My dad never rode with me in a seesaw nor did he push a swing back and forth whilst me riding it. He never played a single game of basketball nor swung a club at mini golf with me. He never ate with us on picnics nor did he sleep with us under a shade. You see, my dad was a busy man. He doesn’t have time for all those, because he was too busy making all the things we enjoy .
He first surprised us when he spun a rope and tied two swings to a very tall tree. I remember its grand opening; we all rushed to that spot. Three kids, two swings… go figure. Not his fault though, it wasn’t for lack of effort; rather, a lack of space.
Looking back, I’m guessing he thought it wasn’t enough. Because, the very next day, he decided to bolt iron bars together to make a pivot for another kid unit, a seesaw.
I still distinctly recall the music he makes in producing it. The sound of the wood being cut by his very own creation, a platform with a rotating saw blade, the thorough sanding and the loud hammering.
We were so happy with the structure that before it was even finish we were already riding it. But my dad wasn’t only planning on making us enjoy it, he also wanted to make sure we’re comfortable and safe. So, he made cushions as seats, put rubbers on the handles, painted it and of course, he polished it, too. He put so much of himself in making that seesaw that he would often work until night time and would only stop whenever Mommy, his wife, calls him off to rest and eat.
By the time he was done with the first units, we had friends come over to play with it as well. This time he created little sitting areas below our avocado tree for us to use as an area for cooking using the clay pots he bought from Pampanga.
He would even allow to us to grab stuff from his shed to sleep on, tore apart or even burn. He never complained, he simply accompanied us to make sure we don’t get splinters.
It was great that we had friends, but more kids meant more work for my dad.
In the mornings, my dad would clear the area of trash, weeds and leaves so we could play pleasantly in the afternoons. I remember he would stand with his arms resting on the walls of his shed while watching us play as we happily call to him. And to answer, he would let out his famous laugh, “eeeh-hehehehehe-hehehe.”
Day after day he would continue to stare at the lot and little by little he would add few more things to embellish it. That’s how he is, he never gets tired of working. I guess it was during one of those days when he noticed me and my friend hitting a tree branch pretending to shoot a basketball that he was struck by another idea. I vaguely recall him saying in earshot, “Seems to me that a small basketball court would look nice here.” Barely unable to hide my excitement, I shouted, “Yes, Dad!”
As usual, he gathered wood from old furniture, nailed it together to serve as a board for our basketball ring, pieced everything together and nailed it to the same tree. I thought at first he was making it to spare the tree from further harm but realizing it now his only goal was for us to have fun.
During its soft opening, we were so excited that we played many rounds of 21. The basketball court was a perfect addition. But my Dad, surprise, surprise, wasn’t completely satisfied. He must have realized that it was hard for us to dribble given the uneven earth surface so he resumed to work by flattening the surface, layering inches of gravel and soil over and over again. I never appreciated what he’d done back then since it was perfect for me the first time but truly I am grateful for it. I only wanted to shoot a basketball but he was the one who made sure that every inch of his creation is playable and enjoyable.
My Dad, who for some reason never found faults in others, annoyingly found numerous faults in his own self and his creations. I remember the seesaw being painted twice, the swing would always undergo renovations, the golf clubs were being covered with steel wire, the tree branches that obscure the trajectory of the ball would be cut and he added lights so we could stop playing instinctively when the sun goes down.
And just when you thought it was over, he would strike again. I don’t recollect him seeing us play golf using our plastic clubs and balls but one day he just decided to dig small holes for us to have our very own mini golf. Growing up in the Philippines, where I know not one place to play mini golf and back then not having any idea that it was even possible, I was beyond thrilled.
Amazingly, he even thought of cutting out portions of an old small gray vinyl water pipe which I think was torn out from our laundry area. I didn’t know what he was doing at first when he was placing 10 pipes across the lot until he rolled the ball inside it and recalling it now, the holes were even labeled with numbers!
Again, while playing golf, just like in basketball, he noticed something amidst. The lot was a bit rocky even for a kid so hitting a plastic ball with a plastic club keeps the ball from rolling smoothly. Therefore, as expected he removed most of the rocks, added a layer of soil and what surprised us most is what he did to our golf set. He made the set heavier to offset the state of the playing area. If I remember it clearly he filled the clubs and even the ball with a cement-like mixture. To this day, I still don’t know its composition. Nor how the plastic ball survived the injection. But what really made it a mystery to all was the remarkable absence of a hole. I hope I had asked.
Thus behold, a kid’s glory days! As far as I can remember no other kid in the neighborhood owns a playground. If I was mistaken and there was, I am sure it does not comprise a mini golf. Hail to my Dad, for he did it all… all by himself.
These days, I can’t help but question his ways. Why he just stared and never played. Why he laughed but never uttered a word to show his excitement. And every time, I would have the same answer in mind. He never intended to create memories for us to remember. His only purpose was to bring us happiness may it or may it not involve his presence.
I am glad my Dad chose to make a swing instead of buying one for us. Many stuff like our home weren’t simply bought built, he always used his hands to do most, if not all, of the job to make it. I guess he knew that by offering his own hands, he would not only save bread for the family but he would also bring us joy and comfort during the days of his absence.
When you become an adult, you often forget what was provided to you as a child that you never remember to thank anyone come later years. Going back to my play days, I hope I was able to say thank you at least once. A man who never grew tired of his family especially his grandchildren deserve more, but I also hope at least once, I made you proud by showing my endless gratitude.
I wish my Dad never saw us fight. Although I am certain, he knows we can’t help it, we were kids and those were two lovely swings.
How I desire to relive every moment I have with my Dad to ask him for less instead of more; to take care of him in times of peril and laugh at his every joke.
If only time had a manner to turn the other way, I would have kept from fighting and instead turn to him and say, “Dad, you need not work very hard, all these are lovely and two swings are enough.”
(This was written by my sister’s daughter, my niece Jennifer, who enjoyed our Dad’s love and care.)
This is for you, Daddy.
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