When I was a kid, my father almost always worked until very late every day. It baffled me to think that I never had a good, long, conversation with him until I hit puberty—not because we didn’t want to, but because he was never around, to begin with.
After all, he always went to work before I even woke up, and returned home after I fell asleep. And to be perfectly honest, I think there was a little part of me that resented him for that—for not being around when I wanted to talk to him about my day, or anything.
“I don’t have a choice,” he said one day, during one of the rare moments when he actually got to go home early. I remember it clear as day—the sky was dark, curtains were closed, and my mom had stored all our food in the fridge because that’s what she always did after I finished dinner; my dad never ate at home.
“What do you mean, you don’t have a choice?” I remember myself asking.
“No matter how tough the going gets, I need to work for this family. For you,” my dad replied.
“You mean for the money,” I retorted.
He didn’t deny anything. Instead, he looked at me, let out a long sigh, and gazed at our half-dilapidated, leaking ceilings for a good second or two, before continuing our conversation with a lower tone to his voice that almost resembled a whisper. “Yes, I do this for the money. But you have to remember where the money goes. It goes to our food. It goes to electricity so you can sleep comfortably with the AC on every night. It goes to your school tuition. It goes to our family—hence I do this for the family.”
“But families don’t run on money… right?” I remember my younger self asked him.
To be honest, I don’t really remember what he told me that night. Even after I asked my dad about it, he simply said that he already forgot, and proceeded to bombard me with other questions about how my life went, how was work, and so on. But as I try my hardest to paint a picture of that sliver of memory, I imagine my dad would most likely reply with something out of his wisdom bag—something that only a man who worked for money, and worked for a family, could ever have spoken.