I was around 24 then. I fell in love with a car that a friend of a friend was selling. I was unloading my VW beetle to my brother and was in the market for my second car. My friend, Mike, was a body-repair shop owner and he was into collecting cars and buying and selling them.
I badly wanted to buy from him his fire-engine red Mitsubishi Celeste. It was a handsome 2-door hatchback with leather seats, wide radial tires, mag wheels. It had a thick leather steering wheel, smaller than the standard issue. It was equipped with seatbelts and automatic windows which at that time were luxuries, if not unheard of by most motorists. It had that race-car look and feel to it.
Mike was about to strip the car’s paint before repainting it and we felt it a good idea for me to show my dad the car before I purchased it. My friend wanted my dad to appreciate that the body was free from dents and that he was going to repaint its bare body; it wasn’t going to be a wash over.
So, one Sunday morning I took my dad to see the car and my friend showed him the paint job he was doing. They both slow-moed around the vehicle with Mike pointing out details here and there, my dad squinting and scrutinizing the body like a crime scene investigator. Dad asking, Mike answering. I smiled as I sensed my dad was impressed with the car. Finally, it came down to the price. Mike mentioned what I felt was a reasonable price. My dad bargained for something like 5% off.
Mike said, “Sir, I can let go of the car at the price you want. That would be a real steal for you. But I loved this car, took really good care of it, and your daughter won’t have any problem with it for the whole time she drives this. I would love to see her in it. She is a good friend and I would love for her to take care of it after me. But it will pain me to let go of this car at the price you mentioned that I will not even want to see it again.”
My dad said we’ll think it over. My heart sank in disappointment.
The next day, I rode with my dad on the way to work. I was quiet.
My dad decided to break the silence, knowing how upset I was. “Look, iha, you’re the one buying the car. Why does it feel like you’re the one selling and not him? Why don’t you even want to bargain? The price I requested for isn’t even a bargain – it’s just 5% off.”
“Because he is a friend. I am not buying the car from some random ad. I am buying the car from someone I trust. I have the added benefit of knowing that I have a garage to run to if I need something repaired. We’re not bargaining meat from a market here.”
I could feel my body tense and heat up in brimming anger.
“So why did you even bring me there when you won’t even follow my advice?”
“I asked for your advice but more than that, I was asking for your blessing. You surely know how badly I want that car. I will be paying for it anyway.”
Our argument continued for a few more kilometers until I could not stand the discussion any longer. We were in the middle of the highway and I asked my dad to pull over. I asked to be let off the car.
“What, here? You want to get off here?” My dad was shocked.
I was belligerent. “Yes, let me out of here!”
He eased between speeding cars towards the highway toll station. I stepped out of the car and banged the passenger door shut. My dad drove away.
We didn’t speak for the whole duration of the following week. Coming home from work, my dad would slip to his and my mom’s room. I would not approach him or speak with him.
I know I was not imagining this, but I witnessed my dad age in that week we were not speaking with each other. My mom did not interfere nor scold me, but told me that I must make the move to speak with my dad. But how?
I wrote him a letter.
I felt it best to pour my apologies on paper… I know how much pain I’ve caused wth my thoughtless words and I cannot face the pained expression of a father who never deserved the stubborness and thoughtlesness of a daughter. I hope that this letter would convey how sorry I am for unintentionally hurting you.
I do know that there will never come a time when I will hesitate to approach you for help in whatever matter or when I wouldn’t want to be indebted to you. I can fully sense now that the pain I caused stems from misunderstanding a statement along those lines which I must have wrongly phrased.
I changed my mind about seeking your assistance for financial help because I know that you, too, are saving to buy a car of your own. At the same time, I figured that I wouldn’t be getting your complete blessing if I paid for a car that costs more than what you felt is right, with part of your money tied to it. I had in mind that if I borrowed money from somewhere else, I could comfortably purchase the car with whatever price I felt was justified.
I badly needed you to see the car I intended to buy because I wanted your blessing. I did appreciate your good intention in advising me to bargain. When we practically settled on the price, I felt that I had your blessing but I must have misunderstood your remark about wishing that we could have further dropped the price as a lack of concurrence. I wanted you to be as sold on the car as I am. And I so much wanted you to see that Mike’s price was justified and the car well-worth it.
I’m sorry, too, for raising my voice. I went beyond my limit. I guess, Papa, I’m experiencing difficulties living the life of an adult. I have so often expressed this difficulty to Mama and it is twice as difficult when your’re the youngest and only daughter. You keep on striving to follow the correct decisions made by those who preceded you.
I consider this as the very first major decision I’ve had to face. I feel that I am making the correct one and it matters so much to me that you approve of it and that I have your blessing. But the way I tried to seek your approval was all wrong, and I am sorry.
I propped the letter on my dad’s pillow that night for him to see before he retired for bed. The next morning, while he was reading the newspaper in his favorite chair, I approached him. He looked up from the paper and stared at me. His crow’s feet were moist. But his glance was enough to tell me that all was going to be ok. I cuddled up to him the way I usually did and have been doing since I was a kid. He kissed me on the forehead, laid my head on his chest, kissed my hair and caressed my head. All was ok again.
A couple of years after my mom passed away, I found the letter among her things. Either my Pappy had handed it to her for safekeeping or she considered it a memory worth saving. I have since then tucked it in the side pocket of my weathered Filofax. I bring it out every time I want to relive this particular moment of my life with my Pappy.
It’s his birthday today, and yes, again, out went the letter. I don’t want to ever forget.