"Dad must have wished his youngest little girl were a boy! Why, you proved to be the strongest n had the most resilient disposition during all the remaining last few days of your Dad n even after he breathed his last. Thanks, my dear Tina. you re swell n Del n I are mighty proud of you! God love you n keep you in his loving care!"
the tears came, but not the torrent i expected, or needed.
daddy died on april 9, 2011, at 530 in the morning. i was there, with mommy and two of my sisters, when they stopped reviving daddy. i stared in disbelief as the most important man in my life died.
a few weeks ago my dad was in the hospital at the coronary care unit. it was my first time to see him like that. thin, with tubes in his mouth and nose, and several IVs. he was unconscious and i remember thinking he needed a hair cut. my mom and i set up a vigil in the hospital, only going home to bathe. we slept in the hospital and took turns looking in on daddy.
i have never had to come face to face with my dad's mortality. like i said during the wake, every time daddy suffered a major medical emergency, i was out of the country.
when he had his bypass in 2007, i was in europe. when he had his heart attack in 2008, i was in the US. both times i did what i do best during times of crisis. i slept. when i woke up, daddy was awake and on his way to recovery.
dad was strong like that. he always bounced back, most of the time with a vengeance. he was this handsome charming larger than life dad who stopped at nothing to get what he wanted, and went beyond that to protect those he loved.
daddy never got a degree. but like atty. tenefrancia said, while his brothers got their degrees, he got things done.
daddy got things done. in 1990 when the earthquake hit baguio, we were all separated. daddy found us all, driving this huge passenger jeep through the chaotic city of baguio. he picked all of us up and brought us home. when i passed out in the middle of nowhere in nueva viscaya, he picked me up in a helicopter. when my sister lost money in germany, daddy found a way to have someone give her cash. when my other sister got into an accident in laoag, daddy found them in a small clinic somewhere there.
daddy never accepted that there were things that could not be done. daddy always found a way. he taught us that there was always a way, if you didn't give up. and all you needed to do was at least give it a try.
he was not educated in the traditional way. what he learned, he learned from the streets, from interacting with people, from going beyond what was needed. there were times when i, in all my superiority (well i was educated at the UP, di ba?) felt like i was better than dad. and every single time, he proved me wrong.
he taught us so much, without seeming to. he always gave second, third, fourth chances to people, when we were inclined to not give them a first chance at all. he was generous to a fault. he knew no social class, as he fit into all the classes without batting an eyelash. he gave respect where respect was due, no matter who it was. he was loyal, and elicited loyalty.
gratitude was a must, and he never let us get away with not saying thank you when thank yous were in order. he remembered names, faces, favors.
but he was far from perfect. he would come home drunk and go into a shouting spree. he would fight with us, or fight with my mom, and then he would bring friends home, relying on our upbringing to ensure that we will not fight with him in front of company. and it always worked, often ending in a truce.
he made grammatical mistakes, and pronounced a lot of words wrong. but these i remember fondly and refused to correct him as they made him unique, and distinctly daddy.
he loved us and forgave all our faults, but not without making us guilty as hell in the process. it was all well deserved.
he cultivated our love for travel, our love for music, our love for dance, and our love for food.
daddy would often come home in the middle of the night and insist that we get up and eat what he brought home. there were many nights when i would wake up with crispy pata being pushed gently between my lips because my dad discovered the best crispy pata and he wanted us to taste it. we learned to remember cities and provinces because of the restaurants found in those places.
daddy was always singing. mommy too. for as long as i can remember we had music in the house. we had vinyls, and 8-tracks, and reels. daddy had a beautiful if uncultured voice. he sang with gusto, and insisted we do the same.
he taught me how to dance, to look into my partner's eyes and not at my feet. we did the boogie, the swing, a smattering of tango. he told me to focus not on doing it right, but on moving with my partner so it came naturally.
he and mommy loved to pack us all up in the car and head for the beach. or head to the nearest province to eat. we once went to aparri just because he felt like visiting a friend, tutal on the way naman daw. we were in cagayan.
the last time i traveled to manila before daddy got sick, i was only in baguio for less than 24 hours. but i crawled into their bed and laid my head on his chest. we stayed like that for a few minutes and before i left he said take care anak like he always did.
at the coronary care unit i slept by his bed, while holding his hands, willing him to get well. as usual i would go to sleep, trusting that he would be better when i woke up.
and he was better. we transferred him to the private room and he was slowly weaned off the IVs. his tube was gone, and he was in high spirits, enough to shout at mommy and me when we sat too far away from him.
he was better. on april 8, 2011, daddy asked for vanilla ice cream with sugar cones. since we could not find sugar cones we bought bread instead, and he ate ice cream and pan de sal. after we left at 1030, mommy said daddy asked for some more ice cream, put it inside pan de sal, and shared his ice cream sandwich with mommy.
at 4 am on april 9, 2011, my sister lani called me up. mommy was calling us to go to the hospital. i rushed there to find the nurses and doctors trying to revive daddy.
mommy was in another suite where my aunt was confined. daddy's brothers were on their way, and so was his sister. my cousins were trickling in.
i couldn't contact my sisters who were all deeply asleep and could not be woken up. even tom, my brother in law who wakes up at the slightest sound refused to wake up.
daddy left while we were all asleep. after eating his last meal with mommy, he went to sleep, and everyone else went to sleep.
after they took all the IVs out, and fixed daddy's clothes, i took mommy to finally look in on daddy. after a while it was just me and daddy.
daddy told me to never give up without a fight. so as illogical as it may seem, as impossible as it was, i gave it one last shot. i sat there and whispered "daddy, balik ka. kaya mo yan. sige na." once. twice. three times. and finally i said, "sige na dad. go your merry way."
i let daddy go.
while i was at the funeral home waiting for daddy to be brought up to the chapel, ate kay called me up and asked me what we will put in the obituary. i was taken aback but the writer in me kicked in.
after a life well-lived, our beloved daddy has gone on to other adventures.
and he has. his life was a fast fun-filled life full of adventure. he filled a space in this world that was larger than life, a space that is now a void that will never be filled. it was a life of music, food, fun, laughter, and love. most of all, love.
i have not slept properly in three weeks but i would do it all over again. i will be strong kahit girl ako. :)
we said goodbye to daddy last saturday. i have not mourned, i have not cried my heart out. but i feel for my mom, who has spent the past 51 years by my dad's side and is now left to deal with life without her partner. i feel for my nieces and nephews who look for lolo every day. i feel for us, his children, who have looked up to dad and have expected him to rescue us out of every scrape we found ourselves in. daddy who would grab us and give us those big wet kisses and say i love you anak without any reservation.
i miss him and i will miss him every day. i love you daddy.