15 June 2008

My Father's Spaghetti

My Father's Spaghetti
Whenever I tell somebody that it wasn't my dad who was the breadwinner and my mom who stayed at home but the other way round, I've heard a lot of responses but usually they are fascinated or think it's cool. Of course, I never thought it was because it was just a matter of fact-- our family's natural state. Certainly for a long while it didn't do a lot of good for my self-esteem as a geek to have my father, who was popular in school and probably a jock (I have no idea if such cliques were formally present) nitpick my every motion. Don't slouch. Why don't I play more sports? Walk tall. Stop reading and play outside. And he was there for me all. the. time.

Eventually as a teenager these things pile up and I began to feel a little resentful of it-- almost like we both could never accept that we were so different from each other. Like any annoying teenager, I sounded it off to a few people who could stand my angst-ridden speeches, and one of them was my computer teacher in 3rd year high school. I think he was beginning to tire of it when he said, "You know, it's not easy being a father. And I'm not just talking about the monetary aspect."

Even now I think about those words. What kind of father would I be? How would I feel when I first see that helpless pink lump, crying and reaching hungrily for anything to satisfy him/her? Would he be like me? Would he like to throw a ball around? Would he be ashamed of his dad once the other kids laugh at him when his dad throws a ball like an uncoordinated giraffe? How would I protect her from all those cruel boys who just want to hurt her? How would I scold other children to stop teasing them? How would I teach them to be strong? How could I always be there for them when eventually they will not want me to, because it's for their own good? Would I ever be good enough?

I think every father is afraid that if they hold on too tight to that screaming mass of flesh, they will break. Fathers don't know their own strength-- they say and do the things they do only with faith, that if they do it with love and only good intentions for their kids, it'll be just fine. My dad was probably afraid that I might grow up to be weak and friendless. It's not so much that I wouldn't be in his image, but that he wouldn't always be there to fill the gaps. I think he'll be glad to know that I'm neither weak nor friendless. (Too headstrong for my own good, he probably thinks. I love it when I amaze him.) I don't resent anything he told me. Being a father is difficult, and I can only hope I'll do half as well as he did, eventually.

The picture above is my dad's "signature" recipe for a spaghetti meat sauce (every Filipino family has one, with the common features being hotdogs, ground meat, spaghetti sauce, which is really just a seasoned tomato sauce out of a can, and grated pasteurized processed cheese food). I don't know the recipe yet, but I'm sure he will pass it on eventually (I know it is LOADED with cracked black pepper, which is my favorite feature). I know there are probably more than a few pasta purists who'll bust a gut with this pasta, but my dad knows that we love it, and honestly I'd sooner have a plate of his than anyone else's.

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