Today is a story of a man who searched for belongingness all his life. A story of a man who felt he never belonged, who thought he was never enough. Today, I remember him. Today, I tell him that since day one, he belonged.
On this day last year, the man I called “Lolo”, passed away. He was a hardworking farmer, a dependable husband to my lola, and a protector to us his grandchildren. For me, everything’s well. I adored him. He was the lolo who cut our hairs. He was the lolo who made me wooden toy trucks. He was the lolo who gathered Bananas for us to eat. He was the lolo who made me kites every Summer. He was, to be honest, the best lolo I got. For me he was enough. However for him, he never felt quite comfortable with his situation ever since. You see, he’s not really our “original” Lolo. He’s the second husband of my lola, and all of lola’s children were born from her first husband. And so, our “original” lolo was another man, who also passed away early in his life.
I was not critical about his situation before. I thought everything was going well, because in my case, I didn’t mind the history at all. However, on this day last year, when he drew his last breath, everything dawned on me on how different things for him was. Flashbacks of memories streamed inside my head, when he frequently got compared to my first lolo. When people in the family took him for granted because he’s “just” a step-grandfather and a stepfather. When he didn’t have a say on specific decisions. The ghost of my first lolo always overshadowed his contributions in the family even until now. I looked at him that day, lying in his coffin peacefully. I wondered if I made him feel loved enough. I wondered if my hugs, kisses, and words were enough to make up all the pain that he felt each time people took him for granted. Well, at the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t enough. I knew that no matter what I do, I will not be able to make up for the burden he carried all his life– the burden of constantly being the second.
Lolo Naldo, I wish my words will reach wherever you are right now. I wish I can make up with each moments when you felt invalid because you have been constantly compared to Lolo Sano. I wish I can make up with all the prejudices thrown at you, the decisions you were told were not yours to make, the words of endearment they chose to leave unspoken. I hope I can make up on it all. But I know I will never be able to. And I know that what I can only do now is tell your story so that people will be able to do better in their lives while they can. My words may be too few and too late now, but I want to tell you, lo, that you belonged. If not for them, at least for me, lo.
As I look back at everything today, I concluded that one thing I could do is write– to shed some light to the struggles of stepfathers, step-grandfathers, step sisters, step mothers, and all those deemed inadequate in the family just because they came in late, they came in second. I hope we learn to appreciate their efforts, no matter how big or small that is. I hope we treat them as a part of the family that we protect, care for, and accept without a doubt. I hope we see them as they are, and not as a substitute to those we have lost in the past. They are not replacements. They are family. With that, I hope we treat them with the respect they deserve, because they are giving it their best, too.
What my family can only do now is to regret, the chances ignored and the painful words inflicted. Refuse to become like us. Yes, they may be your stepfather, stepmother, step grandfather, or whatever they are in your family, respect and appreciate them while you can. Life is short, so make sure to live it while appreciating those who have showered you love and care no matter when they came in to your life. Remember, they are trying their best, too.