Sometimes I like to refer to myself as the worst daughter in the world. What makes it even worse is that I can acknowledge the problem and yet do nothing about it.
I came from a broken family which is not a surprise considering how breaking up and legal seperation and divorces seem to be the trend nowadays.
My parents marriage came to a halting end when I was nine, my brother was eight at that time.
And when you are just nine, you really don’t have any clue as to what is happening. All you know is that you went to sleep the night before with their loud voices on the background, and you woke up the next morning with broken china on the floor. You ask your dad why there are broken vases and he just tells you it fell because of an earthquake that you didn’t feel while you were asleep. And you are left with nothing but acccept what the ‘big people’ tell you.
So, if they say sleep, you sleep. If they say you need to go to school, then you go to school, and if your dad says you won’t be seeing your mum again, you just inhale it as it is. No questions asked because how can a nine year old girl understand ‘big people’ problem?
When they separated, I was told that my brother and I have to go with my dad because he loves us. That goes to saying that my mum was the one who left us. They said she got pregnant by another man and that was the reason our family fell apart.
My brother and I really didn’t get to go with my dad because for the first year of the separation, my dad left me and my brother to our grand parents. No complains here because our grand ma and grand pa are the sweetest and loving people in the world (which is kinda surprising that my dad did not inherit any of my Lolo Pidoy and Lola Chita’s loving characteristics, just kidding!) We would only see dad on weekeneds when he comes to us bearing gifts like stuff animals or a new ball.
I loved those weekends with dad because he always takes us out to McDonalds and we would go see a movie and ride our bikes to the pier. That was like a weekend of heaven for us that it didn’t bother so much when we didn’t see him on weekdays. It was already enough for my brother and I to know that we will have another amazing time with dad the following weekend.
From then on, my mum was never in the picture. I never saw her, never heard from her or about her.
For that whole year that I was staying with my grandparents, I kept thinking that one day, my brother, my dad, and I will move to a new house, just the three of us, and we will have the best life even with the absence of a mother.
That day finally came when I was 10. I remember excitedly packing all our stuff from my grand parent’s house because my dad is taking me and my brother to our new home. But it wasn’t what I was expecting.
In fact, what happened didn’t even come close to my imagination.
We moved to a new house but it wasn’t just the three of us. There were another two people who were going to live with us. It was a lady and her six year old, obnoxious son.
I hated that six year old boy. He was my worst nightmare–always vying for my dad’s attention and always wanting this and that to himself.
Later, I will find out that that lady will become my step mom, and that her six year old son, that I abhored so much is actually my half brother.
Surprise! Someone, please, punch me on the face so I could wake up from this horrendous dream!
It wasn’t until I was 13 when I started doing the maths. Slowly, things are starting to make some sense. My dad’s ‘other’ son was six years old, so that meant he’s been cheating on my mum for at least five years even before they separated.
That was a lot to take for a 13 year old. Imagine living years and years in a lie believing it was reality when it wasn’t. I couldn’t take it. It was as though I was fooled. All the time I hated my mum and thought that she didn’t love us.
I blamed my mum for a lot of reasons. How come she never tried to reach out to us? I had to spend all my Values class in school crying when the teacher starts talking about family. I have to secretly cry in the girls bathroom when I overheard my classmates talk about how their moms are taking them shopping for their evening gowns for the prom.
I envied my friends who talk about their moms as though they are the world’s best friend.
That was something that was lacking in my life–a mum.
I didn’t get to have the chance to go shopping girly things with a mom. There was no one I could talk to when my first period came. There was no one to tell on about my crushes in school. There was no mum who would be so proud when I ace my exams, or win a singing contest.
I envied my classmates who complained about their moms nagging at them all the time. I’m like really, can you just stop whining already? At least you have a mum who nags. I don’t even have a mum.
I also blamed my mum for taking out years of my life when I was just hoping I could act my age and be a kid. At nine, after she left, I felt that I have the responsibility to be my brother’s sister and mother at the same time. I had to look after my brother, make sure he’s not fluctuating in school, that he has good friends, that he’s not out getting fuck drunk when he was 14. I thought that was a mom’s job but that job fell in my hands without my consent.
I only saw my mum like four times after the separation. The first time was when I was 18, I don’t know how she did it but she found me in the university I was studying in. The second time was when I was 22 and she was going through a stage one uterine cancer. The third time was when she was recovering after the operation, and the last time was just before I left for Sydney in 2010. All those encounters felt the same. Awkward.
It just felt like I was meeting a stranger. I don’t know anything about her, what she’s been through, how her life has been all those years. And she acts and treats me as though I was still the nine year old girl she left behind.
