You were only twelve when you stood in front of your mother's grave after her funeral, not minding being drenched in the cold rain. It was the darkest point in your life, and you knew it. Your mother had been the kindest person to you, always caring, always loving, and always sweet. You never wanted to replace her – ever, and when she died, your eyes became gray and dull and blank and bland.
You started to tune everything out – your friends, your grades, and your family. You couldn't concentrate on anything. Everyone else around you let you be though, but they never knew that the emptiness would last longer than they first expected. It was like a part of you died. A part of you did die.
When your father married another woman two years later, you despised him. You hated him. You loathed him. You accused him of not loving your mother enough. You accused him of moving on too fast. You accused him of so many things. In the end, you never spoke to him civilly ever again. You only answered his "stupid and pathetic" questions in short curt responses, usually consisting of one syllable, sometimes no syllable at all. You were never really close with your father, and his remarriage only fueled the anger you felt for him.
You hated his second woman and refused to view her even as human, let alone a stand-in mother. You had to admit though, she wasn't all bad. She never tried to replace your mother, and she had always been patient with you, but you never gave her as much as a glance. Whenever you came home from school and see them being all sweet to each other, your mood would turn even worse than when you first entered the house, and only God knew how bad your mood swings were, especially after your mother died. You'd slam your bedroom door as loud as you can, and when you thought the banging wasn't loud enough, you'd slam it even harder, almost wishing that the door would break off from its hinges and silently hoping that your father would pull out divorce papers that very instant and divorce the wretched witch, but it never came to happen.
Your older sister was the only good thing in your life at the time. She was twelve years your senior, and when your mother died, she had already married her husband, your brother – in – law. Your sister was the spitting image of your mother, and every time you saw her, a smile would creep up slowly to your face. Although it would disappear in a blink of an eye, it kept you satisfied even for a short while. She reminded you of the mother you lost, and for you, at that time, it was enough.
Your relationship with your sister turned sour though, when she supported your father's second marriage. It took her a long while to accept it, but the fact that she did screamed betrayal, and it was a slap in your face. You were alone again.
In school, the pain numbed, and you concluded that it was better than staying at home and enduring that vixen. After your mother died, most of your friends disappeared and never came back. Only one girl stood by your side through everything.
She was the one who held your hand even when you were too numb to notice it. She was the one who was patient enough to listen to your rants and stay quiet. She was the one who offered you a hug and a pat on the back. She was a constant presence by your side. She was your best friend since you were five, and yet, you paid her no attention. She was like a ghost to you, and you didn't feel any guilt in thinking this way.
You were seventeen when it happened. Your sister, although now distant to you, was the only thing left for you to cling on. She was your only hope, the only hope to bring back that familiar twinkle in your eyes. She was your last hope, and she died too.
She died of childbirth and you hated your niece for taking her away. You hated her husband even more when he, who you afterwards deemed heartless, remarried. To have both of the most important people in your life pass on to the next and to have them both replaced by men who claimed to love them were too much to bear. You shut them all out.
You were just unreachable when your mother died, but everything changed for the worse when your sister died. You hated the world. You hated everyone. You hated yourself.
You thought of your life as depressing, hopeless and loveless, and at some point, you were right. Your life was depressing, hopeless and loveless but not for the reasons you think. While you were wallowing in self-pity, you failed to recognize properly those who wanted to care.
Life became bland and automatic. You were like a robot; everything was a routine for you, and every single day of your monotonous life was dull and arid. You graduated high school and entered university. Having nothing left to live for, or so you thought, you poured everything into your studies. You graduated top of your class, but it was nothing for you.
Everything was nothing for you. Even the best friend whom you ignored yet still followed you until college was left with nothing, and people always wondered why she'd tolerate you. You were a ticking time bomb, after all – always silent, always cold, and everyone made bets as to when you'd finally explode. To their utmost disappointment, the explosion never came. You couldn't care less.
