(A Prequel to “It’s Time to Say Adieu”)
I never really like saying goodbye to people even if I know where they will be going. I actually often get the feeling that I will not be permanently seeing those people, and that they will not remember me. So instead of saying bye, I would just simply say “see you”. But perhaps there really are incidents in one’s life that would trigger them to say those words that they do not really like to say. For instance, in my case, saying the word goodbye.
There is one incident in my life that I have accidentally said goodbye to someone that I dearly loved. I did not intend to say it of course; it just slipped from my mouth. I never knew such word… such simple word, would bring me the greatest sorrow in life.
It happened last April.
One day my elder half-brother called me up and asked me if I could come with him to visit our father. Enthralled, I told my mom about it and she gave me permission to visit my papa. It has been over ten months since I have last seen him and for some unknown reason, I got excited. The 25th day of April came and I walked along side my brother to our father’s house in Pasig. When we finally got to our father’s house, his wife and his adopted three year old son welcomed us. Apparently, papa was still serving in the church by that time so we waited for him until lunch time. He arrived at around fifteen minutes past twelve in the afternoon, I could not really explain what I felt when I saw him going up the stairs from the window of their humble home, one thing is for sure though, I could not wait to give him a big warm hug. He was a little surprised when he saw me sitting on the couch alone; he said he was not expecting me to be there.
My father hugged me really tight and I felt a weird sensation that ran down my spine. Suddenly tears started welling up in my eyes but I held it back with all my might. I did not want him to see me in tears. I do not want anyone to see me in tears, especially in situations like this. It took me years to build up this kind of strength and I will not let a simple mushy situation like this one to have it all put into waste and although my father’s warm and caring hug was my downfall, I tried my best not to let it show and not let my emotions flow.
So we had lunch, and while eating, my papa started telling us stories of him being a professor in UP back in the 80’s and I asked him if he is willing to teach music again. Because I know a school that has a choir that badly needed his help, for you see, my father was a brilliant musician. I do not mean to brag, but he has made a name in the music industry and is quite well-renowned. Oh yes, I am an extremely proud daughter. But my papa only smiled and said that he is already teaching music at the parish church where he is serving. I was astonished of course, with his great skill and talent he could actually earn a living, like what he did before. The church might be giving him an allowance, but surely it is not enough to cover up all his family’s expenses. But I was too foolishly indulged in the “art” of earning a living back then that I practically forgot that my father was God’s faithful servant. I realized that I am concerned about him and his family too, believe it or not, I really am. I actually cared without knowing it. Perhaps that is why I wanted him to get a stable job with a, somehow, good paycheck.
After lunch, we lounged on their small living room and watched the Sunday noontime show. I should probably be bored and sleepy, but something unexplainable was keeping me from dozing off. Then my father started telling us stories of those old singers from the noontime show and where and how they started their careers. His stories are based from his personal experiences with the artists themselves, and I find it really funny of myself to actually be entertained by his stories. Perhaps, because he is a soft-spoken man that it is impossible not to listen or maybe because I am just like he or he is just like me. Either way, I saw a part of me in him as he spoke and I find it both weird and fascinating at the same time. I have always wondered where I got that particular side of me, I never, for a second, thought that I got that from him. Well, of course, what do I know about him? He was not there while I was growing up, I have never even spoken to him nor seen him for nearly thirteen years until just last June of 2009, when my auntie set us up to meet in her music school in Antipolo. This is our second meeting, if that is how it is ought to be called, or perhaps “bonding” is the right term. I am not really sure.
Another thing that made me even more interested to listen to him is when he started telling me about his writing history. That was then I remembered that I have brought with me a copy of the literary folio from school. I had two poems and two photo essays in it so I decided to give my father a copy. He was more proud than I have expected him to be, I felt a little overwhelmed. And then he shared to me his campus journalism experiences. He said he was a former Editor-in-Chief of their school publication way back in his high school and college days. “You know mija, you could be an Editor-in-Chief too.” He said and I only snorted and told him how impossible that was but he smiled at me as if assuring me that I could really be an editor one day. He really is a fascinating man. Not only that, we also seem to share the same skill and passion for writing, photography and drawing.
Then my mobile phone rang. Unexpectedly, my papa picked up my phone from the little coffee table and looked at the senders name on the screen. I saw his forehead wrinkled when he saw the picture and the name of the sender on my mobile phones’ screen. It was the man that I was dating. “Who is Mr. V******?” He asked and my brother and I exchanged glances, and then finally, my brother told him about the sender’s identity. My father only scratched his chin and said, “Ask this man to come with us on the fifteenth in our farm in Morong, I want to get to know him and see if he is fit for you.” I totally burst out laughing and told him that it really is not necessary to do that, but he insisted. “This man must know your true worth and must treat you well.” I wanted to laugh again, but as the words sink in, I realized that my father is right. I never thought that he cares for me that much. My papa pulled me close to him and kissed me on the side of the head. It felt so great and for the first time I felt secured. I stayed there in his arms, looking vulnerable, and inside, my arms are aching to tightly wrap them around him. I did not let the chance pass me by again, so I hugged him tight.
The clock struck two-thirty and it told us that it was time for us to go for papa has to go back to the church of Sta. Clara de Montefalco for the three o’clock mass. I really did not want to leave just yet; I want to stay there with papa a little longer, just a little longer. But my brother stood up from the couch telling me that we really should be going, so I slowly got to my feet as if standing up was a burden. My brother and I got ready to leave as papa changed his shirt in his bedroom. When he was done, we all went down and papa bid us goodbye, and instead of saying “see you later,” like I would normally say, I blurted out “Goodbye papa,” unexpectedly and one last time my papa hugged me really tight. I heard some of his neighbors asking him who I was and although I was not looking, I heard the sound of happiness in his voice when he said that I am his daughter.
I did not want to let go of that hug just yet, I wish I never really did or perhaps at least I went with him to church that day and heard the three o’clock mass instead. Just a little more time, a little more time to get to know him better, a little more time to make him feel loved by me, a little more time for me to let him know how much I really love him and how much my heart aches for him. For a week later, May 2, 2010, he died of a heart attack. I was not prepared to let him go just yet, and I must admit that until now I have not fully grasped the fact that he is gone. I should have known, when I accidentally bid him goodbye, that it would be the last time that I will be seeing him. I would have spent more time with him. I will never forget though, that in those precious few hours we were given, he did not fail to let me know how much he loves me and how much he cares for me. I will never forget that one precious moment in my life.
I’ll see you later pa.
“Never say goodbye, because saying goodbye means going away… and going away means forgetting.” – Peter Pan