Sunday, February 15, 2004
Anyway, yesterday, Valentine's day was my father's death anniversary. Yes, my father died from a fatal hearth attack, his first, on Valentine's day, the day of the hearts. How ironical is that, huh? That was in 1983. I was just a newly employed artist at the Auciovisual Center of De La Salle University. No, I think I was already staying for a year.
It would have been a happy occasion. That day, my painting which was commissioned by the University to commemorate its transition from a college to a university was inaugurated and displayed at the library. (I don't know where that is now. Shows what happens to a painting done by a nobody. Ah, I don't believe anybody in the University has a good sense in art anyway, so it doesn't matter to me anymore.) I was happy because my picture with the painting came out in the dailies at the time.
The chorale I was in was tasked to sing during the mass and I was asked to play the guitar with a lot of reluctance. I didn't know how to play any of the songs and not a frequent mass goer, I feared I might commit a mistake. True enough, I did. I played before my cue and I was so ashamed.
That night, being the 14th, a salary day, i saw my father at the small store he was managing after retirement, gave him Php100 and told him to have his foot wound treated. He simply took the notebook he kept, casually subtracted the money I owed him (I didn't know he was counting...cigarettes, allowances...accumulated since the last year. I was already a working individual remember? He was always particular about each one of us siblings being independent) He seemed glad, even felt he was proud, that I did that. After that, I proceeded to the dining table and ate my requested dinner of laing when I suddenly heard my dad shout. I wondered what was happening. He proceeded to the storage room, got his jacket and said he was shivering. I tried to feel his temperature and realized he was not well. I called Ate Becky and Kuya Renie who were then at the parlor. Told them to come home as something's happening to my dad. They immediately arrived and called for a cab.
I didn't go but told myself, should my father be confined at MCM, I would be the one to stay there as it was very near La Salle. At around 10, the phone rang. I got a sense of a bad foreboding. It was Jongjong. He was crying and told me that my dad was given a 50-50 chance. I told him not to worry as everything's going to be alright. Not knowing how to react to the call, I told him to hang-up as someone might be trying to reach us. All this time, my mother was upstairs, praying, I guess.
After a few moments, the phone rang again. i knew my dad was gone. My brother didn't have to say anything but he did. Crying, he informed me that my dad was gone. Again, not knowing how to react, I remember my response. "Don't take him home until I have gone to the office." I couldn't bear looking at him dead.
At that moment, I saw my mother descending the stairs. I knew I didn't have to say anything. All she needed was confirmation and closure to her apprehensions. As expected, she asked who it was. I told her it was Kuya Renie and that Tatay was given a 50-50 chance. (I couldn't bear telling her about my father's death alone) Again, like as if she didn't know what that meant, she asked me. I told her it might be dangerous but things will be alright. Then, I asked her to clean the house. I let her do it alone thinking if she would be weak when the news comes to her, she would not have time to be hysterical. (I was just 26 at the time, okay?)
Then the long wait. She was very busy cleaning here and there and we were very silent, not talking with one another. Somehow, I needed to tell someone and decided to call Lyn and Ebeth. They were shocked.
At around 3 am, a taxi arrived. As soon as my mother saw that my other sisters who didn't live with us were alighting the cab, she cried. Kuya Renie ran to her side while I met my other sisters.
After the initial burst of tears, everybody went to search for clothes for my dad. I ran to the kitchen and tried to look for my shoes. I was shining it when Ate Becky saw me, frantically applying shoe polish. Later on, I learned they don't put shoes on dead people. My sister just let me do what I was doing in spite of knowing the shoes wouldn't be worn anyway. After that, while we were waiting for my dad, Ate Becky gave its one of us Ativan, a downer, to calm us all.
My father arrived. My sisters took care of him, clothed him and decided that he should wear his golden American President Lines service pin. We were all gathered in front of him, with each one to his/her own thoughts when we all noticed, but didn't care, about a butterfly going around us. It fluttered above each head then suddenly landed on my brother's shoulder, then flew away. We knew that butterfly was our dad bidding us farewell and his blessings. No matter where he is now, I know he is peaceful and proud that I took a liking to writing, especially poetry, as he was a poet, himself.