TITLE: A Father's Heart (Part 4) April 2, 2015
By David Brooks
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...lying on the bathhouse floor...muscles aching…water pumping…brother chiding…buckets pouring…mother crying…hands peeling off his wet clothes… "Next time do what your father says!"
Fernando rocked the boy in his arms.
Night falling…lying on a mat, listening...parents shouting…fist striking flesh...furniture crashing…door slamming...hating…vowing: “I'll never be like him!”
A woman behind a counter called the boy's name several times before Fernando resurfaced. No, he didn’t have insurance. Yes, he could get money. Yes, he understood the bill had to be paid before the boy would be released. The woman was still explaining several forms when Tiling appeared and grabbed the papers.
“Watch the boy!”
Fernando saw the woman’s eyes dart between the two, looking for a clue as to whom to talk to. She shifted her weight from Fernando to Tiling.
"Just walk away. Your father did." It was that voice again. The words landed like an uppercut followed by a hook to deliver the knockout punch.
Fernando shook his head. “When did you ever give me good advice?” He looked at a crucifix on the wall behind the woman. He told Mon once, "I like Jesus, I do; it’s Father God, I can’t trust."
Mon had looked confused. "When you see Jesus, you see the heart of Father God!"
The woman continued talking to Tiling.
Fernando knew he was a mess. His father had been a mess. Would the boy be a mess? Was there some kind of connection? Sin? Could it be broken? Forgiveness wasn't cheap.
Fernando looked at the crucifix again. Father God...I'm fooling no one but myself. Take over, set me free!
Fernando felt a cleansing cascade flow over him as if he stood under a fountain. Every thought he had imagined, every curse he had uttered, every malicious deed he had conceived and committed, were washed away. He felt as fresh inside as he did on the outside after a shower. He didn't have to slink into the shadows. He heaved a sigh. Tiling tossed him a questioning look. He knew his problems remained—the boy was still sick, they still needed money, and winning back Tiling's heart wouldn't be easy—but he felt he wasn’t groping in a darkened maze anymore.
Fernando lifted his hand and laid it on the forms. “I’ll be the one.”
Tiling furrowed her brows and tugged at the papers, but Fernando wouldn’t release them. He pointed with his lips to the pay phone for her to call Carmen. Tiling wasn’t used to orders, especially from Fernando. Finally she let go. Fernando carried the papers over to the bench. She was still on the phone when he returned the papers to the counter and sat again with the boy. When she hung up, Fernando scooted over to make room for her to sit. She looked at him, hesitated, rubbed her stomach, then lowered herself.
Fernando patted the boy's back. “Jovito, you want to hear something I used to sing to your mother?" The boy nodded. Fernando leaned toward Tiling and sang softly.
“Oh weep not, my dear Paloma!
Oh weep not for I’ll return!
Oh weep not, my little Darling,
I remember and I still yearn!” *
* Don’t You Go is a well known folk song in the Philippines. It was written by Juan Cuadrado Sr., a Spaniard who decided to stay in the Philippines after Spanish troops left the country in 1898. The last line was modified to fit the purpose of the story.
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