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I dedicate this essay to my awesome dad.
“Class dismissed.” I hoisted my backpack on my shoulders and rushed out of the classroom. Oh, how I’ve waited for those sweet words since this morning!
I skipped walked and greeted everyone in the lobby as I exit the school campus. My body can’t contain the excitement!
Have you heard of Magic the Gathering?! Everyone’s crazy about it these days. You collect cards, build decks, and go battle with friends. It’s really fun!
But there’s a big downside. It’s VEEERY expensive.
What’s good is I don’t have to worry about it today… In fact, I’m on my way to the card shop to buy the latest edition! Woot woot!
I entered the store with my head up high. While other kids are here to buy their cards in packs, I’m here to buy mine in a box.
I flipped my wallet and slid out three one thousand peso bills. “One box, Mirage!” I yelled; then handed the money to the vendor. She gave back two hundred on top of an olive package.
Here it comes!
I received my Magic with sparkling eyes and sweaty palms. I took my time to savor the addictive smell before I stuffed the box in my bag, and commuted home.
The clock says four forty-five.
I quickly washed my hands and changed clothes as I got home. There’s a lot of unpacking to do. A box contains five hundred forty cards divided into thirty-six packs.
I hurried because I want to finish before my brother and cousins arrive. My goal is to kick their butts with my new deck.
Half-way through my unboxing, someone knocked on the door.
“Hi Jed, what are you doing?”
It’s dad. “Hi, Paps! You’re home early?!”
He glanced at the mess on the green carpet floor. Cards and wrinkled foils are scattered all over.
“Well, I need to get some rest. Something happened at the office.”
“Something happened?” I inquired.
“You see, I was supposed to pay someone earlier. But the money in my wallet went missing. I wonder where I lost it.”
He paused for a while — more like a hesitation — then he eventually asked, “Have you seen it?”
“N-No, of course not,” I responded immediately.
“Well, if ever you saw it, let me know.”
Then he gently closed the door.
I took another pack, cut it open, and slid out the cards. My nose suddenly felt stuffy, and my chest, heavy. Tears brimmed my eyes.
I didn’t bother to ask the amount of the missing money because I know how much exactly it is.
What should I do?
I thought of countless ways to confess my deed. A light bulb turned on when I saw a paper and an orange crayon laying around the room.
It’s me. I took your money.
I am so sorry.
I folded the letter and put it inside an envelope.
Now, where can I find dad?
My best bet is downstairs. His version of “rest” is to be with his fishes.
With shaky legs, I got out of the room and took my first step down. Then second. But I hesitated to take the third.
Should I give this to dad? It’s still not too late to throw this paper away.
I can act innocent and let this case remain a mystery for life. Yet knowing dad, I’m certain he already knew who the culprit is by now. How could a grade five student afford those cards?
No matter which path I chose, either way, it will lead to my greatest punishment ever.
My dad is like the Incredible Hulk.
He is gentle and kind, but you don’t want to see him angry. Perhaps I could lower my sentence if I am to admit my crime.
I pushed forward and took another step down. Time passed slowly from that point until I reached the first floor. Fear has put me in trance and showcased every worst punishment I could get.
Will it be the hanger, the belt, or the stick? Step.
Will I ever play basketball with friends again? Step.
Will he burn and throw away all my cards? Step.
Will I go to jail? Step.
I wiped my eyes dry before I took the last step. As expected, dad is in the fish area. I picked up my pace and acted normal as I approached him.
“Hey, Paps, busy?”
“Mm?” He responded.
Half of his right arm is immersed in the fish tank. He uses a clear tube to siphon dirty water from the aquarium into an emerald-colored bucket.
“Uhm… Paps? I’m s-sorry to bother you. But I saw this mail outside. And uh…It’s for you. It loo-looks urgent so please read it right away.”
I placed the letter on his marbled work table and zoom my way upstairs to hide.
My heart pounds as I ran up.
I took the thickest blanket in my parent’s bedroom and hid under it.
There were a few minutes of silence before I felt footsteps coming this way. I started to cry. I covered my mouth to keep myself quiet, but not sure if it’ll help at all.
Our bedroom door opened and then closes. Another door opened, then closes again. “JEEEED!” Dad called out.
I trembled and held tightly on the furry blanket.
What happened next is a kind of a blur. The next thing I knew dad swiftly seized my cover and carried me back to our room.
“I’m sorry Paps, I’m so sorry!!” This is the time when my emotion is at its peak. Tears and milky snot flooded my face as I wailed.
Dad sat me on his lap, in front of the scattered cards.
“WHY?! Why did you do that?!” he asked. I wiped my eyes with my left forearm and pondered on what to say.
Yet again, the only words came out were “I’m sorry.”
I honestly didn’t know how to answer. I wasn’t sure what got into me. It was a spur of the moment when I saw his wallet on top of the cabinet, unattended.
It’s time for my punishment.
Dad slowly raised his hand and pointed at the cards. I winced and bid farewell to my collection before he could even say a word. I already saw this coming.
“Jed, listen to me,” Dad said in a commanding tone.
“All those toys, cards, or whatever you call it…”
“…I want you to consider them as my gift to you.”
His words interrupted me from sobbing. I looked at him, puzzled.
His tone suddenly changed.
“Your birthday is coming up, right? Treat them as your present.”
I didn’t know how to respond. The feeling is foreign.
Dad spoke in a language I couldn’t understand, yet it moved me supernaturally. I buried my snot-covered face in his white muscle shirt’s chest and wept even harder.
“But next time…” He uttered in a sweet tone.
“…tell papa if you want anything, okay?”
We never talked about that day ever again.
Most people think I dodged a huge bullet.
I thought so too.
Yet, I indeed got my greatest punishment ever the same day.
It’s more than I ever imagined. Dad’s inexplicable act gave me an arduous duty: To do the same to others.
I never understood its implication until years after the incident.
It’s my ninth month in the real world when someone stole my phone. I reached the person through text from a device I borrowed and pleaded for its return. The reply I got, however, was: “It’s my phone now.”
I am enraged. Six months’ worth of work, gone!!
It’s always heck a lot easier to make people pay. To withhold forgiveness. To demand what’s fair. But whenever I find myself in those sentiments, I am flashed back to that day.
I have every right to take back what’s mine. My lust for justice compelled me to launch an investigation within the company. But my last-minute response was a painful, “Okay, enjoy your new phone. It’s my gift to you.”
This is the new standard of living dad modeled to me. To show kindness to all people whether they deserved it or not. I later learned there’s an actual term for it; our church calls it Grace.
It’s been more than two decades since I last played Magic.
I can’t even remember how to play the game anymore. Yet I still have a vivid memory of what happened.
Many times I wonder why dad didn’t go the other way. He should’ve just got rid of my cards, or even beat me with a rod. I’d rather have a one-time sanction than a lifelong penance.
It’s not until I became a dad myself when I understood things a little better.
Punishment is intended to teach good behavior, not to inflict pain. It’s not an outlet for anger but an opportunity to express love.
My dad is not the expressive type. But I know that day, he said, “I love you, son.”
I love you too, Paps.
Happy Father’s Day!