And on all those times that I saw her, I didn’t give her a chance to connect with me. I didn’t give her a chance to get to know me, to know what kind of person I have become. I didn’t give her a chance to give me the mom and daughter talk because at that time, I thought it was all too late for me.
Now, if you will ask me about my step mom, I’d say let’s not just talk about her because it will ruin my day. Enough said.
As for my brother, I think he took my parents’ separation much better than I did. My brother has always been that kind of person who always goes with the flow. He’s a chamelion. Throw him lemons and he will make amazing lemonades out of it. That’s one thing that I admired about him.
Let’s go back to my dad. He is a lawyer and law professor at the same time. And he will never admit that he is a ladies man. Yes, my dad has a lot of women and I don’t get it especially at his age. He’s turning 62 this year and boy, I can bet you my life he has girlfriends who are probably my age! (Ew, gross, right?) I do not agree with the things he did or still does, but I still love him, maybe because he was present the whole time I was growing up. Maybe because he provided me with all the things that I needed–good education, monthly allowance, holidays, whathaveyous.
I actually blame what happened to my family with what person I have become today–emotionally unstable, disconnected. I have a lot of intimacy and trust issues.
A couple of years back, my brother and I had this profound conversation about marriage, and I told him I would never want to get married. I said “why get married? Look at our parents’ marriage, it didn’t work out. So, why get married when you know it’s bound to end anyways?”
Like I mentioned, my brother took my family’s downfall in a better way. He told me that our parents’ mistakes weren’t ours, that we are our own person, and our life is different than theirs. That since we know the mistakes our mum and dad had made, we know what to avoid, we know what to do and what not to do, we know better.
My mouth was left open wide after hearing my brother. Damn it, I can tell you right now, that whoever woman my brother will settle down with one day will certainly have a trophy for a husband.
I guess with everything that happened in my family, all the drama, and endless arguments I had with my dad and my step mom and her little devil, I just disconnected myself.
I thought that I can prove to them that being by myself will do me much better than being in a problematic family. And at first I thought I made a good decision shutting them out of my life indefinitely.
Working outside the country was a quick escape from my family and all the drama. Like, I can just be on my own without the baggage. But, lately, I have started thinking about a lot of things, and evaluating my actions now and in the previous years. I guess this is what is popularly referred to as quarter life crisis.
At 25, I am having a quarter life crisis and I am still living far away from my family. My brother is now 24 and is a data analyst at an IT company in Alabang. My dad still remains as a ladies man and still have endless fights with my step mom regarding his ‘other women.’ I guess my step mom, of all people, would know very well about my dad’s interest in women. After all, she’s the one my dad cheated with.
Ok, but I’ll be a little bit nicer here, and tell you one (if not the only–just kidding again!) nice thing about my step mom. When she and my dad had the worst fight ever (that includes finding another woman’s underwear in my dad’s car, using foul, attention grabbing swear words such as ‘putang ina mong hayop ka sinong kinakantot mo?’ that can easily be translated to ‘son of a bitch, you animal, who are you sleeping with?’ for all our neighbors and security men to hear, leaving me no choice but cover my face when I go out of the house, and let’s forget about all those broken kitchenware that must have been thrown at my dad) she came to me and said:
“Jen, we know that your father is weak when it comes to temptation, but he will still need someone by his side as he gets older. I will be by his side no matter what.”
And so I think I should give my step mom a few brownie points and best martyr award for wanting to be by my dad’s side. I wouldn’t want to be at my dad’s side which is why I left the country. OK, bad joke, but just kidding!
And my half brother is now… well, can we just skip this part?
Whenever someone starts asking me about my family, it was only my dad and my brother that I always talk about. It’s only those two people I consider my family, but now, after a lot of thinking, I want to start opening my doors to my mum. I want to be able to mention my mum’s name whenever a conversation about family springs from anywhere. I want to be able to say that when I am coming home, I am coming home to my dad, and my brother, and my mum.
I want to know her and I want her to know me. I was so foolish to think that everything was already too late when I was 18. It is never too late. It’s only now I am beginning to see that a mother will always be her kids’ mother no matter what, where, when, why, or even how. Such a shame I had to wait this long to even realize how different it would have been if I stayed connected with her that first day she found me in the university.
I am 25 and I think it’s time to turn the tables around and knock off all those regrets one punch at a time. I can’t believe I am actually saying this, but I can’t wait to see my mum when I get back to the Philippines in September. I can’t wait to take her on a good 5-day holiday by the beach. I can’t wait to know her, and I can’t wait for her to know me. Maybe then, we will finally be able to have our first ever mom and daughter talk. Maybe then we can finally go shopping!