This is my first time ever to write something like this, especially as it is about my beloved parents. I’m going out of my comfort zone as it isn’t easy to be writing from a deep, dark, wounded part of my soul. This piece is to be a blog post for the meantime, but I intend to include it in my “legacy writing” some day.
I’ve written several posts about my mother and one about my father. I have even contributed one article about Mom for a book project, which we launched last Mother’s Day. And in these articles, I have described almost an ideal loving relationship among the three of us.
But, let me break that myth for you. It wasn’t always what you think it was!
Ours was at times a Clash of Wills. Don’t get me wrong, though. I loved Mom and Dad so dearly and they loved me more than I could ever repay them that love.
You see, we three were first-born. Each three of us had our own unique, distinct personality and temperament, like chalk and cheese. I cannot even claim to be a blend of their best traits.
Yet, I assure you they raised me well and good and I have imbibed the best of their characters. Most of all, they loved me to a fault.
“You always want to have the last say, always!” That was Mom. Dad, silently approving.
Just in my late childhood, I remember being scolded for some wrongdoing – quarreling with my younger siblings – who to my sensitive heart were more bullish than me — for not doing my assigned chores right away or well enough.
“Okay so you know everything now, huh?!” Mom again. Dad was often silent, but with a face like thunder.
“No, it isn’t like that, po!” I painfully defended myself. Then I’d go off like a loose canon, giving off steam.
“Stop!” “STOP, I say!” Mom and Dad in unison – and even years later back into their home, I found myself arguing with them – often on little incidents that would flare up in the end. Nay, for me it was only rationalizing. To them, it was answering back.
Hot tears flowed, stinging my tongue with its bitterness. At times, my fists clenched to beat my chest so hard that it left me breathing hard.
I hated each scene. I hated myself even more. I was angry with Mom and Dad. Yet, I couldn’t hate them.
During such confrontations, I wasn’t my very best. Pride often overtook me.
Being the silent, aggrieved party riled me so. “Why does Mom have to see it her way?” “Why can’t we just talk?” I groped for answers.
“Let me finish first,” Mom often would order me. The thing is, she sometimes drew a mistaken assessment of the situation. Hurting, accusing words would stream from her mouth.
So, my ears would flinch. My mind would rush to my defense.
And like any beaten animal, I felt like beating them in turn. Hurt for hurt.
Worse still was when Mom would recycle old issues. I felt like the worst person in the world.
All I had at such point was to reclaim my wounded honor, dignity, and pride, or to restore a sense of justice.
I failed to appreciate that what I felt was so much true for both of them, even more. They needed to restore their sense of parental authority. How I wish now I could have just embraced them and soothed their broken hearts.
But I guess in any family, in emotional struggles like these, compassion is hard to give no matter how much you love your parents or your siblings or your children. You only see things from where you are.
Sometimes, I thought Mom was just being childish. In that aspect, I thought we were alike.
Perhaps our ugly battles ensued when the Parent in me would clash with the Child in each of them.
Yes, I see now that was how we transacted with each other during our verbal fights.
If we transacted such that it was my Child addressing to the Parent in them, or vice versa, the result depended on circumstances. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
Everything was fine, however, when we interacted with each other on the same level: Child-Child or Parent-Parent or Adult-Adult. For then, we understood one another. We were in harmony.
Mom hated the drama of reconciliation – so did I. But I – like the rest – needed to utter the magic words, “I’m sorry po,” whenever we erred. No silent treatment from us. No giving of excuses, too. They never wanted that.
Mom and Dad just wanted everyone to cool off – and be back to our normal, happy, loving selves. Sometimes, that was easy. On other occasions, it took a little while.
Our family’s saving grace during ugly scenes was my Dad. A paragon of patience he truly was. He’d come to comfort me after each clash, advising me to learn to let go and let Mom have the upper hand.
Humility wasn’t my best trait.
Fast forward to each of my parents’ waning years – specifically – on their death throes, their dying was in a way my own saving grace.
It gave me a chance to give back and care for them as they did when I was still an infant in their arms.
I cannot get over this striking realization: Mom’s hands were the first that held my tiny hands at birth – and in the first few seconds after her death, my hands were those that held hers.
My Dad’s passing was even more grace-laden because God blessed me with the opportunity to be a co-caregiver with my sister even for a few months. Tearful goodbyes, expressing our filial love, humbling ourselves, and asking for forgiveness marked his last week of life.
Today, my heart still grieves for them. The grieving will remain for long, for grief never truly leaves. Yet, recalling their last days on earth helps me to soldier on — and to forgive myself, little by little, for the countless aches I caused them.
Moral Lesson: Treasure your parents while you still have them around. They may not be perfect — no one else is — but they are the only ones you’ve got. Life is short, so spend quality time with them as much as you can. Give them your understanding. Treat them with compassion and patience. Be easy with their shortcomings. Make their remaining years happy and fulfilled. Hug and kiss them, and say the words, “I love you, Mom. I love you, Dad.” Most importantly, when you’ve hurt them, or they cause you pain — for this happens in any family — ask to be forgiven and to forgive them as well.
For when they are gone, no amount of tears will ever bring them back.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.4 — (Ex 20:12)