It has been nineteen years. Yes. Nineteen Long Years. My father hasn’t been home that long and finally, he is coming home.

My Tatay, as all of us siblings call him, has lived and worked for the last nineteen years in New Jersey. We survived such time and distance apart with the help of phone calls, letters, text messages, and just recently, Yahoo Messenger and Skype. He enjoyed the latter immensely as he was able to see us everyday, as if we were just an hour apart. He was able to see Ira grow from the day she was born until the day she learned how to walk.

Prior to his decision to work in the U.S., Tatay has worked in Saudi since I can’t remember when. All I know is I grew up with my Ima only around, waiting for remittances of Tatay and waiting for his yearly vacations. My Ima often recalls that time when I went hiding upon seeing my Tatay because I got scared of his mustache. To put it plainly, I grew up with an absentee father.

But I don’t think my father and I lost the line as far as love and respect are concerned. I admit that in the start, I was just elated by the fact that my Tatay would send U.S. goodies to us and that we were able to have everything we wanted. After studying in a public school, Ima finally allowed us to study in private schools. Back in high school, my classmates would notice my signature backpacks and other things. Even at a young age, I always knew that he was there so we can get all the things we wanted and needed.

When I went into college, that’s when I realized all the sacrifices he was doing. He gave us all we wanted and more. But he never complained. He gave me a bashful 18th birthday celebration because he said I was his only girl. He used to call me his Beautiful Ampang (the latter being my nickname at home). When I graduated from college, he was so delighted, he almost gave me the world. Of course that is exaggeration, but that is how my dad loves me.

Imagine his delight when I entered into law school. He felt very proud for every unit I earned in law school. When I wanted to be a working student, he strongly opposed because he wanted me to concentrate with my studies. My Tatay was right all along.

He was overly supportive when I took the Bar Exams. He made sure I have everything I needed. I was able to choose a hotel nearer La Salle although it was more pricey than the hotel my other classmates stayed in. He gladly paid for the food all the four Sundays of Bar for all my org-mates in Law School with my Mom’s cooking.

I know he must have been saddened when I broke the news to him that I was getting married. After all, I was his baby and it was hard for him to accept that someone else is taking me away. But being the understanding father that he is, he gave me his blessing.

When I had Ira, I felt that he loved her more than he loves me. Friends say its because Ira is mine thats why he loves her that much. After years of giving up on sending us packages, he sent boxes for Ira’s goodies. The packages contained unbelievably too many things for Ira. The clothes he bought her could even last until she reaches five years old. He would refuse to miss a night of Skype with Ira and I to the point of Ira knowing him through the webcam.

On the eve of my hubby’s birthday weeks ago, he called me up on the phone. That seldom happens because we do Skype every night. I felt his voice was different and asked if he was sick. He said he probably ate too much pork and feels numbness in his feet that he has to go to the doctor. I prodded him to make sure that he goes and asked him to update me about it.

It turned out it was a mild stroke for my Tatay. My uncle and other relatives would update me but I never really knew his status until I saw him. Since he can’t stay on his own yet, he had to stay with my ever-kind Uncle Medel. When he first saw me, my Tatay cried like there was no tomorrow. It was like when a child got lost in the park and he saw his mother. We were both crying and my heart melted away with his pain.

I didn’t sleep that night. My mind was racing with thoughts on how to get him there and how to take care of him. I just cried myself and wallowed myself in the helplessness of not being able to help the one man who was always there for me.

Before he had a stroke, hubby and I were already making plans for the future. Because Tatay wanted to spend time with us before such plans happen, he abruptly decided to go home. Just this Saturday, he called and informed us that he will be arriving on June 2.

My heart raced with glee with such news, coupled with the fact that we have to fix a lot of things around the house so we can accommodate his physical restraints.

We had to buy a sofa bed because he will temporary stay downstairs. We are also on the hunt for a good bed in his room once he is able to walk up the stairs. We are also looking for ways on how to install an AC unit in the living room, especially with the heat!

All in all, I am just glad that he is coming home. I hope I will be able to repay all his love for us by being able to take care of him now that he needs us.

I pray that he gets better soon also so that we can roam around the city to show him other places.

This is definitely going to be one of the best birthdays for the both of us and we will surely celebrate it with love and happiness! Thank you God! 🙂

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