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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Forever Daddy's Girl

I seldom tell stories about my dad nor has he ever been a topic of anything I write (in my column when I wrote for the school paper in college, or in any of my blogs).

I love my dad; we get a long really well. In fact I would say I was closer to my dad than my mom. But there seem to have no interesting topic revolving him that is juicy to write about. There is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about my dad except that he is an extraordinarily great father.

To say that my dad is smart would be an understatement. He finished High School as valedictorian at age 14 (and that's not because they owned the school) and graduated from Electrical Engineering from MIT at age 19. But since he was underaged (21 being the legal), he was not allowed to take the licensure exams. So he spent some time in leisure in Moncada which he enjoyed so much that he overstayed for seven long years! Then when he realized he must make a move, he went to Manila and found a job in SSS where he met my mom who then had just broken her engagement. Few months after, they got married and the following year welcomed a baby who had the loudest cry in the whole nursery (that's me LOL).

Daddy is a very loving father. He would shower us not only with material things but with lots of affection too. He's got an uncanny sense of humor but he was never offensive; just plain crazy too many times. With him, I always get what I wanted, or at least something to pacify me. Like when I asked for a Barbie and it wasn’t payday yet, I cried for hours until he got me something close to a Barbie (but not quite) - a Bar-B-Q! Or when I asked him to buy me a karaoke in the morning and got it in the afternoon. Even when we were all grown up and working on our respective careers, Dad would shop for our shoes, blouses, pants and yes, he would even buy our undies. He drove me to school (and got us a driver when he couldn't), concerts, movies and waited on me while I party. He would never admit it, but yes, it was my dad who spelled the word SPOILED to me.

My favorite memory of myself with Daddy is when he would carry me and my sister at the same time. I would be in his left arm while my sis will have his right. It's a fond memory but I feel a pinch in my heart when I recall that moment.

Back then, Daddy was young, agile and strong. He would climb our tall bayabas (guava) tree just so he has something green to give in their Kris Kringle's gift for the week theme. He managed to push 'til we reached home our old orange Opel car when it stalled on us along Retiro Ave. He was our Iron Man, being the only male in the house. But that strength was never used to physically hurt his kids, well, me actually. I was never spanked by my Daddy. Never.

It was March 2006 when Dad felt a wrenching pain in his right arm. We had it checked and found that a huge portion of his bone in that arm has been fractured which was quite a surprise because he didn't have an accident to cause that. He underwent an operation but that was not the end of it. Tests revealed he had cancer - a rare and difficult to treat. Plasmacytoma. Stage 4.

My sisters and I were in total disbelief; it was like a movie with a horrible plot that unfolded quite quickly. We didn't know how to tell him. Knowing my dad and his unconventional attack on a lot of situation, we were unsure if he would agree to any form of treatment. Thankfully, he underwent chemo and got better and back we went to our usual lives. With Dad's faith also renewed, he thought he was cured of cancer after his first round of treatment.

On January of 2008 we found out he's got a tumor in his head near the sinus. Biopsy confirmed that the cancer has metastasized. It was another blow but nevertheless, we treated it like a test of faith. With the tumor growing, it started to press his optic nerves which made his vision hazy; then one day we realized he could no longer see us. He loves to read, answer cryptic crossword puzzles, hand-mount our stamp collection - things he could no longer do when we went blind. It was heartbreaking. I felt the world closing down on us. Of all the senses he has to lose, the worst could be his eyes.

With his condition going downhill, we started to live by the day but looked forward to many more years with my Daddy. Even if he has lost his sight, we knew the warmth of our love and the tickle of our laughter would fill colors to his everyday. He continued to attend family gatherings, prayer meetings with their religious community, and select parties with his friends as if proving to the world that life must go on and that his new-found faith remains unshaken.

Last April he was admitted at St. Lukes with what was suspected to be renal failure and had to start undergoing dialysis. I held his hand and stayed with him as doctors put a tube through his neck in preparation for the procedure. It was the moment when I felt his pain, when all the pent up emotion and tears I have been holding for the past three years started falling. It was the moment when I knew in my heart I would lose him and soon it will be.

I will never forget that day in the hospital when (after mom has left the room) my dad told me, "Sweetheart, I am leaving soon." No matter how hard I fought back the tears, I was defeated. He couldn't see me but he heard my sobs and asked me if I was crying. Sensing how hard I was taking his farewell, he took my hand and comforted me, saying he will fight 'til the very end. I told him I love him and that I am sorry for the times when he wanted me to be around but I kept traveling instead. I knew he understood but I could not blame him when he expressed his doubts on how much I love him.

That was the last meaningful conversation I had with my Dad. When we brought him home, it's as if he wasn't there anymore. It's like we brought home an empty shell that only looked like him. He could no longer eat and must be tube-fed. He couldn’t move so he wore diapers and we hired a caregiver. He slept most of the time and could barely utter any coherent sentence. What used to be their bedroom became a makeshift hospital room with a hospital bed, suction machine, equipment for tube-feeding and bottles after bottles of medicines.

On 2nd of June, my mom told me they rushed him again to the hospital and the doctors need to put him on respirator. The moment I read the message, I started crying. This is going to be It. When I reached the ER, he was already affixed with tubes; he smelled of blood and didn't look like my father at all. My mom kept telling me to prepare myself for the inevitable, as if it's the easiest thing in the world to do. The selfish me wants him alive no matter what. I don’t care if he suffers with the quality of life he has being bed-ridden and all. All I want is for him to live but I know God wants him more than I do.

At dawn the following day we gathered around him as he breathed his last and surrendered himself to God. There was no struggle like those you see in the movies. It was a peaceful passing, so peaceful that we didn't even know the exact time when he left.

It's been 100 days since he went towards the Light, but the pain in my heart feels like it's only been just 10 days. I think of him every single day. Everytime I come by to my parent’s house, I would look up the stairs expecting him to come down. Or when I eat, I sometimes wait for that special goblet to arrive with that sour fruit juice he hand-squeezed for me.

Daddy, your leaving left a permanent void in my heart. No amount of wealth nor success could fill that. No one else could love me and spoil me the way you did.

I love you so much and I miss you terribly.


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