Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Preserver Of Worlds | The Remains Of His Being

Previously: Matters Of National Security

When he was still in his prime, my dad would always tell that he doesn't expect that I will fight for him. That I won't get back at the people who have wronged him in business or had thrown insults as a result of his brash character. Given this perception of ambivalence, he might have thought that I would completely erase his memory. For I was the insolent son who turned his back when he needed my help to run his businesses.

The last time I saw him alive was when he was being hauled out of an ambulance. He was on a stretcher, unconscious but still breathing. EMT's were relentlessly pumping oxygen into his body. Next came out was his sister. Her words cracking, she first said to me, "patawarin mo na ang papa mo." There were no words to say. I was looking at the brown-skinned lady, slender and in her mid-twenties, cradling her son. She was sobbing in the corner while her fingers moved as she felt the beads of the rosary. Ignoring my aunt's plea and refusing to show some compassion to the lady, I went to comfort my own mother. Had my father's sister known the depth of my savagery, I wouldn't show up at the Manila Doctor's emergency room without the blessing of my mother's sister. I was even having second thoughts of telling my mom that her husband had a major stroke.


Twelve years into the future and that hospital scene linger as a reminder of the choices I made. The other side of the story - the reason for the fallout - is irrelevant now. The essence lies in the gestures of the present.

I do not know if it's mere social niceties, filial piety, or some subconscious guilt that pushes me to return to his final resting place. Never in my recollection did I miss bringing flowers on the day of his earthly departure. My younger sibling who was closer to him in all those years I was giving him an icy treatment last paid a visit a few days before her elder was born. Her firstborn is now six years old. My mom, in her advanced age (and without someone to bring her all the way to Navotas), has been a no-show since 2013, when our family driver secured work abroad.  While I deliberately avoid the aunt and her dysfunctional family, who by the way, lives a few blocks from the cemetery, the presence of mums and anthuriums on his grave marker - fresh and well-arranged - tells that in spite of my father's personal tragedies, his footprints still leave a mark to at least one person, who had known the triumphs and downfalls of his life.

A double pair of thick-rimmed glasses; a Press ID issued by the publishing company that gave him a break in the newspaper industry; an organizer, with list of contacts and set appointments, some, scheduled days after his passing; certificates recognizing his contributions to the National Press Club, a Nokia 7650 phone, perhaps, the last prized possession he was clutching before his blood vessels ruptured, and brought him squirming in pain. It might be a strange coincidence or a timely providence, but these personal effects were rediscovered on the day of my dad's twelfth passing. Sifting them out of the piles of disused items inside a dusty cabinet that was cast out to rot at the veranda, I wonder what my father's thoughts were when for the first time, he had to borrow money from me when I was working for another company; or when I politely declined his offer to get me a second-hand scooter smuggled into the country? Did he feel dejected when I gave him a cold embrace the last time he showed up at the door to pay us a visit? Did he harbor ill feelings when he had to spend his last Christmas meal in a makeshift eatery, with his sister, because his children had asked him not to show up at my aunt's house where our family reunion would be taking place? 

Perhaps, the reason I keep coming back to his grave is because there were words left unsaid; that deep down, I am terrified of committing the same ruthlessness to the people I tried to scratch out from my life. Putting back these artifacts in a sturdy plastic box, I realize that as long as I walk this earth, I will carry his memory, and put it in a safe place where time could never devour it.

And within me, in that little corner of my chest that is still capable of recalling, celebrating his life, including his sins and redemptions, will be my atonement.

No comments: