A fatherless child
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2019 - 12:00am

It was the night of Feb. 7, my mother told me. I was fast asleep. There was a loud knocking and someone yelling in Japanese. She ran and carried me. “Let her sleep,” my father said, but she insisted. Japanese soldiers stormed in. They entered the room and slashed my crib with a bayonet but I was in my mother’s arms. Otherwise, I would not be here today.

They took my father, uncle, grandfather and other males who were with us away. They shot them at the Masonic temple nearby. The men in our family never returned. We have no tombs for them. I was six months old.

I grew up in a family of women but since the men were taken when I was a baby, I didn’t know them so I didn’t miss them. When I was three years old, we lived in the upper story of my Lola’s youngest sister, who was married to Nicanor Tomas, who worked at the Central Bank.

One night Lola Dede and Lolo Nick were upstairs with us. I was talking to nobody in particular saying, “Didit, my first cousin, is the baby of Tita Caring and Tito Pete.” Then I looked at Lolo Nick who was beside me. “Lolo, who is your baby?” I asked.

“I have no baby,” he said.

“You have no baby?” I said surprised. “I have no daddy.” I climbed on his lap. “Will you be my daddy?” That was the beginning of our great love for each other.

He would always bring me candies. He would call from the street that connected our homes, “Tweeeetums, I have something for you.” We would go to the movies — Lola, Daddy and me — stop off at Milky Way where I would have a chicken asparagus sandwich, which I love until now. Whenever I cried he offered me money to stop. Soon enough I learned not to stop until he brought out P20. A lot of money in those days.

One day he called my Lola who let me talk to him on the phone. “Daddy,” I said, “can you buy me a dolly?” He told my Lola to bring me to Heacock’s to choose a doll. Then she dropped me at his office where I quietly played with my new dolly on the floor beside his desk. There were many people in his office who came to see him. He introduced me as his daughter. 

Every year he had a birthday party. When I was 12, I looked older. At his birthday party that year, one of the sons of his good friend, who was already 18, got a crush on me. He sent me yellow roses and lavender orchids. Those were the first flowers I ever received. I will never forget them. Daddy got very jealous. He did not enjoy that I was growing up and beginning to attract young men.

He didn’t enjoy either that I could attract men older than he. He had a friend who was much older; he even walked with a cane. This friend was famous for having an eye for women. I was always sent to kiss him. When I was 13 and wearing lipstick, Daddy told me to go kiss this man again. The man looked me over and asked me to sit on his lap. Daddy pulled me away: “No, don’t!” he said.

Daddy died when I was 15. We were no longer as close as we had been when I was younger. But he taught me to drink and dance the Paso Doble. I think he filled the shoes of my father, Vladimir, who my mother referred to as Pappy. I still love Pappy to this day, even if I never knew him. I still miss him. I still talk to him when I feel lost. But I do not love Pappy with as much passion as I love my Daddy, whose beloved smell, a mixture of his cigarettes and his cologne, I remember still. I still have the cabinet that used to hold his pipes.

I know I should have grown up fatherless. But somehow I found myself a real father, someone who extravagantly fathered me. He will always be my heart’s treasure.

Once I wrote a book on single parenthood titled How Do You Know Your Pearls Are Real? Doing research for the book I read that children of divorced parents or orphaned children like me have a much bigger need for the love of the parents they lost so they were likely to marry or mate again and again in search of the love that didn’t come their way when they were small. This applies to both sexes and to the loss of either one of both parents. Maybe. I use that as an excuse for my one marriage and many other serious relationships. But ultimately I know I had a father in Daddy. And even if he was jealous, he was the greatest dad I ever knew.

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