Meeting the father I never knew I had through Facebook
My dad just discovered Facebook, and I just discovered he likes taking selfies
Jun 14, 2019
My father—oh God, how do I start?
The first thing you have to know about my father is that he is the quietest person I know. When he sent me off to college one Independence Day in 2012, I didn’t hear him utter a word. He just unloaded my things from the pickup truck he rented and went away.
On his birthday last year, the first time I gave him a gift (because I can, thanks to my job)—a limited edition bottle of whisky signed by its maker—he just nodded.
I could go on remembering every possible life event where he just stared back at me when he should have said something, but I’m not going to do that—that is for next year’s Father’s Day article.
So imagine my surprise when one day a few weeks ago upon opening my Facebook account ( a rarity these days when I spend most of my time on Instagram) I saw a friend request from him!
For years, we, my mother and my siblings, posted photos of him on his birthday and during countless Father’s Days with no one to tag—a very convenient excuse not to greet him personally, but we do it nonetheless, like posting family photos on your IG stories but not tagging any of your kin.
And suddenly he was there. Suddenly, I have an online dad, who occasionally likes the stuff I write and share on my feed, next to my mother’s two accounts (long story, reserved for next year’s Mother’s Day). Not that I’m complaining. I sure could use another liker.
But what bothers me the most really is that my dad is willing to open up to strangers(?) online about his whereabouts like his sudden trips to Bacolod he tells no one at home, that time he’s on a ship I only found out after looking through his uploaded photos, that he is born in 1974 (I keep forgetting this one, always calling my mom when filling out forms), or that he likes a certain social media challenge called “Eating Lemon with No Expression.”
Last week, after weeks of not coming home on weekends, I messaged him on Messenger to check if he’s still in Bacolod (we eventually figured out those trips were for work). All I got was a seen receipt.
Elder parents being on Facebook is not entirely a shocking thing, however. I know people older than my dad (my dad is relatively young, he had me when he was 21) who are more active on social media than I am, a glorified millennial. Heck, my mom, who turned 43 last week, had a Facebook account when she first got an iPad back in 2011 and made another one late last year for personal reasons.
And I should have seen this coming, that he wanted a Facebook account judging by his sudden interest in borrowing my mom’s iPad years prior. It was only last year when he decided he wanted a smartphone after decades of using a black and white display analog unit. Enlisting my help, he got a mid-tier phone, had it covered in a silicon case and protected with gorilla glass, he the ever masinop owner of anything.
He would spend nights in his room alone, lights out, the faint blue light of his screen illuminating his face, which I only noticed now has begun to age.
I guess, I felt robbed, not only of the chance to know what’s on his mind but also of the chance to finally be of aid. I could have made him that Facebook account, selected a cutesy display photo, and set up his privacy settings after a briefer about Mark Zuckerberg’s sketchy empire. But I was not there. It was my sister he asked to create him an account.
I guess, I missed being there at home to always assist him in little ways. Making sure there is cooked rice when he arrives in the afternoon, covered in grease from working under car hoods. Finding missing socks when he needs them in the morning on his way to work. Reassuring him I had paid the electric bill before the due date. Helping him fill out company forms he’s taken home because he can’t see clearly with his cataract-laden eyes.
Since I moved to the city to work, I rarely have the chance to come home. I watch on Instagram how my siblings, once toddlers I help keep indoors away from the highway that’s just three meters away from our doorway, grow, meet new friends, and suddenly learn how to use filters when they can’t even cook steamed rice when I asked them to back in the day.
I’ve seen my mom grow her hair back after countless pixie cuts, change hair color almost as frequent as she tries to call me during many office meetings, through her daily selfies she posts on her wall.
But since my dad had no social media for the longest time, he’s the one I rarely get an update on barring chats with my sister who tells me funny things my dad does. Like that one time he cooked sinigang na canned corned beef with cabbage and no one at home wanted to eat it because it tasted so bad but they had no choice so they ended up eating it and crying.
I don’t know who’s helping him find those socks in the morning, who’s making sure he has something to eat after a long day working broken down cars, who he’s entrusting his ATM card with—a job I previously held because he refuses to learn how to withdraw money from the machine himself—or who he asks help from filling out those forms.
My mom would often say, I am the only person my dad trusts in the family. Not even her. Me.
I heard from my sister he doesn’t use his ATM card anymore, he even lost it one time. Instead, he opted to receive his wages in cash from his employer every month, and when they refuse to do so, he would work extra hours fixing cars after work to get cash.
In the rare occasions that I’m home, I would try to start conversations with him, about the ducks he’s raising on our backyard, how many eggs they’ve laid in the past week and what happened to them. To which he would simply respond, “may nagnakaw” and walk away.
I would ask how his eyes were after having cataracts removed a few months ago, the last time I remembered being of any help to him, waking him every few hours to make sure he takes his meds and to administer eye drops to his sockets still reddish from the surgery. “Ayos lang” he would say, looking at some far off direction.
Even on his feed, he posts photos without captions. A half face selfie in the airport is just a selfie, no context, no anything. But he goes through every comment and makes sure everyone is replied to with full sentences, not just phrases, sometimes even cracking a joke.
Maybe I should just talk to him through the comments section, maybe then he’ll converse, unless he’s figured out how to use GIFs or emojis and find one that resembles a nod.
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