Grief has become something that I no longer try to fix because, with time, I’ve grown to understand that it never goes away. You just learn to live with it.
I was woken up by a phone call, tired from last night’s first wave of thesis suffering, my Mama called my Papa’s condition has gotten worse she said. It was my Papa’s 29th day confined to the hospital, diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, it was not cancer, as what his doctor has said.
I was tired of my Mama’s overacting. I did not mind her croaky voice nor her sniffing. I even went to hospital cranky and pissed. Fed up with the fact that for a month, with a ton of school works to be done, I still have to drop by the hospital. I will just stay for a few hours.
The air has gotten thick as I enter his room. It was the first time that I acknowledge the fact that my Papa was really suffering. Chest rising, heavy breathing, he was really struggling to breathe. I was not even sure if he can hear me.
I was trying to have a decent conversation with him. All he could do was nod, raise his hand to scratch his protruding belly, and stare at me.
His second doctor came in, asked me and my mama if we can talk outside his room. She asked us if it was okay if my Papa will use a mechanical ventilator. My Mama as disoriented as I was, was trying to comprehend what was the Doctor was telling. It was my Papa’s decision to make.
Entering his room, I asked him, and he agreed. Hiding the fact that his doctor also asked us if we will be willing to have him revived if his heart stopped beating.
My mom was inside the bathroom, sobbing, trying to let the truth sink in. Kuya sat beside him, staring, hiding his watery eyes behind a cap. It was least of our expectations that my Dad will come to this state.
As advised by his primary physician, that same night, he was transferred to the ICU. He struggled to communicate through sign language as his mouth was penetrated by an endotracheal tube. He raised his hand, trying to lighten up the mood, and asked for a high five. Week, tired yet full of hope, every time we would ask him if we’d still push through he would nod with enthusiasm.
For the first time after a month, my Mama went home with us that night. It was a long and dragging day. She had to rest her mind and body as well.
My Kuya woke me up the next morning with his phone on his palm, my Mama was back in the hospital asking if we should call a priest. Still believing that my Papa can make it, without second thoughts I said no. I was struggling with the fact that my Papa was leaving us in the next few days. I was not supposed to visit my Papa that day. The hospital only allowed two visitors for a patient who stays in the ICU.
People were already visiting him, trying to cheer him up or simply checking on him checking if he could still make it.
I came into his room to check on him for the second time that day. I held his hand, he held it back. He wouldn’t even open his eyes to his other visitors. The sudden warmth rushed all over, my heart felt like it was being crushed, as I watched tears roll off from his eyes, for the first time, as I say my goodbye to him. He desperately moved his mouth but no words, nor voice came out.
It was hard for him I know, there was not a time when he was still fine that he will be lost for words. But he wasn’t lost for words, he just could not talk. What if there was no tube pierced through his mouth? Would he be devastated knowing that he could never watch me walk the stage on my college graduation? Would he tell me how sorry he was for he would never be able to tell me the guy I’m going to marry one day is the right one or because he would never get the chance to walk me down the aisle? Or would he be telling me that he loved me for the last time?
There are times he let his grumpy face and sheltered heart affect the relationship he had with us. But it will never cast a shadow on the endless times he’d pray for us. Protecting us, providing for us, urging us to be the best and loving us despite the disappointment we have brought.
He was happy that we were complete that night. We would take turns talking to him and he’d eagerly listened to us. If only we knew that the dreaded moment was the next day, we would have stayed inside that room, talked to him, held his hand, and listened to his favorite tunes.
But I miss his wide, callused hands that would hold mine as I get down after a jeepney ride.
I miss laying across his and mama’s bed while he watched the 80s and 90s classics. In the middle of the film, he’d tell us stories about the actors, realizing it was all rumors but we would still listen to him.
I miss reaching for the phone to answer his calls in the middle of a ride back home, he’d always check up on me. He’d wait for me at the jeepney stop, and would ask how my day went or how was the ride back home.
I’ll miss those nights where I’ll pretend to be asleep after staying up late with my phone, he’ll cover me up with my blanket and would make sure that my feet are not cold.
I regret making him wait longer than an hour just to make time for my friends. I regret not giving the love he deserved when he gave us so much.
I regret finding the strength within me to let down the brave girl he has instilled, to set aside the good daughter he knew, to speak aloud things that he truly deserved to hear.
Lastly, I regret saying “I love you” enough.
I’ll be graduating this April. PICC’s second or third level of the ground floor of the Plenary Hall might have a better view than in heaven but he’ll enjoy the ceremony just as much.
This one’s for you, Papa. I made it, just as promised.