“I feel just like myself,” I would say. “Only more so.”
No dramatic realizations. No drastic changes. I just feel like I’m more Mikey than ever—more of and closer to what and who I’m supposed to be. Closer to God, even. I’m a father now: everything I am and aspire to be will, for the rest of my life, have an immediate and palpable effect on someone else—so I have to be my self more, and better. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s awesome. And I couldn’t be happier.
No, seriously, I couldn’t. There is absolutely nothing I can do, nothing more I can gain or attain, that can give me more joy than I currently have. My joy tank is full. Every other earthly thing—great coffee, a new iPhone, a trafficless drive—seems like a nice silly extra. It’s perfect. Life is perfect.
But I miss my dad.
On the rare occasions that I’m alone with my son, I hear replays of beloved voices in my head. If I carry him with one arm, I hear my mom’s angry reprimand: Mikes, hold his back! If I’m messing around on my iPhone, and Max starts fussing about, I hear my wife’s gentle reprimand: Love, your son. Interact with him.
There are moments, though, when I gaze upon my Max, and I hear my father’s voice.
O! Ang guwapo!
O! Ikaw talaga! You’re so big! You’re like your dad!
O! Good morning, Attorney Maximus!
But these are words he never got the chance to speak.
I missed marking two occasions this year: my dad’s death anniversary on September 24th, and his “birthday”—really his born again day—on October 12th. The former, I would mark by writing a letter to him on yellow legal pad, or a simple social media post honoring him. The latter, he and I would usually celebrate by having breakfast food at Floating Island in Makati Medical Center, a tradition that my wife and I continued after he died. But this year, I spent them with my family, preoccupied with how amazing life was, making sure we were happy and fed, and cleaning up Max’s poop. I truly believe that my dad wouldn’t mind—he’d even get a kick out of knowing that I was fussing over my son’s (multiple) messy diapers than celebrating some silly earthly anniversary.
I can even hear him saying so right now.
I can also hear him ask me if I still read my Bible, if I’m being a good husband, and if I need money—and he’d give me money anyway, no matter how I’d respond.
I wish I could tell him that I’m totally okay. That I’m fine, thank you. I also want to tell him that I understand how much he loved me, now that I see how my little sticky pork bun of a son has carved up new spaces in my heart—I get it now, I get how my dad saw me, because that is how I see Max. I also want to tell him that I do not need him, and how that is to his credit, and I just want him to hang out with us, with my wife, with my son, as often as he wants, whenever he wants. I want to thank him.
I want to hear him tell me he is proud of me, except for the fact that I never went to law school. I want to hear him tell me he is joking, and then joke again about how Max will be a lawyer. I want to hear him warmly speak to my wife, and gush over his only grandson, and say goodbye and go home, excited to hang out with them again. I want to hear him say he loves us.
Actually, I do hear him. I hear him, so clearly, like he is right here.
He isn’t, though. But my son is. And my wife is. Life is perfect.
I just miss my dad.