Another celebration of Father’s Day… without a dad… and it’s been on for 5 years now…
Five years have passed since my dad lost his battle with cancer, and, I guess, I could say that Father’s Day was never the same since then.
He was the man I’ve always looked up to. It is very humbling how a farmer found his way outside of routinely life of the barrio, went into the city, and flew into the cities of the world. He was superdad. He was the man of the house, and his rules uphold our family and our home. He was an epitome of wisdom and strength, till that day he fell on the floor and cringed to what he described as an excruciating pain. That was how it started. Who would’ve thought our family’s calvary would immediately follow after that...
The succeeding days, after that incident, were filled with confinements, check–ups, laboratory tests, and what have you. My mom and our family friends sought for the best doctors who, we personally know & strongly believed, could help my dad. It went OK for a while, and then we’re faced with the most mind-bugling & heartbreaking truth. “The cancer cells have spread, and he only has 2-3 mos. to live,” said the doctor before a crowd of family, relatives, and closest friends.
I was stunned.
The others asked the doctor if we could seek second opinion. The doctor said, “Yes.”
I remained stunned.
After this event, I have to confess that I wasn’t mostly around the house. It was thesis time, and finals are up in a few weeks. So I have to keep myself busy with reviews & sleepless nights of making an automated computer system. An escapism? Maybe. But it took me some time before I realized I was in denial.
At home, I couldn’t bear seeing my dad crumble, and hear him groan with pain. It breaks my heart. It shatters my soul.
At a group mate’s home, it was peaceful. In there, all I have to face are codes, syntaxes, and technical documentations.
At home, I couldn’t stand seeing my mom silently weeping at corner of the kitchen, as she meticulously prepares the ingredients of my dad’s meal and hoping my dad would at least have the strength and the appetite to eat.
At a group mate’s home, all I need to worry about is if I had anything to eat or at least get a decent sleep at five in the morning, so that I would have strength to face the panelists for an 8:00 AM defense.
It was only during the weekends that I go back to the once happy, now gloomy place—my home. I have to admit, it was hard taking care of my dad. But, I help around with things that need precision. His medicine doses, his concoction of food, his charcoal patches, his enema bag. While doing these things, I put on a poker face. I have to be strong. I have to look strong. I’m sure the last thing my dad would want, is to see his son breaking down in front of him.
I’m sure it would break him, if he knew:
how I cry myself to sleep every night…
how I would wake up in the middle of the night sweating, gasping for air, hoping I woke up from this bad dream…
how I would find a solitary place, kneeling, face-down, begging the Heavens to hear my plea for a miracle…
how I’m slowly starting to lose my wits, my will to live, and yes, my faith…
It was mostly my brothers, if not my mom, who’s with him. But during our times together, I’ve had couple of unforgettable moments with my dad.
One day, he was at the balcony. I saw him leaning over and staring afar, so I went up to him.
Me: Hi dad! How are you today?
He looked at me, and answered with a bleak smile.
Dad: Do I look ugly?
A pointblank question… A dagger pierced through my heart… A shotgun fired at my head… A right hook jabbed to my stomach…
What was I supposed to say? What were the right words to say?
Me: You look fine, dad. Where’s that coming from? Why’d you ask?
I stared at him and looked closely. His fit physique is now a fragile frame. His once round face now shows prominent cheekbones. And the windows to his soul were replaced with deep-socket, jaundiced eyes. His illness, clearly, had its toll on his appearance.
Dad: I was watching a few kids playing below. One of them stopped, and noticed I was watching them play. He, then, called his friends, whispered to their ears, and pointed at me. To my surprise, all of them scampered away after looking at me.
Had I lost control, all hell would’ve broken loose and unearthed the evil buried deep inside of me, and I would’ve cussed those kids and their ancestors to burn, eternally, in the fiery lakes of Hades.
I kept composure. I remember placing my hand behind my back… clasping.
Me: Your eyes are really yellowish, dad.
Dad: Is that so?
One nod from me, and I escorted him inside his room. I made an excuse, telling him he would be having his meal in a few minutes. I had to get him out of the balcony to relieve him from feeling down.
