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March 1, 2011

Sorry, and I love you*

I stared at his face—so calm and firm. His dark eyes and fine lines could tell an endless story of passion and happiness. His overwhelming smile and laughter easily filled the room. His presence was always felt.

I looked at his calloused hands, and thought of the children who had learned how to read and write under his guidance. He was one of the Filipino schoolteachers during the 1940s, when the Americans introduced a new system of education. But without his intense determination and ardor, he could never be a teacher.

During the hard years of the 1930s, his father fiercely told him to stop attending classes and instead help at home and in the field. He never did. He had stowed away and stayed in the convent of the old St. Theresita’s School and worked for the RVM sisters for almost a year. He had to raise money to feed himself amidst hard times. But later, his father realized he would never give up his dream of becoming a teacher. He did it and became both my parents' elementary teacher.

He knew how important education is. He was always there to give support and cheer every step of my educational journey. He would routinely walk from his house to ours to have his coffee break every afternoon just to check on us. He would further tell book stories and even his own experiences. I could not even believe that during his youthful days he was recruited to be in the Philippine-American army against the Japanese contingent before he became a primary teacher.

What was also interesting about grandpa was he had two wives. I meant it. His father, my great grandfather, was a harsh dictator. He controlled and manipulated his son's life. Thus, at an early age, he had him married off to Lola Consuelo. It was a fixed marriage, so he had to move from his home to Lola Consuelo's town.

This marriage did not work out because God never blessed them with a child. After many years of waiting and painful living, they decided to end it all and grandpa returned to his father's house.

Years passed and he met my beautiful Lola Carmen. She was his greatest love. He once joked that it was a love at first sight. I believed him.

He courted her until the lovebirds decided to settle down and build a family. However, the first three years were full of agony and tears. Their first three children died at birth. This rocked their marriage and almost led to a separation. Grandpa told me that this was the lowest point in his life. But the sorrow and pain drew them closer together. It was a test of love and strength.

At the end of the cross, God granted them eight lovely kids—four boys and four girls. One of them became my father.

Grandpa selflessly shared his life with me. There was always his addictive touch of love to everything. He gave me inspiration and courage to win challenges. He told me once to never let someone fight my battles for it was only through this that I would become a better person.

It was during my first high school summer at the Academy when Grandfather told his aspiration for me. "Dear, I want you to become a teacher."

I looked at him, expressionless. "Teaching is the happiest and noblest profession. You will always be a part of everyone. The pride and joy when you see your old students living their dreams give you a dose of life and happiness," he said. There were sparks in his big peaceful eyes as he slowly said those words. I never took this seriously until the time came that I had to choose my path.

The disappointment on his serene face just after my high school graduation had haunted me ever since. I knew I had hurt him but he never showed it. He just smiled and nodded his head.

Everytime I looked at him, I wanted to say sorry and hold his hand tightly. I wanted to let him understand why I did not choose education as a course. I wanted to hear from him an approval to my chosen field—a blessing before I set my tracks away. I wanted to say things but I never did.

Five years had passed, I am now in my final year as a Business Accounting Major and not as the Education student my Grandpa wanted me to be. We never talked about it. I am always afraid I might hear words of displeasure and disapproval. Our talks became short and limited to clichés.

I don't know if he would ever be proud of me when I march on the stage to get my diploma this April. I dream of the day when he would hug me again. I long for the time full of his merry laughter and smiles. I miss the good old days. I miss him so much.

Last month, he passed away. A thousand things made me regret of not reconciling with him. Yes, there was pride and fear. I wanted to show to him I will be the best in my field, but I feared he wouldn't understand me. Now, a million I'm sorrys will never ease the regret I feel inside. I wanted to put everything back just like before. I loved him so much, but it was too late.

*This is an article I wrote in January 2008, days after the burial of my grandfather.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HerWord or BusinessWorld.

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3 comments so far (post your comment)

Hi Levi!

In the end, his blood and passion runs true in you. You followed your dreams, as he did his. I think that's something beautiful.

As for feeling sorry...if he's anything like you, then maybe he moped about it too. :) Then again, maybe he got over it a day after. Or what really bothered him was why you distanced yourself afterwards, not understanding that it was because you felt uncertain...of so many things. I think he'd be sad up there if he sees you suffer so much like this.

Levi, maybe the best way to 'vindicate' yourself to your Lolo is to have faith in his deep love for you, that things like courses and dreams won't make a dent in how he felt and STILL feels for you. I can see from how you wrote about him how much he loves you. I think that it's the type of the love that endures. You're very blessed to have someone like that. Remove the uncertainties. Have faith.

God bless.

Posted by Christine on Thursday, 04.14.11 @ 20:41pm

I'm sure he's happy that you are happy choosing your own path. The greatest tribute you can give him is to be the best person you can be.

Posted by Jay on Thursday, 03.3.11 @ 09:46am

I'd say he understood you. In the end, it's you who have to choose what you want to do in life. :) Take responsibility.

Posted by Ria on Tuesday, 03.1.11 @ 14:08pm

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