Part 1 of this story can be read here.
The Filipino concept of a complete family entails having each member physically present inside the home. With Jay-r working abroad, our family has become “incomplete”.
Ironically, Jay-r and I met at a call center when all the while, he was just the-boy-next-door. My having been too confined at home because of my sickness led me to meeting my husband-to-be when I was already old enough to get married. Two weeks after we became a couple, we have decided to live together. The cliche “opposites attract” aptly describes our relationship. I worked at night; he worked at daytime. I love to travel; he loves staying at home. With this homebuddy for a husband, I would wake up with my breakfast ready, with the house spick and span, and with the laundry done. This cycle had moved on simultaneously, and I felt so secure that things would remain as they are. How lucky I am to be married to a man who is fully-prepared for family life, who could adjust so well with my demands at work, and who has foresight for greater things.
When he left for work overseas, things changed. I was left alone to answer most of my daughter’s queries which he could have contributed answers to. Although we keep the communication line open through video calls, Icelle’s longing for a father sinks in each time I receive written notes from her. As a child, she interacted with friends around the neighborhood and at school; most of their topics delved on family life. She cannot help comparing our situation with theirs. This has become so apparent through the notes. I am just relieved that recently, her newfound friend also has a father who works overseas. Having found someone who could empathize with her situation, my daughter now accepts this sense of incompleteness as a part of our being complete.
Weekends mean more time for our video calls before bedtime to keep us posted with the ongoings of our daily routine within the week. Perhaps, the video calls helped us miss the “missing-each-other” part of our relationship that the last time Jay-r went home, his nearness made me feel distant.
I took a vacation leave so the three of us could spend more time together. Just three days off from work and, I wanted to go back already. Jay-r remains to be the homebuddy that he is while I longed for the company of my friends at the office. When Jay-r was abroad, I would spend a weekend with Benj and Kean at Smallville. We don’t party all night like most teenagers. We just sit together and drink a bottle or two of beer or we would watch a movie. Perhaps, this is my way of filling the gaps I missed during my younger years when I didn’t have the chance to enjoy much because of my sickness and my eagerness to look for work right after graduation to help my younger brothers and sisters finish their studies. Even when Jay-r was home, he did not restrict me to meet up with them and, I felt a sense of freedom whenever he wasn’t around. It was the kind of freedom that made me feel guilty somehow. It made me question my sense of contentment for being a wife and for being a mother.
Time and again, I would remind myself how lucky I am to have Jay-r. I would think about the times he has made life much easier for me and our daughter. He makes sure we are well-provided and, I could sense my daughter’s happiness whenever her father’s home. Despite my efforts in preparing salt-free, healthier meals, Icelle would always prefer her father’s dishes over mine. I have a husband and a daughter whose taste buds long for salt while I long for spice. If there is one kind of food that gathers our gustatory senses, that would be the buko salad I learned to prepare from my mother.
Perhaps, the truth does prevail that daughters learn a lot from their mothers. They become younger versions of these women who have brought them into this world. Each time I look at my daughter, I am taken to the time I made the conviction that she would not experience the longings I have had when I was her age. I look forward to the day Jay-r arrives. I would prepare buko salad for the three of us.