Almost thirteen years ago, I found a valuable piece of paper among Papa’s personal files. Somewhat tattered and brittled with age, his meticulous handwriting was still legible and distinct in the yellowed paper. It was not even a writing paper but the back portion of a healthcare propaganda at that time, and folded in half. My grandmother, Lola Tina, died sometime in 1984, so the paper was already sixteen years old when I found and decided to keep it. What struck me was the way he regarded his time alone with my grandmother, as expressed in his writing, contemplating his imminent loss with complete realization and acceptance of its full impact on his life.
As most townsfolk knew, my father had been handicapped most of his life. When he was in his teens, he had been afflicted with a cyst growth in his left ear canal that prompted a surgical removal. Obviously, it did not go quite well because over time, his hearing loss had progressed gradually, affecting his other ear as well.
His being hard of hearing did not deter him though, from becoming a husband, a father, a lawyer, and a public servant that he was. My recollection was, Papa was never really bothered by his loss of hearing. I had been with him for his audiometry tests and hearing aid fittings, but I could not remember him wearing those hearing aids for as long as a year. Either he felt uncomfortable wearing them, or he was just too proud. He could be reticent at times, impatient and quick-tempered at other times, but I did not see them as relative to any feeling of inadequacy, frustration, or depression due to his handicap.
Being tied up at home with my first baby, it gave me the opportunity to do things we both happened to enjoy together, from crosswords to carpentry or just exchanging banters. The last few years that he was home, his office table was always littered with papers and scratches. As we, my sisters and I, were growing up, we developed a unique and easy way to communicate with him, by writing short messages and notes or just scribbling the keywords down. I believed that, with one of his senses failing him, he sort of found a way of expressing himself more, by his brilliance with words, in his writing.
My mother once lied motionless in her sickbed as I entered her room to see what I could do for her. When I stood beside her bed, I knew she was asleep and breathing because her eyes were closed and her breasts were heaving, although slowly. The two of us were alone at home.
There was nothing very peculiar in that moment of silence. I tried to figure out how my mother was feeling after days of getting ill. She looked pale and emaciated. The beautiful contours of her lovely face had given way to a figure that moved my heart to grope for comfort. No, nothing wrong would happen, I tried to reassure myself.
Looking up the sky by the window, I tried once again to evade a certain feeling.
When sometime later, I turned my face to take a second look at my mother, many thoughts of her came flashing back and forth, summoning my mind and heart to think and feel deeply of her alone.
I do not think that the feeling is due alone to the sense of solitude brought about by one’s being alone with a sick mother, for mother had been sick several times before since father left the two of us alone. I have already experienced that dreadful moment that overcomes one when he faces the stark realities of life.
Really, that feeling of my aloneness with my mother was not due to the twilight that was coming signifying the sepulchral that would follow. Rather, it was the result of my growing up, of getting to know and understand the past, of learning to resign to the present, and of preparing to face the future.