He Never Said He Loved Me

Delta Winds cover 2017Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


He Never Said He Loved Me

Avigail Eve

He pushed me away toward my crying mother and pulled my brother towards him saying, "Women are the jinx of my life." I was five years old then when my father, drunk as usual, had just finished beating my mother for some reason I can't remember, nor is it even important now. I still feel the emotional and physical pain vividly whenever I think of that memory. Writing about this right now puts me right back in that corner where my mother was curled up shaking. I remember the smell of the old house, hear the howling of the neighborhood dogs at midnight, and feel the anguish of my mother's quiet sobs. It was a terrible and painful experience I wish I could delete from my memory, but I cannot. My father was fiercely jealous, abusive, unfaithful, domineering, alcoholic, authoritarian, stubborn, and rancorous-and that's if you ask the neighbors to describe him. He demanded respect from all of us by enforcing control over our every action and decision. His favorite ultimatum was, "Don't push it or you will be borrowing the monkey's face." It sounds nonsensical or even funny now to some, but to anyone who knew my father's character, it made perfect sense, and it wasn't funny at all. When you're beaten to purple, you would rather borrow the monkey's face than go out into the world with your own face.

Somehow I never feared him in spite of the ultimatums and beatings. People are often shocked when I tell them this, but the paradox of our relationship is that I found a way to love him. Friends and family members believed that I was just as stubborn as my father and that he finally found his perfect match in me. This was a common joke among them when they were talking behind my father's back. I just smiled at them and never uttered a word because I thought it was cool that I was indeed not afraid of the man. I had valid reasons why I was not afraid of my father that no one else outside our home ever witnessed.

One very cold night during my childhood, a storm came and thunder rolled so loudly that it felt like it was going to destroy our old tin roof. As expected, there was a power outage, and the whole house went pitch black. I could hear my father walking around the house, checking all the windows and doors to make sure they were locked. As his footsteps drew closer to my bedroom, I pretended to be deeply asleep. I could hear him murmuring about the mosquitos while fixing my mosquito net and tacking its edges under my mattress. This tender early memory kept me from fearing and hating him too much.

In my high school years, I was always on the run. I rarely stopped to notice the indulgence my siblings and I enjoyed because of my father's care. Each morning he woke us up with the table already set. The delicious aroma of our breakfast and the smell of the dark coffee he brewed permeated the entire house. My plate was set with a tall glass of warm milk next to my packed lunch box (mind you, I'd still get knocked on my head every time I neglected to drink that milk). My father was an excellent cook. Adobo mushrooms and sautéed freshly picked vegetables from his garden were some of my favorites. In doing laundry, he was the only father I knew who segregated the whites from the colored clothes like a pro. My uniforms and socks were always as white as new because he meticulously separated the heavy soiled from the rest of the clothes. His domestic skills made him a kind of role model way ahead of his time.

Unfortunately, he was also a role model in less positive ways. Like him, I became an alcoholic and a chain smoker at a very young age, and I was sexually active with my boyfriend without adequate precautions. At twenty-two, a few months before graduation from college, I got pregnant. I told my father I did not wish to marry my boyfriend, and I wanted to break up with him instead. I never told my father why marriage was not an option for me, and he never asked. He summoned my boyfriend and his mother anyway, allowing them to acknowledge my pregnancy. My father respected my decision for not marrying. From the moment he learned that I was pregnant, he served only nutritious vegetables and fruits on the table. He bought me attractive maternity dresses and sandals. These even raised eyebrows of my social-climbing peers who secretly hated me. When my beautiful son was born, my father spoiled him with food, clothes, shoes and toys. He adored him. I could have been jealous if I were not the mother.

A few years after my mother and I came to the U.S., my father suffered his second stroke back in the Philippines and was confined to his wheelchair. He became so grumpy and violent that no caregiver would stay for too long. My mother would have stayed with him if she could have, but she needed to keep working here to cover his medical expenses. At that time, my father needed the care of his family the most, but we were never there at all. He spent his last months with his caregiver, who listened to all of his confessions for his sins toward his family. He kept asking the caregiver to tell us to come home and visit, but we never had the time. A week before he passed away, my father told his caregiver to tell his daughters how sorry he was and that he hoped to see us soon. That week, he kept on telling him stories about us when we were still young. His memories were already failing, but he remembered his own past mistakes and abuses in detail. When we came home for his wake, these reflections were all the caregiver could relay to us, which was devastating. I was broken hearted but was also relieved to know that my father realized his abuses towards us. While he was suffering, all I could think of was perhaps his physical strength and mobility were taken away from him because he had abused us. It never occurred to me to come home to take care of him, even for just a while. My guilt for that prevented me from properly grieving his passing. My father did the things that I loved and hated. In his home, I saw both heaven and hell.

My son is my most precious treasure. I would never want him to go through what I went through at my father's hands. I always remind my son to hold himself accountable for his every decision and action. I promised that I would listen with open mind and heart. I promised myself that I would not use physical force in enforcing the house rules. I have kept that promise, and I have a solid relationship with my only son. Most importantly, I made sure I told my son I love him-the words I never heard from my own father.