The Prodigal Father Revisited
I had been asked more than once, at least by those who know that I once wrote quite more regularly in the days of Multiply and Blogger, "what happened to Mio's Dad?” You see, I once had a 30-Day Blog entitled The Prodigal Father, where I write about my eldest son’s Dad and his short fatherhood stint before Mio suffered Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia then my blogging energy was better directed at MioFightsCancer.com
I was a single Mom for most of Mio’s childhood yet surrounded by a fierce support system of family and friends so the welcome protectiveness is not new to us. This question always came with snide remarks about Mio’s Dad mostly because there wasn’t a lot of good things to say, as in the case of many single parents about the other half of their offspring’s genes.
For those just catching up now, Mio’s Dad and I were childhood sweethearts and only had gotten together briefly when I was about to graduate college, right at the time in between finding raw first love and crazy anything goes Jasmine. Mio came to my life like a surprise present, one that no one expected and had no idea what to do with but it was clear to me that Roman, Mio’s Dad, did not want to have anything to do with him especially when his maturity was almost the same as when we met.
When Mio was four years old, another era in my early 20s where I was pushing for independence and finding my foothold as a head of a family unit of 2, I just got my heart broken yet again and insisted to my doting parents that it was time for me to learn how to become a parent myself and move out of the comforts of their home and into a 1-bedroom condominium for rent that cost a little way’s above my salary, that was right beside my then publishing office and where I had planned to send my then Nursery boy to school just across the building and just walk to everywhere I needed to be (and made sure friends picked me up for going where we wanted to be for late night dancing or drinks and really NOT spend a dime besides for my son’s school, my pre-approved credit card’s minimum payment due which I spent on groceries and rent — that plan failed and the only investment I made was the non-financial learning experiences I had!).
I was at Fiamma one night (on a date) and somewhere in the flickering lights of the dark was Roman waving hi at me. This vulnerable-feeling-strong-woman acted all cool and put together, said hi back, and let him back in her life. That girl was me.
Most of everyone knows the short version of this story where he introduced himself to this shy and impressionable sweet boy and for a month played Dad, much to a lot of our loved ones apprehension. And then later on decided that apparently he can’t go on with it because his Mom didn’t approve.
I thought, “fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” So I did what a woman scorned would do —- I dragged him to court and took everything I said (about not needing a penny from him as long as he was consistent and sincere to his child) back with a vengeance and every ill intention of causing all the possible hassle I could put upon him. I went out marching the anthem of a single mother fighting for her son’s right to financial support. I thought, if he couldn’t do the bare concept of consistency like how fathers should be, eh di pera pera na lng.
I wanted to make sure that when my son had a mind of his own and had a better grasp of the situation of our life, he would never doubt that I did everything in my power and exhaust every ounce of human kindness, forgiveness or reason that is humanly possible in circumstances like that.
Now this post is not to relive all that pain or to gain more haters for Mio's Dad in this rampant age of social media. To answer the question, what happened to Mio’s Dad:
Our financial support case had a pre-trial hearing to determine how much support Mio required while the case was ongoing and we were simultaneously faced with rebuttals of denial and thrown proof of incapacity to pay. So we had to go through a DNA test and several more dramatic hearings of why he should only pay this or why my son had to be sent to Ateneo, or why not considering he had cancer — for give or take another 3 years.
By the time Mio had finished his first school year in Ateneo, I woke up one day, realising that I already got what I wanted (na maka-hassle) and that it was time that Mio got what he needed and rightfully deserved (and that my poor exhausted lawyer didn’t need a pro bono case of a battle of egos to go on for years!) so I had a settlement agreement drafted where for the entirety of Mio's schooling years, Roman will have to take care of that and that we were to review the agreement based on his capacity to pay and the educational requirements of Mio as he grew older.
Of course there were bumps along the road and some struggle here and there at the start. Like the first year of this arrangement, it was a monthly allowance that didn't feel enough because it didn't meet the schedule of tuition payments; the second year, we had to agree to disagree on what "educational" needs meant and I had "threatened" to go back to court; the third year, there was a struggle on the increase of the tuition fees which, of course, was beyond my control or my willingness to extend more of what I ended up paying for (even if we all know that Moms would innevitably foot the bill push comes to shove); the fourth year was more agreeable as we had agreed for him to just pay the tuition fee in full one time big time annually regardless of how much it was. This seemed to work well for us because neither of us had to ask much or dictate anything to anyone. It also came to a point where Mio is old enough to correspond with his Dad directly so there really wasn't much to talk about.
