Depicting Places

It’s funny and amazing at the same time that my Dad has a collection of maps. It wasn’t something that he thought about. It wasn’t something that he planned to. He just woke up one day realizing that he has been too fond of maps he has kept too many of them.

Those maps are already around since I was born, so I was told. I don’t know where he got them or how he happened to gather all of them, but the maps has always been part of the family. Like other collectors, my father takes care of them like his babies. But unlike them, he keeps them neatly folded inside a bag. I don’t know if it was because we don’t have extra space at home for him to display it, or maybe he just didn’t want to at all. But once a week during weekends he would take them out and inspect them. Those are the only times that I get to see them too. He has a map of all the seven continents and of different countries all around the world. Amazing isn’t it? My father has never went abroad so there’s no way he bought them outside the Philippines. Maybe some were given to him or he has bought it somewhere. Still, it is a collection. A collection of places he has never been to, but has always been drawn in his memory.

My Dad loved books. That was one of the best things I got from him. He used to cherish ones about history. Our favorite was the History of America. Sometimes he would read about medicinal plants. Then one day I found him in the backyard planting various herbs I never heard about. When he grew tired and bored with that, he read about religions. And then I saw him one day talking to some men arguing about some Greek words spoken in the Bible. He also has books about The Beetles. There were three of them I think. He reads them while listening to their songs and he always looked like a teenager everytime.  In his shelf, there were books that I’m allowed to read. But the top shelf where he places his geographical books is something that I’m not permitted to get my hands into. I wanted to read those books so bad because whenever I see him opening those books and I see those drawings and illustration of places, I felt like my Dad is going somewhere far. I imagined him boarding on a ship going sailing like I see in movies. I wonder what’s with those books that he loves them so much. 

Aside from books, watching Television has also occupied his time. Some people would find it a waste of time, but my Dad has his own unique way of making his time worthwhile. He always had a trivia about everything. The actor’s real name, the family he has came from, the history of the place that the scene was shot, the language they are speaking, or even the story behind the character’s clothes. He has them. And I wonder sometimes how did he knew about those facts. It almost annoys me every time that he blabs about everything, but the silly thing is that it rubbed on me. I started seeing myself doing the same thing even with my friends. I would say trivia over trivia. Facts over facts. And I was surprised that it didn’t annoy them like I did. Instead, they found it amusing and intelligent of me.

And that’s when I started working hard. I read more and more and spent my time researching about everything. Whenever we watch the television, I wanted to be the one to say the facts first. I wanted to compete with my father and I would take pride on the things that he didn’t know about. He would do the same when I fall short and went out of things to say. He was always so competitive. But I know, and I see it in his eyes all the time- he was proud of me.

My Dad loved treasure hunting. I thought maybe that would be one of the reasons why he has those maps. When I was little, at times he would go for a week up in the mountains I didn’t know where, I asked my mom if it was like the treasure hunting we do on holidays. She said yes, but when my Dad came back few weeks after, I learned that my mom half lied to me, or so I thought at the time. Well it was actually about finding treasures, but it wasn’t like what we play during holidays. It was a more serious and complicated one. He told me that they used specialized equipment to locate them. He told me there were clues about the treasures. He told me everything and I listened to him carefully and attentively. He never belittled me being young and has never deprived me the facts that I needed and was allowed to know. And I loved him so much for doing that.

My Dad loved places. And that was what kept him away from us. My mom would tell us before that my father was everywhere. I didn’t know if that was an act of sarcasm or simply an explanation of his absence but I’ve always waited for his return. He tells me about the places he has been, and the people he talked to and spent time with which always fascinates me. I always wonder when can I go there too, I wonder when can I come with him. And then it happened. When my Dad did not came back for two months, I was so thrilled. I told myself “I knew it!”. I knew he was planning to get away, I knew he was going sailing. And I waited, and waited and waited. I was excited at first but when he still hasn’t come back for a year, I told my mom we should call the police cause Dad is lost floating in the sea. I kept thinking that for years. And looking back, I still laugh at myself whenever I remember it.

When my father came back after three years, I was already in high school. That was a very long time for me to turn from the gullible, silly little princess into a strong and wise girl. I knew then from my mother’s sad eyes what had happened. And I also knew that as much as he loved books, as much as he loved treasure hunting, as much as he loved places, and as much as he loved his maps, he also loved lies.

When my Dad died of stroke last year, I personally emptied his bookshelf. There were books that I threw away, there were some that I gave to the neighbors. It was heartbreaking and soothing at the same time. I knew I needed to do that. Maybe as closure, maybe for acceptance. When he came back after a long time, I was confused. I didn’t know how to approach him and was always lost for words. I tried to sit with him watching the television, I tried to talk to him about treasures, I tried to read books with him. I’ve tried so hard but it was too much for me. That’s when I realized, it was not because of his mistake. I was trying so hard because that’s not me anymore. I grew out of it. Maybe he realized that too, but he has always been patient with me. The moment we both accepted that, the easier it became.

I felt that I had to write something about him because few days ago I saw his maps. There were almost thirty of them and it’s funny and amazing. Amazing that he has that collection. Funny that I had to keep them. Now, his spot for shelf has been converted to be mine. It looked different now, but sometimes when I close my eyes, it still looked like his. I put his maps on the bottom shelf, but it was because it looked better there. Sometimes I miss his books about medicinal plants. Sometimes I long to read history of America. Sometimes i wished I did not let go of the books. But I already did. Good thing is that it already came out from the hoarding den. Now, other people could read it too and get the same inspiration my Dad and I got from it. As for the maps, it will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Maybe if life has a map we could never be lost. Except there is none. Life itself is an ongoing depiction of ourselves. Written in it are the milestones we’ve had. The people we’ve met, the people we loved. The heartbreaks, the heartaches. Every failure, every success. Every place we’ve been, every memory we remember. It is something that reminds us of what we have been, what we are now, and what we will become in the future. Maybe my Dad understood that too. Maybe that’s why he loved his maps, maybe that’s why he came back to me. So right now, I just want to make the best map of myself. And if I meet my Dad again someday, I wonder if he’ll still be competitive. I’ll say “Hey dad! I made the best collection of maps. EVER!”

Oh and just in case you were wondering, I got my Dad’s geographical books at my top shelf. Some things are just worth keeping, I read them once in a while now, finally!

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