We never hugged. We never kissed. We never were demonstrative of our affection; but we do know we love each other.
Tatay was away half the time when we were growing up. Even so, we never felt unloved. Nanay would make us write letters to him, record our voices on tape, and send them to him. I clearly remember my brother and I taking turns in singing to him, and I remember the feeling of excitement knowing that he’ll hear us when he receives the cassette tape recording. I knew he’d love them.
I also remember telling him on tape about my dream of becoming a broadcast journalist someday, just like my idol Dada Lorenzana. I would find out later – so many years later when I was already working as a copywriter – how proud he was to hear that from his then young high schooler. He would always proudly tell anyone who cares to listen – neighbors, relatives, casual strangers – that he has a journalist in the making.
I didn’t become a journalist. Somewhere down the road, I skipped the opportunity to become one in a magazine and instead chose to work as an encoder in another company because my friends work there. I was young, and my priorities were different.
Today, I’m an editor at a public relations firm. That’s the closest thing I could go to fulfilling that young dream, and as a form of conciliation for Tatay’s disappointment. Although he never said I let him down, I just know that I did. I could tell him now that I don’t regret the path that I took…that I am happy with my work…that this is one way I could fulfill my other dream: to lend a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves through my writing. But he’s no longer here. Maybe, just maybe, if he’s still here and I told him about this, he would’ve given me a hug. Or maybe not. A smile, more likely. A light tap on the arm at best.
That’s how we were, and that’s how I am now with the rest of my family. Maybe it’s because I don’t remember getting hugged or kissed by my parents when I was growing up. I don’t remember kissing and hugging them, either. Same with the rest of my siblings.
Although I do remember Kuya giving me a tight hug when he came back home after years of not seeing each other. It felt weird and at the same time natural for me. It felt good because I felt Kuya’s genuine joy in being home again.
Now that we’ve all grown up, I see my brothers and sisters hug Nanay every now and then. I don’t. I want to, but I feel awkward, thinking that Nanay might wonder if something’s wrong with me. And I don’t want to make her worry about me.
Some of my closest friends may be surprised to learn this about me, because they know me as a hugger. I even kiss them on occasion. Heck, I am a sweet friend. I guess I take out my thirst for physical affection from my family out on my friends.
I am taking strides on this affection department. Lately, I have been giving Nanay a kiss during mass instead of the usual “peace” sign. It took much courage and preparation for me to give the first one, and it felt okay.
Last night during Ash Wednesday mass, the officiating priest said things about the essence of the Lenten season. He said that when you give up something (fasting and abstinence), you must also think of taking something up. That’s the challenge. You’re giving up coffee for 40 days, and then what? Why not drink vegetable juice that you hate but you know will be good for you? Something like that.
So I asked God to tell me what to give up and what to lift up to Him. Chocolate is the one thing I’m giving up for 40 days. That was easy. Early this morning, after watching Robert Downey, Jr.’s “The Judge”, I knew what I could take up not just for 40 days, but for forever. What do you think?