JUNE 30th has come and gone and other than officially marking the end of the first half of the year, there really isn’t anything too special about the date. Except of course that it marks my 20th wedding anniversary, the wedding that had been declared by a Philippine court as null and void back in 2011. It’s important to have markers of time like anniversaries even if they remind us of places and faces that have long been out of our lives. They remind us of how far we’ve gone and how much we’ve grown. Literary critic Robert Langbaum writes about the philosophy of the genre of tragicomedy — “that we lose in order to recover something greater, that we die in order to be reborn to a better life.”
I thought that the world caved in on me years ago when after several months of separation, my wife and I finally decided to call it quits. While it wasn’t entirely unexpected, it still came as a terrible shock. That it all came tumbling down on the day of my son’s second birthday only heightened the pain and the hurt and the anger that the end of a marriage can bring. Oh the anger.
But I made a promise to my son Beeto that night as I held his hand tightly while he slept in bed – that while other people might come and go in his life, that I would be there for him and that I would never leave him for as long as I lived. Didn’t sleep a wink that night. My best friend Jay saw me through to the morning.
Against the advice of my adoption lawyer, I decided to tell my social worker at the DSWD handling my son’s under process adoption case (we got him when he was 2 months old) what had happened. Fortunately we were still quite early in the adoption process and thankfully, they agreed that it was in the best interest of Beeto to still remain in my custody throughout the annulment proceedings. It would take another five years for the annulment to take its course and another three for the petition for adoption as a solo parent to be granted.
All along, it was my son Beeto who gave me purpose and direction – he was my end all and be all. He was the reason why I completely gave up television work (impossible to be a hands-on parent with such ungodly hours) and also the main consideration behind so many other life decisions. More than anything else – more than being an actor, a teacher, a trainer, a television host, an improviser, a confidant, a friend or partner – I was his dad and he would always be number one in my life. If he would have lost me, he would have no one else. He deserved no less.
But the truth is, it was Beeto who saved me from giving in to my pain and hurt and anger. He saved me from myself. And while I may have messed up in many roles I played in the past – husband, boyfriend, prospective future husband, bar owner, academic, award winning actor (ha!) – I am at peace that I saved the best of myself for being Beeto’s Baba. I love the person that I am when I am Beeto’s dad.
It’s hard to believe that he is 16 now… 17 in just a few months. Much more of a young man really than that baby I met so many years ago. He knows only too well that the world is more fascinating and exciting and enthralling than anything his dad can make up. And while I still long for the days when I would be his playmate, cuddle buddy, laugh buddy, alarm clock and tech support – these days he’d rather be left alone with his need for lots and lots of personal space. Except of course when he wakes me up at three in the morning, desperately needing to talk about the latest episode of his favorite anime.
I have long learned to let go of his kind and wonderful and funny and not-so-little hand.
I look forward to when I can lay my hand on his shoulder to steady me with my eyes that need reading glasses now and with feet that aren’t as sure and confident as they once were.