Sometimes, I reach out to Roman. I update him on Mio's schooling and have once asked to split a nice Christmas present for him (a Gold NBA2K2018 PS4 game). He was game for that. As well as to write him a palanca letter for his recollection. He wrote something surprisingly beautiful (yes, I was surprised that it was) and hopefully genuinely heartfelt. He also gushes when Mio sends him greetings or thank you messages. Sometimes, when we go up to Baguio, I try to match their schedules so they can meet but we haven't been very lucky with that. I do this, not out of the generosity of my heart, but because it is what's right. Regardless of how my friends or family feel about it, or where my pride stands -- Roman is Mio's father (DNA test proven, 98.9998%)
The case may not be the same for a lot of single Moms but some things that stood out in this unique predicament of mine are:
Once, I had asked Mio if he wanted to see his Dad (on a holiday where Roman surprisingly asked to see him. This was a point in his life where I assumed he started settling down with a kind and very understanding young woman, who is now the mother of Mio's half brother, Dylan). Mio refused. After much proding, Mio said he didn't want to see his Dad because he was bad. I immediately corrected this and in my defense said, "I never told you that he was a bad person. Why would you say something like that?" and then Mio said, "because you're angry at him." I never showed Mio I was nor did I speak ill about Roman to him (unless he had read my blog then!). So I ended that conversation with tongues of fire coming out of my mouth saying, "just because I'm angry with your Dad doesn’t mean he's bad. We don't agree on many things but that doesn't mean he's a bad person. He just doesn't know how to be a good dad."
This became a recurring theme every time the topic of his father was brought up. Years passed and I'm glad to report that as Mio had grown to know some of my other childhood friends or have engaged in activities that remind me of his father, or as he had grown to the age where his Dad and I have met, the task of telling him about his Dad had turned into something more endearing.
Before writing this, I asked my current partner, Paolo's permission if he felt it was alright or if it would make him feel uncomfortable at all. I'm glad that Pao is a man of reason and appreciate the relationship Roman has with Mio. I personally feel too that the way that I had dealt with Roman serves as a bitter but necessary reminder, that we always have to check if we are able to address the needs of Pao's children. Consequently, seeing Pao's own struggles with the distance and the inability to spend as much time as he hoped he could have with his kids, I had also become more understanding of Roman. The fact that he has hardly contested any tuition payment to date, nor has he been untoward to me since our written agreement, plus seeing that he had become a doting father to his younger son, all make it seem like a happy ending. As happy as this could be.
I'm not sure if Roman will appreciate another post about him but its not like he has the patience to read through this. But if he or his partner did, I would want them to know that in the same way that Pao's children's families have opened their doors to us so we can spend time with the kids, they are welcome in our home to spend time with Mio anytime that they would like. I feel that the idea of it is something that brings peace to my heart and will open up Mio's too.
Fathers are hardly perfect. Mine was, with all of his temper and posterity. Paolo has his moments. But what they do and fail to do impact a child immensely. I feel that in spite of how stupid it seemed at that time, Roman's humility in admitting he cannot fulfill his obligations to Mio at that time has its own wisdom. Perhaps if he tried so hard then, he would have failed so bad, that there would be no going back from there. Or if he forced himself to, I would not have gained the confidence or the back up of an army made up of friends and strangers to fight through a life that was apparently going to be harder than I had imagined. And if he isn't how he is now, Paolo might not have had the chance to stand by my son and show him how a hardworking, honourable man able to own up to his mistakes can and loves his Mom for who she is, in spite and because of her self. This is the kind of father Paolo is to Mio in spite of coming into his life a bit too late, so is only able to father him mostly by example and I'm glad Mio is able to be around him and call him his Papa too.
So what happened to Mio's Dad? He's still his Dad. He's practically Mio's scholarship sponsor with no minimum grade requirement (for which is why I highly encourage Mio to take extended courses in either law, medicine or study abroad! Hehe) but for whatever purpose he was not and is in Mio's life, he is still his Dad. Therefore, Happy Father's Day to you too, Roman. Thank you for giving me Mio.