A Tubby Tabby, Three Konekos, and a Life with Hello Kitty and Autism

Lost-And-Found Daddy

This was written by my youngest sister Jasmine. I asked her permission to put it here in honor of our Dad’s 67th birthday today. I am not able to write about this as bravely as she has and so, I am borrowing her words today. Thank you, Jas.

Daddy and his first grandchild, Alexander

And to our dearest Daddy, the first man I ever loved, the man who gave all five of his children the sun and the moon and the stars- Happy Birthday! We love you so much.


Lost-And-Found Daddy

by Jasmine N.O.

My father smells awful.

And I am glad.

Most days, the smell of sweat, cigarettes, rust and hard work cling to him, trailing his every movement. It is an odor that has followed him every working day of his life. And for a time, during my adolescence, I found it quite embarrassing.

But now I welcome it.

It is the smell of a self-made man.

When I was growing up. My father made a decent living managing a factory he single-handedly built from the ground up. Daddy worked incessantly, day and night, weekdays and weekends- always with the seemingly untiring precision of a clockwork figure.

During those early years, we lived in a modest house half-perched on top of the factory. And each day, he would descend the stairs wrapped in a cloud of soapy freshness. Yet he would always come back smelling like the chemicals and metals of his trade.

As a matter of routine, upon returning home, he would lie down, still reeking like a sack of rusty nails. Then we would scramble up his bed and sidle up next to him, unmindful of the odor.

As we grew, his business flourished. Daddy’s hard work provided us with all we could ever need, and much more besides. We were by no means spoiled brats, but all our young lives, we never knew what it was to want for anything.

We lived a privileged existence. Pampered with more books and toys than we knew what to do with, chauffeured to and from the best private schools, encouraged to bloom through dance, art, and music lessons. We had the best of everything, all due to his tired, sweaty factory smell.

As the youngest child, I was Daddy’s Girl. On shopping trips, when a clean-shaven and perfumed Daddy would firmly tell me that a certain purchase would be my last for the day, I would turn on the charm and get him to agree to buy me the last, last item. And the last, last, last after that. And the last, last, last, last after that. And so on. I was loved. :-)

When I was about four years olds, I lamented being born three days before Christmas. Much to my dismay, I would always get joint birthday and Christmas presents from relatives and friends. To make up for this “gross injustice,” Daddy declared that my birthday would officially begin on December 1st and stretch all the way down to January 6th, the Feast of the Three Kings. True enough, beginning the first of each December, I would receive little presents from Daddy.

To be sure, Daddy was not a selfish man. The success of his kamalig (translation: warehouse), as he liked to call it, allowed him to send all five of us to college, and the other four on to medical or law school. But he always kept his widowed mother and younger siblings in mind.

The kamalig allowed him to provide jobs for his younger brothers and sisters. It allowed him to build a spacious house of his own and an even grander one for his mother. He was a father to the entire extended family. Even down to our less fortunate cousins, majority of whom he sent to school.

But in 1992, a series of strokes and a family dispute put an end to life as we knew it.

While in his sickbed, Daddy was accused of theft by the siblings he loved and employed. Never mind that he gave them more than he ever kept for us. Never mind that the deeds to majority of the property he had accumulated were in their names. Never mind that he had to do without a lot… for us, for them.

Confused, weakened, so much unlike himself, he yielded. And he lost everything he had ever worked for, save for the home and the cars. He lost the kamalig and with it, that kamalig stench.

I was still in college then. And pretending like nothing was different, I plodded my way through school, surrounded by the din of friends and classmates, many of whom were none the wiser to my new predicament.

When left to my own devices, I would try not to cry. Yet sometimes, sorrow and anger would get the better of me and I would wrap my fists tightly around a bunch of coins. Then I would wait. Wait for the rusty smell to grow on my sweaty palms. It was almost like that kamalig smell. It was comfort when I needed it most.

From school, I would often return to a quiet and darkened house. To a grieving family suddenly thrown into hard times.

We were not used to worrying about money. But more than that, we were not used to having to take care of Daddy. He always took care of us.

Robbed of his pride and his notion of self worth, he withdrew into a deep depression. His strokes left him with virtually no physical deficits and yet he remained bound to his bed. His work-calloused hands and feet grew soft and smooth from disuse.

What disease could not do, his siblings and his mother did effortlessly.

They broke him. They defeated him. They all but killed him.

Whereas before, he hardly ever raised his voice, he became prone to fits of rage. He lost his laughter- a man who once seemed invincible, reduced to muted tears of anguish and anger. Gone was his enviable zest for life and living. In its place was much sadness and thoughts of death and dying.

He became a stranger to us.

That above all was the greatest loss. Far greater than the loss of money, property , or extended family.

He was robbed of everything that made him who he was. And we found ourselves just as lost as he was. Perhaps more so.

A very good school friend who knew a similar fate once told me how much of a stranger her own father had become. “I love him,” she said sadly. “But I no longer like him.” For a time, that summed up how I felt about my father. I could not find even a glimmer of the man he once was. And that is a horror and tragedy that I never would have thought was possible.

But opiating forgetfulness is kind.

In time, the gaping wounds healed.

Grandchildren brought back a twinkle to daddy’s eyes. He found his laughter again. He regained his pride.

The sale of the lavish residence, so close to his mother’s and siblings’ homes, gave him renewed vigor.

It was like cutting ties again. Only willingly this time. And permanently.

We packed up our things and never looked back.

And from the sale of the house, daddy constructed a new home. And a new factory. A modest one that can’t compare to what he once had, but it’s his. All his. Pabrika (translation: factory), he now calls it.

And each day, he leaves the new home under a cloud of soapy freshness.

And each night, he returns, the smell of sweat, cigarettes, rust and hard work clinging to him.

Like old times.

Well, almost…

2 Responses to “Lost-And-Found Daddy”

  1. amethyst_lover:kuririnmail.com Says:

    Your dad sounds like a really noble man.

    Thank you, he is. :-) ~♥Kittymama

  2. alpha7:hellokitty.com Says:

    That’s really a touching story. More blessings to come your way.

    Thank you! And thank you for visiting! Please drop by again! ~♥Kittymama

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