Twenty-four and at the top of your class, you blatantly refused your father's request to take over the family business. You scoffed and never looked back. You promptly moved out of your poor excuse of a home, and you mindlessly started your own company. Three years later, your company bloomed, but you weren't surprised or impressed. Rather, you expected it.
You married soon after that, and who else was your wife other than the silent presence beside you that you always ignored? But you never married for love. How could you, when you convinced yourself many years ago that love never existed? You married out of duty. You married because it was the next thing to do. You married because it was natural. It was the way of life, and you were persistent not to get left behind. There was nothing romantic about it. The proposal itself was more of a business proposal that you were so used to making than a marriage proposal. You didn't kneel. You didn't gaze lovingly into her eyes. You didn't even present her with a ring. Well, you did, but it was only because it was necessary at the altar.
A year later, your first and only son was born, but you weren't there to witness it. You were off at some country sealing a business contract, and you felt no remorse for not standing by your wife's side, even after your wife's OB-GYNE told you how difficult the birth was for her, how bearing another child would be close to impossible, how your wife was almost at the brink of death during the delivery. Were you so heartless as not to care at all for the wife who always stood by you even when you were so ignorant of her presence?
Her side of the family hated your guts, but you didn't care. You knew they were pleading your wife to divorce you, to escape this sham of a loveless marriage, but your wife always shook her head, and you didn't know why, but deep inside you, something fluttered. It was just a slight movement in your chest, a faint throb of some sort that you, for the first time, failed to comprehend, but in the end, you thought nothing of it.
Your son was only a toddler when you received news later on that your stepmother had died. You thought you'd be happy. You thought you'd be overjoyed that you'd be jumping around like a maniac. Well, you thought wrong. But still, you paid no attention to that.
You went to the funeral with the intention of gloating, of rubbing in your father's face that twice his love had left him. You approached your father right after the service was over, and you spoke your piece, but you didn't feel the pride or the satisfaction you expected to feel.
Your father didn't even look the slightest bit affected by your words, and this aggravated you greatly. Instead, he looked at you with pity which heightened your anger. He left you at the front of the grave of the woman you claimed to hate with every fiber of your being, and unbeknownst to you, a tear silently slid down your cheek.
You were missing every point of your son's life, but this didn't bother you. Nothing ever seemed to bother you. Your son only had a mother, this you realized. But still, you did nothing, and soon, time passed so quickly that you hadn't noticed at all that he was growing up. Your son went through a lot - puberty, first love, high school, college, first job. You didn't notice. You never did.
Your son got used to your presence not as a father but as a mere housemate. By this time, your wife wasn't silent anymore. She urged you to see your own son, to start to care, to love him and be with him, but you paid her no heed.
Once, you were searching for some important papers, and you found important papers, alright. You found divorce papers that were buried inside the drawer of your wife's desk. Anger and disbelief surged throughout your system, and you felt betrayed once more, yet you never confronted her about the papers. For the first time in your life, you were conflicted with yourself and questioned your own actions. You were having second thoughts.
Years passed, and you kept your discovery locked up inside. There were times when you felt compelled to tell your wife about it and times when you were against that specific course of action; then, in random times, you'd judge your wife. You didn't judge her for getting divorce papers nor for hiding them. You actually judged her for not giving you the papers and letting you sign them.
Your son was at the prime age of twenty-seven when he decided to tie the knot, a year younger than you were when you got married, and when you were wearing your tuxedo and preparing yourself for his big day, you couldn't help but regret not taking part in his life for the past twenty-seven years. Your wife came into the room and wordlessly fixed your ribbon. She offered you a smile but you only stared back at her before looking at the ground, almost ashamed.
The ceremony went without a hitch, and as you sat at your designated seat at the reception hall, you furrowed your eyebrows and gazed at your son and his new bride dancing merrily. You never danced with your wife like that during your reception. Actually, your reception didn't even involve a large number of guests. It wasn't because you preferred a private party; it was because you deemed it unnecessary, and your eyes dimmed in contrast to the lively music and bright lights.
