My dear Charlie and Jack,

According to your Lolo, he was in Manila studying for the CPA exam when I was born. Manila is two nights of boat travel away from your Lola who was in Cagayan de Oro giving birth to me with the help of the neighborhood midwife. He told me that he wasn’t really serious about passing the exam, he just wanted a bit of an escape from responsibilities. He was 21 when his eldest (your Uncle Eric) was born, 26 when I, his third, came along. (In contrast, I had you, Charlie, when I was 33. and you, Jack at 36. I had had more than a decade of escaping responsibilities before I became your self-less mother. And still I wish for escape sometimes. This is why I write.)

Your Lolo also said he has no memory of your Lola’s being pregnant with me, or of me as a baby or a child. Well, except for that one about my mother’s neck. According to the tinuohan sa buktot (the hunchback tales), when a woman’s neck turns dark during her pregnancy, the baby she is carrying is boy. My dad remembers that my mom’s neck remained fair when she was pregnant with me and what a relief it was. My mom is Chinese mestiza whose fair skin attracted many men, including my dad. Beyond this memory, he had nothing more to offer

I am tempted to think that I was not loved or wanted or a source of joy to him. Did my dad love me? What a question. I know he did and does. But it got me thinking..

…about how I feel about you. Sometimes, I feel a bit detached. As in I don’t feel “love” feelings for you. What is that, anyway? I only seem to be familiar with anger. All the times you’ve both not done your responsibilities—putting away the dishes, walking Opal, doing your outdoor exercise, completing your math work, etc.—prior to screen time! Oh, yes, I know anger, this heart wrenching surge of hot energy that threatens to explode out of my body through shouts and curses, mostly in the form of self-violence (because I can not take it out on you!). But love? What is that? I expect to feel something as acutely as I do the tightening of my chest as proof of my love for you. Instead, what I can counts as manifestations and proof of my love are my actions, all the numerous things I do things for you—make you food, get you to your health and well being appointments, plan trips and classes for you, create a free learning environment, etc.–and almost always at the expense of my doing things for me.

I tell your Lolo that maybe he needs to make a conscious effort to think more frequently about those times when I was a baby or a toddler. I’m thinking now that I should do the same: remember those times when I’ve felt something- a quickening of the heart, a catch of the breath, a rush of adrenaline, and that overpowering heat on my face along with the urge to laugh and cry upon seeing you both finally outside of my womb.

I do love you, Jack and Charlie! I hope my actions, like my dad’s/your Lolo’s, speak volumes. (Just give me some space to think about and do for myself sometimes!)

Happy Father’s Day to your Papa Mike! And to all the dads out there. I appreciate them all. Here’s a picture of you and your Papa on Father’s Day.