Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Love You Papa

It happened all too quickly. From the frenzied phone call to the numerous "my condolences, he was a good man."

Papa lived his life. A life filled with faith and love. During his last hours, familiar faces came and went even after the hospital recording announced that visiting hours were over. Within that short span of time, the room was filled with songs, prayers, kind words, and silent sobs. A little after the family finally had a chance to be alone with him, I was torn between staying over for the night and going home to feed my crazy dog (what a stupid thought). I watched mama leaning on his bed, stroking his face over and over, whispering things like "Ayaw na kabalaka To,' the kids are big now and they promised to take care of me." My heart ached, and still does, thinking about how Mama must've felt saying those words. I probably drifted to sleep with those thoughts. Around midnight, I woke up with a cramped leg and saw that mom has moved onto the bed, next to Papa. She said to Kuya Randy "his face is changing." She then turned to me and asked me to time his breathing. I learned earlier that night that he needed between 15 to 20 breaths per minute but was slowly reducing by the hour. I set my watch and waited for the inhale, ready to count the next one. I waited and glanced at the timer. Thirty seconds, forty five... when the minute passed I began to panic not seeing any signs of breathing. I didn't know enough information about the counts so I had no intentions of telling mom that two minutes is about to hit. Within the next second, mom started shaking him, crying out his name. I rushed over to the bed and from there everything was a haze. I remember sitting on the cold floor waiting for the nurses to clean the room, I remember feeling tired yet fighting the exhaustion.

Within two days, Ate Ta, Ate Kristie, and Kuya Bong, arrived from Vegas and Washington. This kept mom strong. We all had to say or sing something during the funeral. It was incredible how each of my siblings shared aphorisms that Pa had instilled in them, in us. I found it funny when Kuya Bong mentioned how Papa used to wait up for him during his teenage midnight escapes. Pa would just wait for him to come in or listen for his car pull up then without saying a word walked to his room. I clearly remembered my first rebellious act. A friend invited me to her sisters 18th birthday. We had just left Hafa adai Hotel when a group of people I met that night decided to go Karaoke. I didn't think it was a big deal since I had a good hour before midnight. My singing was interrupted by "You have to call your parents! they're looking for you, they called my mom and my mom had to call Jeff to find out where we are!" I couldn't believe it! I decided to ignore the urgent remark until my conscience got the better of me. I called the person least likely to get upset, my brother's friend Rodel, who lived with us at that moment. He picked me up with my parent's car and said "They woke everyone up at the house. They almost called the cops, your Pa said he's going to sue the bar that let you in when you're not of age!" My heart pounded hysterically, I imagined different scenarios, different alibis. When I got home it was quiet but the light from the living room felt like lightning about to strike in my direction. I slowly walked in and saw just Papa heading towards his bedroom. Before he completely left from sight, he said "did you eat?" and closed the door after he heard my shaken "Yes."

His funeral couldn't have been more beautiful. The Mt. Carmel Theater Group orchestrated "What a Wonderful World." The cathedral was packed with family, friends, and people I have never seen before. It was incredible to hear "I was his student 30 years ago" or "I worked with him for 17 years before he moved to PSS." His good friend Jess Sonoda gave a remarkable eulogy. I never fully understood why he and Ma did certain things like invite random strangers from the airport to have dinner or had non-relatives spend holidays with us. We've gotten quite used to it but there were definitely moments when we wished that it was just going to be a small yet intimate Christmas Eve. Hearing his life from a friend, listening to the priest talk about how he was welcomed into our home even before he was a seminarian, helped me realize that it's simply who he is. He accepted me and Lovelle like his own, why not others?

During the interment, Brad whispered "you better cry like your mom when I pass." I knew then that our fathers' love has inspired our future.