In My Father’s Shoes

Twenty five years ago, somewhere in Manila, a fresh off-the-boat provincial boy took notice of a city girl who happened to be his landlord’s younger sister. They locked eyes, he said hello, and she smiled. Then a courtship began. Three bouquets, two Jollibee dates, and a Luneta Park walk later, they were lovers.

Wedding celebration of the author's parents.

Wedding celebration of the author’s parents.

Young city love was magical and enchanting but, on the other hand, it was a challenge. Finding security as a messenger man, and, she, a grocery store clerk was, neither, a means to an end nor did it provide luxurious living. It was enough to get by — enough for two. So when two became two-and-a-half, it was time for them to make a decision. The boy who chose to become a man decided it best to work abroad and support his family.

Thus, city love became long distance love. A seven-thousand-mile long distance love.

Back in those days, it was a luxury to own a telephone. Letters were delivered in about a quarter year’s time. And it cost an arm and a leg to send anything more than just a letter. Voices unheard, physical changes unseen, the man, who was supposed to be my father, was nothing short of a stranger to me.

After ten years of separation, my family was finally reunited in Chicago. Getting reacquainted with the man who had provided me everything, but was absent for most of my childhood, was a bittersweet nuisance of a chapter in my life. I thank him for sacrificing his loneliness, but blame him for my ignorance of what makes a father. The birthdays he missed, the Father’s Day cards he’d never seen, the daddy-daughter days I longed to participate in, were only a few heartaches the distance had ever caused.

The young author at a reunion with her father, Nestor.

The young author celebrates a reunion with her father, Nestor.

Now, at the same age that my parents first began their story, I’m starting to write my own.

My kind of city love is between two cities: Chicago and New York. Three states, two great lakes, and a timezone apart. My other half is seven hundred miles away.

To write my own story with a childhood friend that moved to New York City, shortly after I came to Chicago, punches a déjà vu right in my stomach. After a year of bi-city dating and having digitally moved in, I quickly found myself in my father’s shoes. I missed her birthday, and she missed mine. A Christmas gift exchange well after the New Year’s over Skype makes for a hugless, kissless, thank you.

But we make do with what we’ve got. Mainly because we’re all we’ve got. When, “Is it worth it?” becomes “This is how we make it work,” all you’re left to do is fight through the distance and the cold lonely nights with the warmth of the computer at your bedside. Realizing that you can take walks together by sending picture messages to one another makes for a perfect afternoon. And, watching movies on Netflix at the same exact time counts for your own variation of a movie night.

These unusual conditions make my long distance love. Whether it is seven thousand miles, or seven hundred miles, young love will find its way to challenge us and grow. My parents got through it their own way. With that, I am hopeful with mine. ♥

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