This February, Preen talks about all kinds of relationships and how stories of love don’t always follow just one plotline. From fairy-tale romances to overlooked connections, we’re hoping to find what makes them all equally special.
I am a daddy’s girl. Somewhere in deciding to become parents, my dad took on the role of good cop while my mother was the bad cop who would punish me when I did something wrong and would be the threat my father would use when I was about to throw a tantrum. “Do you want me to tell Mama what you did?”
He was my Superman and I sincerely believed he could do everything. Strong, wise, and caring, I couldn’t imagine life without him. Until that one day 12 years ago.
Though he was very athletic and was at the peak of his health, my father died at 49 years old. After quitting smoking, taking up a religious weight-training routine, playing basketball with men half his age, he couldn’t evade the one thing that eventually got him: bangnugot. In one evening, because of a bad dream, I lost the strongest man in my life.Naturally, I tried to find someone who could be my rock. Who could be the towering figure that would help me conquer the days ahead? A father figure, so to speak, and in the years I have spent without my dad, I found many people who guided me along the way, mentors who I found refuge in and counselors who helped me through trying times.
Surprisingly, they weren’t your usual men. Some were not men at all.
My first father figure is my mother. In my 25 years of living, I have only seen her cry once. It was a few days after my father’s burial and I didn’t know how to console her. She eventually stopped, wiped her tears, and slept. The next day and in the many days that would follow,she stopped being the bad cop and was just my mother. She became my best friend and she always told me to go on even if everything else seemed so dark.
My mother, alone with myself and my sister, somehow found a way to be strong for the three of us in the first few years after my dad’s passing. I don’t know how she did it since I noticed she didn’t even see her friends nor relatives for comfort.
It was in this way that she taught me how to suck it up. In the way she handled how my father left her suddenly, I learned that life never goes according to plan and that there is no other way to handle things than to just deal with them.
My mom reminded me that each day was another chance to move forward and that my dad wouldn’t want me to screw up my dreams just because he was gone. In contrast to how she was before, she lets me do what I want and make the decisions that I feel are right for me—and be accountable for them.
She taught me to be my own man.
In college, I was a nerd and I really wanted to be good at my course, if not the best. I saw myself writing for a living and also working for the academe very early on in my college days. The main people who helped me realize what I wanted to do in my life were my two professors in Literary Theory and Creative Writing. Thin, well-dressed, and gay, they absolutely do not fall into the usual mold of father figures.
I spent most of my hours after class in their offices as their assistants. I thought back then it was because I couldn’t find anything else to do with my time. I realize now it was because I enjoyed being in their presence, being exposed to the other side of life in the academe, and getting to know things, such as grading papers and filing books, that you wouldn’t usually be able to experience during class.
It sounds mundane now but those times allowed me to really learn from their many stories. How alone they felt when they first came out, how they overcame the limits set by society to be the successful professionals they are now, and how they continue to help out not just the LGBT cause through their teachings, but also those in need of a voice.
I am grateful that they saw me as someone they could mentor. Between gay rights and cultural theory, I saw how the world was far bigger than what we could ever imagine. I understood that life offers a lot of opportunities. And most importantly, I got the sense of how people aren’t what they seem. The strongest people I know aren’t brawny, muscular men but refined gentlemen donning reading glasses, and are behind books or writing papers.
It’s amazing how I found these people in my life, without even asking for it. Given how they have shaped my life and helped me through everything I needed to go through, I wonder how many other people need father figures in their lives. Not all fathers may not be there for their children, for one reason or another, but there are people who will be there always. It’s these people who really count and who help us to become who we are.