Hi Squishy. I am your Father. I hope you recognize my voice by now.
I can’t wait to meet you so I can tell you stories. My dad told me stories all the time. Whenever he did, it would always start off very excitingly. He would tell me about, say, his mom, or his sisters, or a story of something formative that happened in his early childhood. And I would be so intrigued. So excited. So he would keep going, and going, and going… and then I would find myself nodding at the appropriate moments, but not having any idea what he was talking about anymore—I had already dozed off!
I hope that never happens with you. I would like to think you would be a more attentive child than I ever was. And I would also like to think that I will be a much better storyteller than my dad was. I need to—if only to do justice to my dad, who will be the subject of many of my stories, including this one.
My dad was the kindest, gentlest, most selfless man that I ever knew. He was the greatest—not because he did great things on worldly level, but because he was kind. And he loved overflowingly. Me especially.
This one time, my family and I were out on a beach trip, and we rented this raft-boat thing. It was flat and made of bamboo, like a floating platform with a tiny structure in the middle that housed the engine. The raft took us to (what felt like) the middle of the sea so that we could dive into the water without fear of stepping on corals on the sea floor. When we got there, all of us got off so we could swim. Mom and I wore life vests. My dad, bad ass that he was, did not. My brothers didn’t wear vests either, but only so that they wouldn’t hurt themselves when they dove off of the raft. They would dive off over and over again—they’d push themselves up unto the raft, walk across to one side, and then run to our end before jumping as far as they could.
I envied them, so my dad let me dive too, except I had to keep my vest on. So I did. I took quick little kiddie steps and jumped off awkwardly on him. I did this three times, and it was a lot of fun, except the vest would hurt my underarms as soon as I landed. So my dad allowed me to take off the life vest (much to my mom’s chagrin), as long as I would dive into his arms each time.
It was the most exciting thing in the world.
I took off my life vest, and my dad pushed my fat butt unto the raft. The air was salty, the sun was gazing at us, and my skin glistened with sea water. It felt like the everyone was watching with bated breath (they were watching, but it was probably only mom’s breath that was bated). I ran off to the edge and jumped like a tiny Filipino Michael Jordan with short legs. It felt like I was in the air for minutes. And then I landed on my dad’s chest as he embraced me, to the applause of 20,000 people (or my mother). It was magnificent.
When the applause died down and my mom and the rest of the family saw that I hadn’t drowned or been eaten by a shark, they moved on and kept swimming or play fighting in the sea. But I was enraptured, drunk at the glory of flying through the air and splashing in sacred water. So I pushed myself up unto the raft, crossed to the other side, ran to the end and jumped off, once more, into the sky, like a radiant eagle. And then I landed, once more, into the sea, into my dad’s chest.
Except he didn’t know that I was going to dive, so he couldn’t catch me. And I sank. My eyes were still open underwater. I could see my dad’s belly as I was swallowing sea water, sinking to my certain death.
Then my dad pulled me back up. I coughed out the sea water death juice. I yelled at my dad for not catching me. He said I didn’t warn him that I would jump. My mom freaked out her last freak out of the day, and said “No more na.”
On the raft ride back to the shore, I was very, very angry with both of them.
Squishy, there will be times that you will be very angry with me and your mom because we made a decision that you don’t agree with, or simply don’t like. When this happens I want you to remember this: We are your parents, and we love you overflowingly, as my Father loved me (though your mom and I love each other more!). We promise that we will, never, ever, ever, ever, willingly allow you to sink and swallow sea water death juice, or get eaten by sharks.
Literally, all the time, and figuratively, most of the time.
Mikhail, father of Squishy, son of Irineo Junior.