MANILA, Philippines – My father passed away barely a month before Father’s Day.
While the whole country was glued to the impeachment trial of the then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, our family was battling our own trial – my father’s rapidly deteriorating health condition. He had been diabetic for as long as I can remember that it eventually damaged his kidneys.
The first time I learned that he had to undergo dialysis (a process of cleansing blood done when a person’s kidneys are not healthy enough to filter blood on their own) I felt furious, tired and scared all at the same time.
I was furious because, once again, my father had burdened our family with something that we did not have anything to do with. I was tired of always having to suffer from his imprudence. And I was scared because I did not know if we’ll be able to support his treatment and medication.
Sure, we had a flawed relationship, but I could not just let him die. He was still my father after all.
My mother always tells me how I am very much like my father – from the formation of our lower teeth to the shape of our legs. She said that when I was a baby, people would call me “Junior” thinking I was a boy. That remark always flipped my mother out and would then be followed by her emphatic correction: I am daddy’s girl and not daddy’s junior.
From then on, she made sure I always wore a dress and earrings to avoid confusion. My father and I also shared the same liking for sweet foods, especially Leche Flan, and dislike for longganisa and paksiw na bangus. The latter I shamefully only discovered days before he left us.
I also inherited from him my being sensitive and sentimental; the reason why we would sometimes clash. The last time we had our “moment,” it went really bad that we didn’t speak to each other for years.
If only I can bring back all those years.
But I can not. No matter how much I try and wish, I can not bring back the lost years. I can only go back to the bittersweet memories I have from his last days with us.
Our final moments began in the hospital. From Manila, I went back home (which is 10 hours away) as soon as I had the chance; my mother had told me that my father was very weak and had been refusing to eat and take his medicine. I wasn’t prepared for what I found when I reached his hospital room: he was gaunt and gray. His stomach was unbelievably hollow that you could place a basketball ball on it and it won’t roll.
I pinched my arms, thighs and flanks to stop myself from crying. Whenever I was around him, I had to pinch myself; to turn my emotional pain into physical pain. I did not want him to hear me weep, to sense I was losing strength, to feel my hopelessness. I wanted him to fight, to defy Science and Medicine, to believe, to hope. But he just wouldn’t.
Until now, it’s still a mystery to me why my father just stopped trying.
I used to look at it as cowardice and selfishness. I could not understand how he could possibly lose the will to survive. I detested how he gave up hope just like that when everyone in the family were dying to help him live. I hated what I assumed to be his indifference towards the welfare of everyone who cared for him.
As I look back now, I am starting to realize that, maybe, I thought wrong.
No, it wasn’t cowardice… it was bravery. He was ready to face death which we as his family painfully try to evade.
No, it wasn’t selfishness… it was the greatest form of selflessness. Maybe he didn’t want us to be chained to his situation. He wanted us, his children, to live our own lives, to chase our biggest dreams, to learn from his mistakes.
I am now starting to realize that his defiance was his last way of saying that he loved us, that he cared for us more than he did himself. He gave us life and he was willing to give up his own life just to see us live comfortably.
My heart aches as I write this. How could I not have seen that before?
Now, I am full of remorse, confusion, pain, grief. There were just so many words left unspoken. So many thoughts left uncompleted. So many visions left undone. So much love unexpressed. So much longing unfreed.
My heart is crying and for this I apologize. He told me not to cry. Honestly, I do not want to weep because I see him when I am sad. It’s a wonder why, when I smile, I see a happy woman. But when I shed tears, I see his eyes. His eyes that would not be able to read these words that I write for him.
In death, everything becomes meaningful and meaningless at the same time. Everything that I do for him now is meaningful because it will or might be for the last time. But everything that I accomplish for him is also meaningless because he is no longer here to see it, to taste it, to touch it, to feel it.
I shall regret this for the rest of my life.
Last Mother’s Day, when I called my mother to greet her, my father grabbed the phone from her. He said, “Bakit mame mo lang binabati mo? Bakit ako hindi? (Why are you greeting only your mom? How about me?)” To which I replied, “Eh, Mother’s Day ngayon ‘de. Sa June pa ang Father’s Day. Sa June babatiin kita. (It’s Mother’s Day today, dad. Father’s Day is in June. I’ll greet you in June.)”
Sadly, he did not make it to June. He did not make it to his day. And again, I am guilt-ridden for not being able to give him what he needed. Damn these special days!
Every day should be Mother’s Day and Father’s Day!
Why did I still wait for a particular day just to greet him and show him my appreciation? Could there still be a chance he will hear me?
So here I am, Dade, with my futile attempt to send my message across. I don’t have a line to heaven but I have a line to the world – the internet. It’s the least and most I could do for now. Hear me out and forgive me for being late. Happy Father’s day, Dade! Mahal ka namin. Maraming, maraming salamat. (We love you. Thank you so much.) – Rappler.com
(See you guys on Sunday, June 17, 3 PM, for a live Father’s Day Tweet convo @rapplerdotcom #loveyoudad)
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