To all the OFW families out there and couples in long distance relationships, who had to endure so much pain but continue to trust and love each other, I most want to share this with you…
My husband’s annual summer homecoming came a little early this year. He usually takes a vacation in May, in time for our youngest daughter’s birthday, which also happens to be his (and his mother’s) birth month. This year, he timed it for our daughters’ elementary school graduation and recognition day, and close enough to celebrate our post-13th wedding anniversary, too. This is the first time he’s coming up to the stage for our Little Baby Z, by the way. He was there when our Big Baby A graduated from kindergarten though, and now that she’s graduating from elementary. As for our wedding anniversaries (March 21st and June 28th), it must have been seven or eight years since we celebrated together.
The thought of going up the stage with my husband as our daughters receive their awards for academic excellence was surreal. It used to be just me, and most of the time, we’d go home with just a couple of good photos in my camera simply because Daddy wasn’t there and it would take a lot of prodding to make the girls smile. On two or three separate occasions though, I had invited my late papa and my father-in-law to at least watch the ceremonies, especially that the other kids seemed to bring their whole clans with them every year. This time, however, our family’s finally complete and that’s all that mattered. (We still didn’t have enough good pictures though as someone’s always moving, blurring the images. Too much excitement and happiness this time, perhaps?)
I wanted to look good for the occasion, which marked a milestone not only in our daughters’ academic life, but also in our life as an OFW family. I even took the time to buy myself a new dress and a pair of shoes. My husband saw it as a very special occasion too, and he even brought a suit to wear. So I had to match his outfit somehow, right? But guess what, after spending hours at the mall, I went home with only a new pair of shoes, no dress. It was frustrating not to be able to find that dress that would make me really want to wear it (more than once) without tipping the budget, at the same time, wow my husband. I ended up wearing a dress that I had only worn once–at my father’s wake–that my youngest daughter thought it was reserved for that particular night alone. It was simple, comfortable, yet classy enough. It was designed by a former churchmate and I was glad that my husband liked it.
After attending both of our daughters’ recognition and graduation ceremonies, which happened the same day, we went shopping. (The ceremonies took place at the cinema of SM City Sta. Rosa, by the way.) We each got a DC shirt, which would be part of our family tees collection. My husband and I like to wear matching outfits, and it seems that we have passed that on to our daughters as well. It’s their idea now that we have family shirts. I got the Wonder Woman shirt, my husband picked the Green Lantern, A got Batman, and Z chose The Flash. Unfortunately, there’s no Superman shirt that would fit any of us, or I would have picked one for myself too. Apparently, I’m the only one in the family who loves Superman (and Super Girl).
On our way out, we passed by the jewelry section of the department store. Because it’s Women’s Month, the items were on sale, so we looked around. I discreetly looked at the watches, trying to decide whether I should get my husband a new watch right then and there before moving to the adjacent rings section. If you must know, we are still yet to find a replacement for the wedding bands we lost years ago (read the story here). My husband encouraged me then to try several diamond (engagement) rings, which I half-heartedly did after seeing their price tags. However, I was really drawn to this one that looked a lot like the one my late mother gave me for my 24th birthday, which unfortunately got stolen. It’s not as fancy as the others on display, but it’s beautiful, set in white gold. My husband thought it looked good on my hand too. And then the next thing I know, he was asking the sales person if he could pay it by credit card.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, but I still had to ask twice, “Are you sure about this? Do we have a budget for it?” (Even if he’s using his credit card, it would surely be on straight payment.) He paused then looked at me straight in the eyes before saying, “Yes! Don’t you like it? Don’t worry about the money; besides, it’s on sale.” Well, I couldn’t really say no, so I tried to explain to him that even if it’s discounted, we could have bought a pair of new wedding bands at the same price and that way, both of us would be wearing a ring. But he said he didn’t fancy any of the designs and we could get them at another time. Still unconvinced, I asked, “Is this a wedding anniversary gift?” He smiled. “The one you’ve been planning to give me since our 10th wedding anniversary?” I teased, before finally thanking him.
It’s interesting how natural it feels now to be constantly wearing a ring again, as if I’ve always done so. When he saw me removed it because I had to wash the dishes, he told me to wear gloves instead so I won’t have to take it off. Now that my husband’s back in Singapore, the first thing he would ask me in the morning as we talk via Facetime is, “Where’s the ring? Are you wearing it? Let me see it!”
I remember the first time he sent me a rather expensive gift. When I realized how much it cost, I asked him “Why?” And his reply was, “Why not? I can now afford to buy you one and it gives me pleasure to do so.” I believed him, although I have to admit that there were times when I wondered if that was the only reason. Having given me so much pain in the past, I couldn’t help thinking sometimes whether he was still trying to make it up to me.
And then it hit me. I realized that I’m having trouble receiving and truly treasuring his gifts because up to this time, after all these years, I could still feel the pain each time I would remember those days, and probably even nurtured it when we’re not in good terms. Regardless of the practical usefulness of those gifts to me–a DSLR camera, a MacBook Air, the latest iPhone, shopping money, and even travels abroad, etc.–I tend to see them as bribery, compensations for both the pain he has inflicted on me years ago, and for the fact that he is away from us and could not be there to protect us when we needed him most.
It seems that this ring has revealed so many things about myself. Material things must be one of the ways my husband tries to communicate his affection and loyalty to me now that we are in a long distance relationship. However, I must also realize that he has to work hard, away from home, and endure loneliness to be able to afford to give me those gifts as well as all the comfort that our kids and I are enjoying each day. I must be a very selfish wife, unable to let go of bad memories and receive gifts graciously from my own husband. Maybe I am. Still am.
It’s ironic that I try to teach my daughters to be a cheerful giver and a gracious receiver, when I, myself, is not a paragon of such… that I tell them to be always ready to forgive and take the higher ground, when apparently, in my own marriage, I have unconsciously been keeping scores. Something needs to change, and it has to start with me…
Beginning today, I shall look at this ring and wear it not only as a symbol of my husband’s love and affection and how he is trying to be a better husband, but also as a reminder of how I should reciprocate his love and affection regardless of the mistakes he has committed in the past and might commit in the future. I shall see this ring as a symbol of second chances and of God’s love and mercy–that I have a family, my daughters have a father who loves them, and I have a husband who strives to please me in any way he could, the best way he thinks he could. And I shall be grateful. ❤