What if..

I usually have a title up before I write the body of the post. Not today.  I’ve been meaning to write something here the past couple of days, but I haven’t had the chance not for lack of connectivity or opportunity, but simply because the words seem to be stuck somewhere to deep for me to pull them out. 

There has been a deluge of condolences which I would’ve wanted to respond individually to but which I haven’t been able to do because dealing with Dad’s passing is a continuing process for me.  I haven’t quite gotten to that place where I can say I’ve accepted it.

Given the stages of grief, I know I’m in the “anger” part right now where I cannot help but feel pain thinking this was a most unexpected set of circumstances that would have warranted his death.  Twice before, we rushed him to the ICU where the doctors frankly told us he was on the brink of death.  Both times, despite the complications and all, he pulled through.  And yet this third hospitalization where his ailment was nowhere near as serious as the previous ones, he signed a “Do not rescusitate” order and he refused a minor procedure to intubate from the sides to help his lung process his oxygen intake — both conditions which we believe led to that worsening of his situation and eventually his death.  Perhaps it’s more difficult for us to accept his dying because the first two times, my siblings and I were there.  This third time, his second family chose not to call us or contact us until he was already on the throes of death.

I know these are all “what ifs” and mere speculation — but deep in my heart, I know that had we been involved from the start, my father who usually needed someone else to decide for him would have acceded to my brother and sister’s supplications for him to agree to the simple procedure that would help him breathe better.  He would not have worried about the cost of his hospitalization as he knows that we would have found a way.  He would not have signed the DNR form which would have enabled the doctors to save him.  Had he still stuck to his decision despite the support and presence of my siblings, then his death, perhaps, would be easier for me to accept.

The days after Dad’s cremation have been more difficult for me to deal with.  I often get reminded of some thing or other that pinches at my heart.  I find the tears forming and I take a deep breath and close my eyes.  I miss Dad so much.  I guess it’s a feeling I will have to get used to from here on, because I know it will never go away.

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.