The Journey Home

I’m here in JFK waiting for the first leg of my flight home to board in approximately an hour.  I’m exhausted after packing through the night, deciding to change suitcases two hours before I was to get ready to leave, and just weighed down with the sadness of knowing I’m coming home to say goodbye to Dad.

I’m hooked up to a Samsung power station which, surprisingly, has no other patron.  The last time I was here, all plugs were taken and everyone who had a laptop had their units up.  I don’t remember now if at that time, the wi-fi was free, but I always have my own wireless card and now USB key so it didn’t matter.  I have this station all to myself and I can freely charge my laptop, blackberry and what have you — and no one else is going to take any of the other power units.

I’ve had this knot in my stomach since I heard the news last Thursday.  Fe says it’s shock.. “Anim na baldeng iyak lang ang katapat niyan..” she texted back.  So I guess I have 5 more buckets to go. 

No matter how we knew it was just a matter of time, and more importantly, that we had gone through the motions twice before already, it still didn’t come as easy as I thought it would be.  Perhaps the circumstances prior to my father’s passing were to blame — or perhaps it’s because you never really can be truly ready to say goodbye no matter how you think you may be.

The security check was interminably long and I found myself tearing up more than once in the twenty minutes or so I was in line.  I held them back but not without effort.  I was thinking how I always looked forward to going to JFK because it meant going home to Manila.. or a vacation some place.  The only times I didn’t feel quite happy about it was when I was bringing Mom or Ofie here to go home after they visited with me.  Today is one such trip — and it won’t end when I drive away from the airport — because I know it will be here through the almost 19 hours it’ll take me to find myself home in Manila again.

It’s a heaviness in my heart that makes me clutch my chest as if doing so would make it go away.  But it doesn’t. 

I’m doing the journey alone because the cost was just too prohibitive to even consider bringing Angelo along.   So Alan stayed home with him.  I wrote my boss and some chosen friends about the news a fews hours after I found out.  I went to work because staying home would’ve meant more tears — and I didn’t want to cry myself to an asthma attack.  Getting a flight home was easy compared to trying to get a flight back.  I would’ve wanted to return after a week — but as luck would have it, I have to wait 13 days to board the flight home.  Looking back now, I think the fact that I didn’t get to leave as soon as I had hoped did me some good as it helped my emotions to settle down.  The anger, the grief, the pain have abated some — and while I am still ambivalent about many things at this point, I find myself in a better position to think things through.

I thought I had it all planned out well ahead, having fearlessly proclaimed I would want my Dad to be cremated.  But as things got complicated in the previous weeks, my resolve weakened, and when my siblings posed the question to me, the answer I gave was that I would go with what they wanted.  That was unusual considering my siblings and my Mom usually looked to me to be the decision maker.  It’s the boon and the bane of being the eldest.  Somehow I found myself vacillating between sticking to what I thought I had wanted and the alternative of just burying him in our family plot. 

Ours is a very complicated family situation.  It almost made us decide as a family to dispose of a full wake altogether.  And the circumstances leading up to Dad’s last hours were very emotional and chaotic.  I almost shirked away from talking to him via long distance which my sister had offered.  I gave in eventually and told him I was okay and we (him and I) were fine.. that I wasn’t  mad at him and that I was letting go of whatever had happened or had been said between us.  He was in and out of delirium already but he must’ve heard me because my sister said he seemed to have acknowledged me with a slight movement after I spoke. 

The news came hours later.  My sister followed my instructions not to call me directly, but to leave a message with Alan instead.  I didn’t know how I would react to the news when it finally came.  So when Alan told me that he had a missed call from Ofie, I already knew what the news was.  It was confirmed when he picked up his voice mail.  I spent a good hour crying.  I just sat on the bed, in the middle of getting ready for the day, sobbing away.  Alan came in and comforted me, and Angel, too — but I just needed a good cry.

An audible sigh just came out.. time to board.. time to go and take that journey home.

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