This morning as I walked over to Mama's room to close the jalousies in an open window, a picture of Papa perched on the top of a low, glass-topped set of shelves caught my glance. It was taken more than a decade ago at one of the countless wedding receptions he attended either as a guest or as a principal sponsor.
My father always had an innate aversion to attending formal parties and gatherings. For he was a private person who detested all forms of ritualized socializing and who preferred the informal give and take of casual chats and joshing with close friends, relatives and acquaintances.
But his standing in the community as a physician insured that he would be invited to formal gatherings and he would attended them as a matter of duty. But he never was comfortable while mixing with people he barely knew. On some pretext he would quietly slip away and then all the other guests would suddenly notice his absence and start looking for him.
He had a special reluctance to standing in as a sponsor at wedding ceremonies. He hated dressing up formally and was always ill at ease in formal dress. He then would lamely joke that he did not like being a principal sponsor at weddings because most of those nuptials he was a formal witness to ended badly, a fact my mother would laughingly agree with.
That his own marriage was happy and successful never came as a surprise to him. He told me once that a successful marriage was built on trust and mutual respect as well as genuine love. You have to work at making your marriage work, he said, and being faithful and true to your mate can be difficult but doable if you put prioritize the relationship above all else.
Me: "Were you ever tempted to cheat on your wife?"
Papa: "The temptation is always there but if you keep your head straight and your priorities in proper perspective then you can easily resist such things."
Papa: "Think of the years you have invested in your marriage and your family. Think of how one small, careless act can destroy all the trust and respect you have gained from your loved ones. Reflect well and then resisting temptation is easier if you think of the consequences of what you are about to do."
In the picture, Papa may be smiling a bit and posing for the camera but I knew what he was thinking and where he would rather be. Out of the party, out of the barong and in his casual, daily wear and focusing his attention on both his work and his family.
Simple but satisfying pleasures for a basically simple but towering giant of a man.