There are a number of things my dad and I don’t necessarily agree on. The older I get, the more I come to accept that’s only natural. But one thing has always been clear for me all through my life: everything I’ve become, everything I’ve achieved, I owe to him.
Once he told me, after a string of failing Math quizzes, that the trick to dominating numbers was breaking them down, realizing that they meant nothing. Just meaningless marks to play with. I didn’t necessarily get better at Math after that, but boy did he continue to try. The summer before I started high school, when we were finally certain I’d be attending the city’s Science High School, he would wake me early every morning to work on exercise drills. Algebra, mental arithmetic. Trigonometry. Now I do this thing for a living: manipulating equations, estimating unknowns. A lot of people think I’m a natural, that I was just somehow born with a mind for numbers. I wasn’t. My dad trained me.
One of my earliest memories as a child is of my father and me riding trains to Baclaran, going to all these hardware stores negotiating on the prices of PC monitors, motherboards, and hard drives. I think it took us about a week to assemble all the parts together. I loved how the whole thing seemed like magic: how all these wires and silicon chips, put together became this machine that could play my favorite dinosaur films. How I could use it to turn drawings on Paint into movies, and how with a few clicks I could make it talk. Incidentally, that was also when he showed me how to use a word processor, and because we had this PC but no Internet, I would spend days copying the words on the few novels and textbooks that we had lying around into the computer. Somewhere along that timeline, creativity took hold.
Then when the college where he worked assigned him to teach C++, Visual Basic, and HTML, for some reason he thought it’d be a brilliant idea to try his teaching material at home, on me, first. By then I already had a fascination for computers. At ten I could disassemble and reassemble an entire PC, install new hard drives and reformat a Windows installation. While my friends were out playing piko and tumbang preso, I was at home learning about SATA cables and networking cards. Now he was showing me how I could write my own programs. From Hello World to simple calculators to a full on text-based game. Now from my work to my masters thesis and even in my leisure time, I am drowning in code.
When I think of my dad, I remember the verse in Proverbs that goes: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I may not show it very well, or very often, but I cannot spend a day knowing that if I am ever able to get far ahead in life, it is only because he had set the path for me.
I understand that Father’s Day tends to be a sensitive time for many people. I know of many friends and colleagues who would rather avoid mentions of their fathers, and the manifold trauma and hurt they have brought into their lives. Being a parent is a difficult task, and is certainly not for everyone. The burden is made only worse by the fact that a parent’s failures, intentional or not, must eventually be carried by us, their children. Like the character Noa in Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko says, they are our blood, and that is forever.