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papa osmubal
oscar balajadia TO ME fatherhood is still a foreign land, the terrain of which I can never completely navigate with ease. Fatherhood is the ShizzNizz only on a Father's Day. But Father's Day is just one day in a year and only the French celebrate it as a special national holiday, but the rest of the year fatherhood is all suffering and ordeal.

Let me say this, I am cursed for the rest of my life: I have two kids. And like any normal kids, they behave like Calvin and Hobbes. Like all fathers, I am puzzled by the irony of it: if kids don't act abnormally like Calvin and Hobbes, they are not normal.

You can't eat food with spices. They complain as though you are trying to assassinate them. My Tabasco is their worst enemy. I always have to eat my pizza drowned in Tabasco hiding in the kitchen. But for kids, whose smell specializes in milk and candies, all food without sugar smells like nuclear radiation.

Christmas is one of the times they celebrate their childhood and mock your initiative and generosity. You give them gifts on Christmas day and they thank that mythical and mystical old man from the North Pole. "What did Santa give you this Christmas?" their playmates ask. "Toys, lots of toys!" they answer. Say their imagination falls short sometimes, because how could toys tagged with "Made in China" be possibly manufactured by elves in workhouses built out of snow?

I abhor stuffed toys that croak and squeak, but fatherhood comes with things like those. They are often on the bed, under the pillows and blankets. Or sometimes they can even be mysteriously found in your pockets. When I am sleepy and I just suddenly lay or sit on them and they croak and squeak, I violently curse the Christ who, on Mount Sinai , preached the goodness of children. That triggers both anger and, consequently, the insomnia. When this happens, all I have to do is to blame myself for having been the direct instrument to all this mess. Truly, the gods must be playing games with us mortals. Cupid or whoever that powerful being from Parnassus or Olympus hit me with his arrow, and now here I am repenting things that, in hindsight, I did not mean doing. Or perhaps somehow I did mean it, but the gods exaggerated it.

I am missing the days when beaches were poetry and not sandcastles. I am missing the days when beaches were places to relax and sleep. Now I can't even have a quick nap on the beach or the kids will bury me under the sand—luckily for me, they are too young and weak to carry boulders. One day my wife asked these little fiends to where I had gone. They just answered her with a malicious giggle. They buried me in the sand while I was sleeping. After minutes of trying to locate me, my wife started to panic because they told her they buried me but they forgot the exact spot where. I knew I could have survived weeks without food because I was full of wine and barbecue. My wife managed to find me because I called out asking for more beer.

I literally saw blazing hell when they were so much younger. They were little devils. They once put my class exam papers in the fish tank. Believe me, they intentionally did it, they said, with good intention: they were trying to wash my students' exam papers (I admit they looked messy and miserable and they needed more than a miracle or an aquarium full of holy water to get fixed) and to teach the fish how to read. When my wife came home from her school she saw me in a corner half-dead, shaking my head as though Armageddon was scheduled to happen at that very moment, with a bottle of ice-cold beer in my hand. I was lucky enough I did not get a heart attack despite my soaring blood pressure, but I still distinctly remember at that very moment I was feeling that more than half of my brain was clinically dead. "You need a rest," said the wife and told me to spend some time outside that night. She gave me some money (and this is one of the drawbacks of fatherhood: fathers don't own the money they earn). The wife told me to buy myself some cold beer at a pub downstairs. I went, but a barrel of beer did not do any good for my problem. I returned home stoned and I got a bit sober when I saw my wife and our helper ironing and blow-drying my class exam papers. The kids? Well, they were already tight asleep; they got tired messing around the house, so they needed a much-deserved rest!

And just imagine a big-bellied man in ninja suits chasing a small tyke in superman costume and his sidekick in Teletubbie suit. I just don't have words to explain the expression of my visiting in-laws when they saw me after opening that front door. Did I get back in the house and hide? No, the damage had been done. I said hello to them and continued my noble mission of apprehending that little superman and his Teletubbie sidekick to give them a nice tickling. Good for them, because kids are not known to suffer a heart attack, but justice had been served and the world got its longed-for peace after the tickling.

I am a high school teacher, and in the trade that I am in, there is nothing worse than finding myself without a computer. Preparing quizzes, tests and exams nowadays is never the same as in the good old typewriter days. Meeting deadlines for the submission of exam papers at the eleventh hour is not a new thing. It is the stuff of procrastinators like me. Besides, teachers are professional procrastinators. But what makes my nerves explode is when I try to finish my exam papers to meet those deadlines with my computer that is in a frigging bad condition. Once I called the computer technician and told him it was urgent. He asked me what seemed to be the problem. "There are coins in my computer," I said. "How much are they? And why did you put them in there?" the guy on the other line of the phone said, bemused and amused, as I felt from his giggle. I said I was serious and needed those coins out of the machine so that I could finish my pending work. He came after begging him. I told him my principal would crucify me in public in front of our school and then mince me in quark sizes to feed to the Koi fish in our school pond. Feeling the seriousness of my voice, he came and fixed the thing, but not without a sarcastic parting word: he suggested that I buy a piggy bank instead. And the culprits? Well, they were outside in the living room, having a snack while watching their favorite Super Rangers. "Why can't dad fly like that? What shall we do to make dad fly like that?" I heard the boy said in frustration. "Because he has a big tummy. I think the doctors should give him more medicine to make him fly like that," said the girl, before biting her next cookie.

Call me a masochist, but despite all the troubles, I just don't know why I feel like I am the happiest human being in the whole wide world. Fatherhood is a crucifix I carry around in glory, with glory.

[About the author. Papa Osmubal is Oscar Balajadia of Magalang (Well, don't get fooled by that name), now a Macau resident (Sorry, where?) and married to a Chinese local (How? How come? Why?). He has been a Catholic seminarian (OK, he once opened a book at an exam in Latin and Romance Languages---but who in frigging hell did not?), a Catholic missionary (Oh, the rosary is the answer to our country's economic problems and to your alcoholism and addiction to nicotine!), a bookstore staffer (Yes, sir, listen here, we know it is urgent, so your book is on its way from Guangzhou and will be here in 8 months!), a librarian (Oh, it's Friday the 13th and I am not putting 666 as Dewey call number on this bloody book!), and a teaching assistant (OK, pal, I know you prepared for the exams so I will check and mark them!). He is currently a teacher (yawn) and has an M.A. in English Studies (yawn even more, nod off, and then snore) from the University of Macau (sorry again, where?).]

-Posted: 8:29 PM 11/13/08 | More of this author on eK!