(Note to reader: This is Part 3 of Saranghamnida, Sayonara Papa series. If you’re new to this site, please scroll down to read the beginning of the story. Thank you.)
When everyone at home was asleep, it was then that I unleashed my barely concealed emotions.
I cried for few moments thinking about all the missed chances. I should have gone home straight from the airport to see how Pa was doing. I should have called and told him to wait for me as I come home… I should have told him to get better so I can bring him with me in Manila… So we can go to the sea and catch some fishes or cook for him and eat his favorite food…
All these thoughts, the what ifs, should have and could have been’s swirled in my mind but I willed it to stop. It won’t do me any good since Pa is now gone.
So I squared my shoulders and told myself: Now is not the time to breakdown. Your family needs you. Be brave, keep calm and keep a good head upon your shoulders.
And that’s what I did.
Part 3: Never be a Stranger
After my breakdown episode at the wee hours of the morning, I came down to a realization: never be a stranger.
I know pursuing dreams and living your own life far away from home is perfectly alright but never forgetthe people you grew up with, the people you shared with half the years of your life.
The kids grew up and became adult… Yes, we grew up but our parents grew old, too. As they enter in their old years, they need us to be with them just as we needed them when we we were still growing up.
After a busy election day, I immediately packed my bags after the coverage wrapped up and went straight to the funeral chapel.
Attending the wake were my family and our relatives from Ma’s side since we were still trying to contact Pa’s relatives to inform them of his passing and his interment.
As the night passed, Ma fell asleep, exhausted from the series of heartbreaking events. So I placed a blanket over Ma and elevated her feet so she won’t hurt her sore knee.
It was my third day being awake. Sleep was being elusive and I hardly gotten a wink of it.
That moment, I resolved to get more in touch with my family, especially with my Momma who was like a rock of strength everyone depended on during a very gray day.
Her faith to God made her strong to face every challenge hurled in her way and I envied her for that. But what people doesn’t realize is that strong people also has a weakness.
As the lyrics of a song goes, Warriors also come running home when they fall down, picks themselves up when no one is around and drops their sword and armor when everything was too much to handle.
Who will take care of Ma as she takes care of other people? I thank God in every waking moment for keeping my family safe while I’m away but hereon, I resolved to help taking care of them.
After ensuring everyone was comfortable, I went and gazed down at Pa’s coffin. He looked different.
I didn’t feel queasy at all while looking a him unlike other dead people I’ve seen. Maybe it’s like that, when someone from your family dies, you can look at them straight without spooking yourself, without fear you’ll get nightmares when you sleep.
He looked thin compared to the time when I left home in 2006. I saw him again three years after and then in 2011 when he suffered stroke after his sugar levels and blood pressure rose one hot day while he was out in the field.
As the Doctor explained, his heart bore the brunt of the side effects of the medicine he was taking for years for his diabetes and hypertension.
His lungs also have water or pulmonary edema as a result from poor heart function making it hard for him to breath.
My father, the Seaman
When I was young, he worked as a Seafarer for the Everet Shipping Company but when he was diagnosed with those illnesses at the age of 48, he stopped boarding and stayed at our home in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.
It seemed that the company he was working for refused to accept him anymore and instead advised him to stay with the family.
It was kinda hard for my Pa because he was such a busy body, used to working day and night.
Staying at home was such a bore for him that he started to plant trees around the house making it look like a mini-jungle in the city.
Pa was overseas when I was born in 1985, so I grew up without him. For years, Ma would tell me and my siblings to write a letter for him or do a voice tape (it was the fad in the 90s where you will record your voice in a cassette tape) to thank him for the packages he sent.
As a kid, naturally, I would follow Ma’s orders but I really never knew who Pa was. My uncle Domeng, Pa’s cousin, who lived with us before served as a father figure in my growing up years.
Pa came home in 1992 after years of boarding the ship, and a year later, my younger brother Buboy was born.
When he stayed at home due to his illness in 1993, it was such an awkward time for me. I didn’t know how I am going to move around him or what I’m supposed to call him. So confused I was that I often called him before as Uncle instead of Pa!
Eventually, I got used to his presence in the house but still felt weirded since he doesn’t talk that much. He was so quiet and would stay in one place at home. If he sat in a chair in our sala in the morning, he would stay there the whole day unless he needs to go to the toilet or be somewhere tilling something.
I didn’t know what songs he liked or what his favorite movies were. I can’t even think of the times I heard him sing or see him dance. He was also aloof and talked only when someone speaks with him.
I remember the time when I tried reaching out to him and asked him to attend a Parent-Teacher meeting in school but he just pointed to my Ma and told me to ask her to go instead.
I felt hurt for his ‘disregard’ not only to me but to my siblings as well. All four of us grew up feeling estranged with him because of his absence as a father in almost half our existence but we learned to live with it.
We do not have the tightly-knitted bond that other family have. Our family relationship was so peculiar, that I often wondered why we were not having family reunions just like my friends in school does or why I haven’t met my aunts and uncles or grandparents from my father’s side.
I tried asking Ma about it but she would just tell me that Pa’s parents were already dead and his siblings were all over the place that tracking their whereabouts would be difficult.
As a kid, I accepted Ma’s explanation and tried to just shrug it off.
But several years later, I learned that shrugging it off proved to be a mistake. It was like a timed bomb waiting to explode, an accident waiting to happen…
Author’s note: This is the third part of the series of events that took place on that fateful day. I am going to write about it as my way of coping with loss and grief and to impart a message to everyone who will be reading it on the importance of life, family, communication and health. The next part will be uploaded in my blog as soon as I can. Thank you.