He was here asking us to focus not on the temporal body of pain but in the eternal spirit that was free of it and already saved by Him. Despite the tyranny of suffering, He was there with gifts that would tide him through this. Things were as they should be, and every moment, including this one had its own blessedness.

After awhile, he closed his eyes and seemed to calm down. We stayed in silence, my hands still holding his. When he opened his eyes and looked at mine deeply, purposefully, the way only a dying man can, and with great effort, he took a deep breath from his cancer-filled lungs and mustered a loud ‘thank you’, loud enough to sound like his normal voice. It was moment frozen in time. I was touched. I pressed his hand, and whispered back an “I love you, dad’ to him. That was my last conversation with him.

Lydia, Dad and I

Dad, I thank you for the gift that you were in our lives. From you , I learned a lot about integrity, decency, strength, and many other aspects of what being a good father and a husband ought to be. I love you, and even if I never had a chance to say that to my own father, I know you are equally deserving of it. I hope that even in a little way, I was worthy to be some sort of a son to you.

0 to “From a ‘son’ to a ‘father’”

  1. Jennie says:

    sir jim, my condolences to you and your family. my prayers are with you.

  2. DarkBlak says:

    condolence po.

  3. isan says:

    my condolences to your family, it made me run to my dad and told him i love him so much, ( of course my dad was shock )…again condolence po…

  4. jey says:

    my sincere condolences.

  5. bob says:

    condolence po.
    i wish i knew my father.

  6. BabyPink says:

    what a nice tribute.

    my sincere condolences to you and your family, sir. may the late atty. mabanta rest in peace.

  7. sachiko says:

    Tears in my eyes while reading this very loving tribute to your father in law. I pray that God gives Lydia more strength for all these trials that is happening to your family.

    I admire you so much for the way you think and handle problems,your philosophies in life inspires me and if people like us from afar feels this way about you, I know your family must be depending on you a lot,taking hints from you on your attitude in life during these trying times..I said it before and I will say it again, Be strong,Mr.Paredes.. My prayers for you and your family..

  8. Anonymous says:

    How beautiful that you found the real meaning of love on the cusp of life and death. You and Lydia are blest.

    Peace be with you, sir Jim.

  9. ang says:

    My condolences to you and your family. I had tears in my eyes. You’ve reminded me that I need to tell all those special to me that I love them.

  10. N says:

    my deepest condolences po.

    i admire u, sir jim, so much with how you deal with life’s pain and suffering. my prayers for you, your family and especially your dad/father-in-law. sad, this experience is, but at least you were able to say the things you want to say to him before he died. he’s finally together with the one he loves.

    btw, thank you so much for dropping by at my blog and leaving such a touching message. you truly are kind, sir.. 🙂

    the adopted one in ur v fam,

  11. Mai says:

    sir jim, my condolences po.:( i felt the same thing when my lola and uncle died a few years ago. the passing of a loved one is a hard thing to recover from, pero am sure masaya na po ang father-in-law ninyo. finally he’s together with his wife.

  12. g says:

    My sincerest condolences. May God bless all of you the strength and peace to face your tomorrows with grace.

  13. trotskybee says:

    Sorry for your loss-dearly wish things could be different but am sure your Dad’s not gone, he just walked out the door….

  14. Christine says:

    I wept as I read your entry, Jim. It reminds me so much of the certainty of death. Living so far away from home and from my own parents, I often how I’d cope when they have to leave this world. Not well, I don’t think so. Despite having a family of my own, I still run to them for advise and solace…When do we ever get ready for a loved one’s death anyway?

  15. benjie says:

    our deepest condolences to you and your family.

  16. lei says:

    what a touching tribute.. it brought tears to my eyes.. my sincere condolences.

  17. DOPS says:

    condolences po to you and your family…

  18. Anonymous says:

    What a loving tribute from one great man to another. . .

  19. Anonymous says:

    hi jim, i learned of this just now…give my condolences to the whole family…

    as i said before, i personally knew the man, walked some of those corridors with him…

    and from him, of him, i found out, dignity is imposing, too.


  20. spongemom says:

    Hi Mang Jim! I know what you are going through right now, as I have experienced this when my own mother died of cancer 3 years ago. Eventhough you were not blood related I emphatize the emotions that is raging quietly within you. This kind of event makes you appreciate life and those around you even more. Which should not be the case, because we should appreciate life and express our love to our loved ones everyday while we can.

  21. ~C4Chaos says:

    my condolences to you and your family. “everyone dies alone” but for what its worth, dying in the presence of loved ones is a blessed scenario.

  22. Teena says:

    On behalf of the Kuizons, I’d like to extend our sympathies to your family. That was a heartwarming tribute to your father-in-law. I’m sure he was very proud to have you as a son-in-law. He rests in peace knowing his daughter, his grandchildren and great grand daughter are well-protected and loved by you. You and your loved ones remain in my prayers.

  23. girlie says:

    a beautiful hommage to your father-in-law. am sure he is pleased with you & smiling from above.
    death reminds us of the brevity of life.that is why i always try to make people around me happy & try to extend goodness to others, for there might be no more tomorrow to fulfill God’s great commandment of “loving your neighbor as you love yourself.”
    again, my condolences to you & your family. may you “dance again after the mourning.”

  24. rachel says:

    my condolences sir. i know trying to condense memories we shared and have of our loved ones in a certain number of characters is just too hard. (i know this because i felt that way when my lolo died years ago one rainy night.) but as i read your entry, i could feel all the love. it’s kind of weird actually, but i like it. anyway, i know too that comforting words aren’t actually comforting, so my prayers are all i can offer. may your sunshine come soon.

  25. cacofonix says:

    Reminds me of this:

    Life is Brief and Death is Certain!

    A good reputation is better than precious perfume; likewise the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth

    It is better to go to a funeral than a feast; for death is the destiny of every person, and the living should take this to heart.

    Sorrow is better than laughter, because sober reflection is good for the heart.

    The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of merrymaking.

    Ecclesiastes 7.

    A hard one to swallow, but nevertheless the truth..*sigh*

    May the peace of God that passeth all understanding be with you and your family. A great well-deserved tribute!

  26. Jim says:

    To everyone,

    my heartfelt thanks for all your words of comfort and prayers of peace and sincere condolences.

  27. femeie_frumoas? says:

    im pretty sure your dad has learned as much from you and that his life had been a bliss largely because of you.

    please continue to tell us the stories that randomly visit your head.


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