My Dad Used to Talk to the TV

tvYup, he told Lawrence Welk that the Lennon Sisters should sing in every other number, and told Walter Brennan he needed to do a better job in protecting the McCoys. He told Walter Cronkite that Americans were bullies in the Vietnam War, and let Lyndon Johnson know that lives were being wasted in a stupid war. He let Vic Morrow know that he was the hero in Combat, and informed Sergeant Joe Friday when a clue was right under is nose.

Dad liked serious shows, like Gunsmoke and Route 66. He disapproved of comedies. When Dick Van Dyke and Carol Burnett came on, Dad shifted his conversation to me and Mom. He told us how silly they were and that watching them was a waste of time. Somehow, Red Skelton escaped his critique.

Ed Sullivan was hit or miss for Dad. He liked Louis Armstrong; the Beatles were definitely out. Elvis was okay as long as he sang gospel music. Forget the pelvic gyrations.

Dad made it through the third grade. He was orphaned at 14, and was raised by Catholic nuns in the town of Narvacan in the Ilocos Sur province of the Philippines. In 1946, at 19 years old, he immigrated to Hawaii to work on the plantation in Lanai City in Hawaii. There was no real city on that tiny island and plantation life was not his idea of America, so he moved to the main island of Oahu. He worked as a housekeeper at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. When he retired in 1975, he was the longest standing employee — 30 years.

To put my brother and me through parochial schools, he took on a second job as a waiter in Waikiki restaurants. He’d work from 8AM to 4PM at the hotel, eat a quick dinner, change and go off to his restaurant job at 5:45. He’d come home after 11PM, smelling of his customers’ cigarette smoke. On weekends, I used to stay up and help him count his tips.

When Dad was home, the tv was his to command. My brother and I were the “remote control,” and we took turns changing the channel. There were only three.

The television was my Dad’s binoculars to the world. He watched the news whenever he could, and knew the events and capitals of many countries. He was very critical of the United States in foreign affairs, and yet when I was a teenage peacenik, he chided me for not appreciating my own country. He remained a citizen of the Philippines throughout his life.

The television was also his main companion after he retired and my Mom continued to work. He’d call me at work just to chat, and I could hear Judge Judy in the background. I could only imagine what he told her.

One day in my office, he asked me, “What is dot com?” I did a brief tour on my computer and he was amazed. “Who’s doing all that? . . . How do you know that’s true? . . . Can people see me?”

He was flabbergasted when we Instant-Messaged my son Marco. “You mean he’s sitting in front of his computer right now? How did he know I’m in your office?” When my mom made a couple of sarcastic remarks in her IM with Marco, he chided her, “Don’t joke like that!” Always the serious commentator.

He never had a computer because that was “just for smart people.” But I think he would have eventually succumbed to technology had he lived beyond the year 2000. He would not be able to resist another pair of binoculars, another landing for his commentary.

I can just see him now, talking to the computer. He would read this blog and say, “You mean everybody in the world can read about me?” And “Shouldn’t there be serious picture of me instead?”

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Thoughts of My Father


I thought I might find you here
coaxing your precious plants to feed our family
with the help of shape shifters that transport mist

from mountain peaks that seduce the foolish
from insistent waves that soothe the senses
from meandering streams that inspire the poet
from salty tears that contain life’s yearning.

But the cerulean garden was heaven’s camouflage
for the ancient future of hope
that I might find you here.

Perhaps next time.

This is a re-post from November 2012.  I took this photo from the airplane as I was about to land in Hawaii.  It was like flying through heaven.  I changed the original title (“I Thought I Might Find You Here”).  



Legacy Shattered

Her humming wakes me.
Her profile illumined by moonlight
sneaking through sheer breezy curtains.
She rocks a cradle I’ve not seen.
Her eyes are closed. She smiles a secret.
I want to sit with her.

I stumble off a floor mattress,
my legs surprisingly short and pudgy.
I toddle on dimpled feet,
cloth diaper scritching my thighs.
I know I am a dream toddler,
yet I persist, seeking, seeking.

I want to coddle with you, I announce.
Yet all I can say is MAAAMMMAAAA.
I clutch at her arm, a hard wooden branch.
She ignores me, her eyes closed.  She hums.
I crawl into the rocking cradle,
hoping to inhale her mother song.

I nestle into bunting warmed by her breath
and am shockingly pierced by broken glass
lining the blanket, shards of mirror
that revel her soul and identity.
I am mercifully startled from this nightmare.
Awaken, woman, awaken.

I am stunned into now, to the tradewind breath
of my son in the Moses basket next to my bed.
His calls to me cries of I need you, your life and touch.
So I hold him. He drinks my milk and energy
and I declare to that mother in the cold moonlight.
Be gone.  You have no hold on me.

Legacy Shattered



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI once thought I deserved the love
of captives bound by obligations and guilt
I demanded bounties from brothers and sons
husbands and fathers
amid the circle of women who chant promises
of ancient legacies conceived in vaults of wombs

But I know now
that the lifelines that weave
the tapestry I have become in this time and place
are ephemeral shadows and faint fingerprints
dusted by starlight to shimmer in Pacific waves
pulsing to the cadence of the Universe

A thread of a whisper
The feather touches of friends long forgotten
Random memories of lives I have led
or perhaps imagined
Dreams of worlds real and alternate
where strangers call me friend

Butterfly Shadows

You appeared on a crisp spring morning
when honey bees descended on arugula flowers
that twinkled sunburst in the breeze

A little caterpillar whose gentle soul
was clothed in orange silk
fastened by thin black stripes

I asked you, “Child, where is your mother?”
but you blithely continued to nibble
on my tender lettuce and chard seedlings

I allowed your piracy of daily sustenance
anticipating the day you would grace my garden
with your whisper touch and weightless flutters

I guarded your motionless chrysalis
that belied metamorphosis about to unfold
your wings to fly where your spirit beckons

Though I have not seen you since your inaugural flight
I sometimes imagine you hovering near me
casting shadows of times that could have been

For Ben (April 30, 1960 to September 5, 2015)