All night, you observed the newlyweds and wondered why you never felt that kind of happiness, why you never smiled like how your son was smiling at the time, why your wife never looked truly happy as the bride in your son's arms had. You turned your head slightly and saw your wife staring at them as well, a sense of longing in her features, and suddenly, guilt ate your heart.
Your son and daughter – in – law were off on their honeymoon the very next day, and you felt that the house became eerily quiet even though only a single man left the residence. You felt so lonely, and you didn't understand why.
That night, you walked out into the balcony and stared at the dark, cloudless night. You frowned. Why did life become like this for you? What went wrong? You shook your head in annoyance and told yourself that you were doing fine on your own for over the past forty years; no use in turning back, no use in changing what has been done.
And things finally became clear.
"Sweetheart, you should go to bed; it's late," your wife said in her soft tone, always patient and then you realized, always waiting.
You turned around to look at her, and for once, you saw the beauty that she had always been, the beauty that you had always failed to notice and appreciate. She laid her life for you. She sacrificed for you. She kept waiting for you. And somewhere inside of you, a chain broke free. You saw it. You finally saw it. You finally saw her.
You saw her long brown locks cascading down her back, framing her heart-shaped face, her sparkling baby blue eyes that never seemed to stop twinkling and her rose petal lips that always curved up into a smile, a smile so sweet, so tender and most of all, so welcoming. You couldn't believe that you just noticed all of this or rather; you couldn't believe that you chose to notice all of this now.
Realization hit you like a ton of bricks, and it seeped into your thick, stubborn skull. You took in a deep breath as you stared at her, and she gazed back at you with so much love. You scolded yourself then, Why?
Everything came back and the flashbacks were dominating your mind – your father and brother – in – law whom you condemned, your stepmother whom you never learned to accept, your best friend turned wife whom you always ignored and your son whom you never cared about.
You were so busy wallowing in your own pain and self-pity that you failed to see the people who tried to love you, to be there for you. You never gave any of them a chance, and because of this stubbornness, this pride that you couldn't let go, you lost everything.
Well, almost everything.
You hugged your wife, and it was the first sincere, intimate affection that you showed her ever since your mother died forty four years ago. You felt your wife tense in your arms, but you tightened your hold on her still.
"I love you," you said. You surprised not only her but yourself as well when your voice came out soft and loving. It was so sincere and true. "I'm sorry."
Your wife relaxed and started to mold into your embrace, her arms wrapping themselves tenderly around you, and you never felt so safe, so relieved, and so happy. "I love you too."
"I know." It wasn't a statement of arrogance; you and your wife knew that. It was a statement of admission. And you felt real. You felt alive. But you had to ask her that question; your curiosity couldn't be sated. "Why? How could you wait all these years?"
"Because I believed."
You were fifty-six when you finally decided not to deny your feelings any longer, and when you kissed your wife on the lips for the first time with so much ardor, you felt as if you were twelve again, back when everything was perfect in your life.
Then, you remembered.
Before your mother died, you were planning on confessing to this very woman you held close to you. She was your companion, your best friend. She was your first love, and you were fortunate that you were hers too. That was the reason why you married this woman in the first place. It wasn't because it was convenient. It wasn't because it was the next thing to do. It was because you, no matter how much you deny it, loved this woman, and you couldn't see life without her. You regretted taking advantage of her for more than half of her life, but you were also thankful that she still stayed by your side even after all these years.
And you realized - finally realized - how ignorant and how oblivious you were. Stupid fool!
You never had a depressing, hopeless and loveless life. On the contrary, you had people who loved you and cared about you all throughout your life. You were just too ignorant and selfish to realize it, and at fifty-six, you started to live your life the way you should have all these years.
Your wife, your son – they were your pillars of strength, and even back then, your father and stepmother – they were there for you too. It was too late for your stepmother – she already died. It was also too late for your father – he was suffering from Alzheimer's.
But it wasn't too late for your wife and your son – not yet.
And you were happy to have not been that ignorant.