Sights and Sounds of Papa…

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One of my early visions of papa is of him carrying my school bag to put beside my seat when I was in elementary. I believe he’s the only father doing that until middle grades. I’m a girl so I didn’t get teased being a papa’s girl.

He often took us for regular dental visits as the dentist was his good friend. I attribute my love for teeth-brushing (I have a set of toothbrush and toothpaste in every bag I have.) to his influence – seeing to it that my teeth were well-maintained. He also had the habit of brushing after every meal. Even when we ate at restaurants, he’d go gargle and decline offers to eat more saying he’s already cleaned his teeth. He also had a dentist for a god daughter. He’d refer her to his friends to be their dentist. I will never forget how anxious he was when I had my impacted wisdom tooth extraction. It took more than 3 hours and she had to saw the tooth into small pieces in those days when dental equipments were not that advanced.

In my early school years, he drove us (my mom, sis and me) to and from school in his beetle. We’d go to Luneta and seaside along Roxas Boulevard – in the Chinese embassy across Manila Bay to take in the sea breeze and see the sunset. Then in high school, we moved to live near the school so we’d just walk to school. First day of college, he accompanied me to the jeepney stop to teach me to commute to school. One time there was big rain and the streets were flooded along Rizal Avenue, he hailed a calesa and waited for me at the jeepney stop so I would not have to wade the flood to go home.

After I got married, whenever I went home to visit, he would open the door for me like a true gentleman. When my kids went to school, he often picked them up from school for me – Hannah and Abigail were blessed to have guakong take them from school. He would bring Hannah to look at the rabbit in the neighbour’s place when she was small.

When he was in his 80’s and no longer as active, he never failed to thank me for going to visit him. ‘Toh sia di lai’ (Thank you for visiting me.) His appreciation for the food I bring never failed to touch me. ( yah hoh chia. – is delicious.)

He often inquired about Andrew and my in-laws: Andrew, tah-queh, tah kwah, ho seh o? (Andrew, your mom-in-law, dad-in-law, how are they?) His favourite question to ask: Kui tiam? What time is it? He’s nearly blind so he could not see the red digital clock placed in front of his bed. He’d often remind me to eat – not to let myself go hungry.

One time I went to visit and I was sad and pouring out my problems to him. He said: Kang papa kong. Papa tue dih ki toh. (Tell it all to papa. Papa will pray for you.) Papa, I miss u so much.

All these stories about my father… remind me of our paradoxical heavenly Father.

My dad loved to talk – and tell stories. He’s a friendly chatty person. So here’s a talkative guy married a hard-of-hearing wife. My mom was hard of hearing. She had hearing aids. Yet that did not stop them from communicating. Even as he was talkative in younger days, he was quiet and reflective in old age. One time I asked him – pa, what are you thinking? He said many things. He was contented to lie quietly in his bed. He did not get old and senile. He was mentally active and lucid each time I talk with him. His mind as sharp to remember many details of friends of long ago. His mental health, happy contented disposition are all God’s grace and mercy.

When he was sick, he was not afraid to show me his fears. I remember his shaky hands as we climbed 5 floors of stairs after his prostate surgery in his 70’s. When he was 92, his whole body shook when he remembered his fall going to the bathroom, he refused to get up from the bed. After praying, he said he’s no longer afraid.

Bravery is not the absence of fear. It is learned through overcoming fear – in the hard circumstances of life.
Falling so many times, blind and near totally blind, walking through with maids (small and seemingly not strong) leading him; each step… I learned what true courage and resilience is all about. It made me sad to see him weak and frail yet it touched me no end to see him strong and brave.

Another paradox:
Grieving, loving, hurting, suffering = the more you love, the more hurtful/painful, yet love compels…
Papa’s resilience, contentment = no complaint, easy to please, allowing mom to go on trips. Sleeping alone.. he’s alright with it coz he knew mom always returns. Even though they did not talk that much anymore, the presence counts a lot. After mom passed, papa knew she’s no longer beside him or sitting in her chair in the living room.. grieving yet not saying it out.. how hard it must be for him. So hard to pray and be joyful in his presence, when inside, my heart is sad and burdened – how to care for him, how to comfort him, how to pray and say mama is happy and healthy in heaven when here he is on earth, alone, and weak and frail, cannot see, cannot move freely.. how?

Regrets, what-ifs, if-only (sana/dapat)
What if we didn’t install the peg? What if we just let him starve, will that be easier on him?
If only we know it will come to pneumonia n kidney failure, if only we didn’t install the peg, if only…
What is the fine line between holding on and letting go? Between loving, not wanting him to suffer, and doing our best to help him, yet in some ways – prolonging his sufferings..

Lessons I learned:
1) To love is to endure pain
2) Life is a journey of sufferings
3) No use in regret, and remember the good times, the memories of our conversation when he was still healthy
4) How to pray: Lord have mercy, Your will be done. We lament, we submit. We plead for mercy. We trust and obey.
5) How to be content, to be grateful (thank u to small things, for caregiver), to be positive (good morning, fine), to say/remember good things about people, to be brave.

All these memories and lessons from my father – the only one I have and I thank you, Lord for papa..
Till we meet again, pa I love u and miss you always.

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