There was also this one instance that I was sweeping the floor near his bed. I didn’t notice he moved to the side of the bed, just so he could reach for my arm.
Me: Yes dad? You need anything?
Dad: Nothing, son… I just want to say sorry that sometimes I’m grumpy and demanding… “Pagpasensyahan mo sana ako, anak…”
What the heck was that all about?! Why on earth did he utter those words??
With his weak body, he gathered strength to move towards the side of the bed, just so he could reach for my arm and talk to me. I guess he had to let it out. I guess he had to send that message across. I wasn’t affectionate the whole time. I was afraid to show emotions. I felt I’d lose composure. I could break down any moment.
Me: It’s ok, dad.
My voice almost cracked.
I helped him to move towards the center of the bed, and tucked him in. I hurriedly finished sweeping floor. Then, I took a throw pillow, ran downstairs, and locked myself inside the restroom. I turned the faucet on, placed an empty pail under it, buried my face on the throw pillow, and cried.
Another vivid memory was when I came home from a visit to a theme park. I went to his room, and lay down beside him.
Dad: How was your day, son?
Me: It was fun dad. I enjoyed my visit to the theme park.
Dad: What’s wrong?
He must’ve noticed the sound of my voice... Stupid me... It’s because I actually hurt my back on the roller coaster ride.
Me: I hurt my back.
Dad: Lay on your side.
My dad was good with massages. I remember, growing up, he would give me & my siblings massages anytime we want. All we need to do is ask. This time, I didn’t ask. I just told him that I hurt my back. But the fatherly instinct in him made him want to take care of my back pain.
I was expecting hard strokes. Instead, I felt his weak fingers run over my back; almost ticklish. But, of course, what do I expect? How selfish could I possibly get? Then, tears incessantly trickle down my cheek with every feeble stroke of his hands.
Me: Ok na, dad. I’m now ok.
I immediately got up and left his room. No matter how hard I try, it’s crazy how I can’t make the tears stop.
After hitting the last note of the song I was singing, I received a text message. Yes, it was the dreaded text message anyone wouldn’t want or even dream of receiving. My father passed away…
I know this will eventually happen. But, I guess no matter how hard you try, you’re never really prepared for something like this. I was shocked. I was in a daze for a few minutes. Then, reality hit me. My father is dead. He’s dead.
I went out, hastened my steps, took the first taxi that passed, and told the cabbie to fly, if he must, to the Hospital. I was crying.
Upon arriving to the hospital, I ran to where my father’s room was. I purposely flung-open the door, and there they were. My relatives and close family friends surrounding my dad’s bed, crying. It was like a scene from a movie. And I never thought I would experience such a scene, first hand. The people surrounding the bed gave way. I saw my mom, wailing, “Nate, ang daddy mo…” “What will happen now? What are we going to do?”
In my head: “I wish I knew, mom… I wish I knew the answers to your questions… But, I don’t.”
I moved closer. There lies my dad… lifeless… I held his hand. It was cold. I touched his face. It was cold too.
He didn’t respond.
Before I could even absorb what just happened, my mom’s amigas took the initiative of bringing her back home. My brothers went with my uncles to the morgue, then to the mortuary. My relatives left afterwards, and went home. I rode with a family friend, and events immediately after that are a bit hazy.
Well, that’s how life is. It starts at birth and ends with death (when it’s gone full circle for some, or a radius for others).
I remember a line from the movie Never Let Me Go (adapted from a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro), where the character, Kathy H., said:
“Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through... or feel we've had enough time…”
To all those out there who still have their dad, I say, take this opportunity to thank him for everything he’s done for you, big or small. Give him a hug. Show that you love him. Set aside time to bond with him. Be there when he needs you. So that you’ll live life with no regrets…
To my dad, I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you left us, and joined our Creator in heaven. I’m sorry if on your remaining minutes here on earth, I wasn’t there to tell you how much I love you, for the last time… And so I blog about it instead… I guess, in a way, this is telling you that after 5 years, I could let go and move on…
I would’ve written a poem, if I could… I could’ve recorded a song, but I fear my voice would falter… This song pretty much captures it… This one’s for you…
Thank you for everything, dad… I miss you!