My bus picks us up late–again. That’s twice this year. It never happened last year. So, guess what, I go to my home high school late before going home late.

I look through the tinted windows of the car to take a good look at the driver. The only thought that made it through my head is this–Mom is going to yell at me before I get the chance to explain that I took a nap in the bus so I couldn’t call her and warn her about my late arrival.

To my surprise, I find a man there. I open the door. “Father?¬†Father?”

My dad looks at me with those shades and few bits of hair. Yep, this is Dad. I call him “Father” for fun every now and then. (It’s better than calling him Daddy-o when up until I was around 7, when I realized other kids don’t call their dads “Daddy-o”)

“I thought it would be Mother to pick me up,” I explain, keeping with the theme and calling my mom “Mother” instead.

“Oh yeah?” Dad asks.

We drive home, my mom calling a minute after I get in the car. I knew it–she wants to know what’s going on. I almost laugh as my dad answers the phone.

They speak in Tagalog, my parents’ native language. They both learned English and Tagalog in the Philippines, but when they came to the States, they had to learn Spanish. My mom had an interpreter for a couple years until she somewhat learned, but my dad learned through TV Spanish novelas (I tell that story to my Spanish teachers all the time, and I instantly get on their good side).

They never taught me Tagalog. They taught me English, thinking Tagalog is too hard for me. Nevertheless, I was able to pick up some words. I was even able to accurately (most of the time) translate my parents (unless they’re using figures of speech, which is hard to translate when you never formally learned the language). I honestly only know the basics of that language. My younger sister, on the other hand, didn’t learn.

“Hi, mom!” I yell after I quickly translate what Dad is saying. The phone is so loud that I can hear my mom on the other line too. She was wondering why we weren’t home yet and that she was already hungry.

“Rocky just got here,” my dad says (in Tagalog).

“What?” my mom questions. (She’s really hard of hearing)

My dad hands me the phone, and I talk to Mom.

We go home, and I quickly walk to the dinner table to find that my mom, sister, and grandparents are already seated and eating. I turn on the lights, asking, “Why are the lights off?”

They don’t answer but just continue eating.

Minutes later, my sister gets up, picking up her plate.

“Are you done?” Dad asks as she puts the plate in the sink.

She heats some microwavable food. She didn’t like the leftovers. She turns on the TV–the microwave alarm goes off. She doesn’t get up from the couch.

“Whatever you put in the microwave is ready!” Dad announces as my sister gets up. Then she sits on the couch and watches TV.

I never said that understanding what my parents talked about was a blessing but a curse. I always wanted to know what they said, but when I started translating in third grade, there were some things I didn’t want to hear.

Things like:

“Rocky, you see that boy over there? He’d be good as your boyfriend.”

“Rocky is very smart. She knows Tagalog–we didn’t even teach her!”

“Your grandfather cannot hear me! I’m sick and tired of him!”

Plus a bunch of other things…

And now:

“The little girl (my sister) is not responding to me.”

“I know.”

“I can’t talk to her.”

“She wouldn’t even thank me for giving her those two tacos you gave me this morning.”


“No. Whenever I give her something, she doesn’t say anything. I say, ‘Delicious?’ And she won’t respond. She doesn’t respond ever.”

“I can’t even talk to her in the morning!”

“I can’t have a conversation with her,” my grandmother jumps in.

They pile more and more complaints about my sister as she watches TV. She really can’t understand them…

“Hello, hello!” I yell, trying to draw the focus to me instead. I don’t like listening to things like that, and the TV isn’t loud enough for me to ignore and not translate the conversation.

My dad looks at me. “She isn’t like this girl (me).”

“No, she’s nothing like her.”

“This girl (me) is nice, but the other little girl (my sister) is not.”

Sometimes, I feel that my parents constantly compare my sister and me. She doesn’t like it, and even though it’s sort of good for me, I don’t like it. It’s bad enough that I could understand. Then again, just as this family isn’t really fair, I’m reminded: Life isn’t fair. You don’t always get what you want.