Life Lately
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On grieving and adjusting.

So it’s been a long time since I have posted anything on here. Not that there’s a want of having anything to say; rather, it’s the Herculean effort taken to process things.

So many things happened in the space of two months, ranging from the most mundane to the most painful: so much stuff to deal with at work and school, the slow crumbling of my (already fragile) mental health, and then the loss of a loved one.

It’s been nearly a month since my father has passed away. As I am writing this, I have accepted that he is no longer with us physically, but now in a different place where he is now healthy, whole, happy, and no longer in pain. He’s had two strokes, and he has been struggling with his health for the past seven years. But helping take care of him during that time has enabled me to spend more time with him.

There are days that I forget that my father is no longer with us. I’d hear someone shout, and I’d come out of my room to check on what’s going on, only to see that he is indeed not with us physically anymore.  Or I’d read or see something funny that I wanted to share to him, but I’ll remember that I couldn’t share it to him anymore. That I couldn’t hear him laugh or make a comment.

There are good days and sad days, but I guess that I have to remember that he is now well and whole.

My father–Abba, as we call him at home (it’s Hebrew for father) was a man of very few words, but he is kindness, compassion, intelligence, gentleness and humour all rolled into one. He was also a man who valued order (no surprise there, as he was an army officer’s son), education, family and tradition. He was supportive of us in our studies, always reminding us to study hard and do well in school.

One of the things I will always cherish is my memories of having  quality time with him. There was one time that I have accompanied him to the university where he teaches on Saturdays. I was eight then, and coming to see him teach French to graduate students was an odd kind of treat, but a treat, nonetheless. It was, according to him, also a good thing that I have accompanied him on that particular Saturday, as someone in the faculty was celebrating his birthday, and there would be plenty of food. Miss Food, Glorious Food was definitely in heaven! You can guess who Miss Food Glorious Food is.

Anyway, it was a massive feast. But there was a bit of a snag. My tooth, which had been a bit wiggly a few days prior to Saturday fell off, with bits of chicken on the plate. It was mortifying. But my Abba just laughed and laughed; he later washed the tooth and wrapped it in tissue, to show to my mother and older siblings. And yes, to also save it for the tooth fairy. The balm in that mortifying situation was that I was given lots and lots of ice cream to numb my gums. Hehe.

One of the traditions I very much associate with him is that he used to prepare a certain kind of steamed rice cake called suman sa lihia. It was very much a family affair: every Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we all would be very busy, as my mother would be bringing out a huge vat of uncooked sticky rice and mix it with spoons of food-grade lye water. I would be in charge of heating up the banana leaves that would be used as a wrapper, as well as stirring the brown sugar-coconut milk mixture, which later become the sauce of the suman. My older brother and sister were taught how to wrap and tie up the suman. This process took much of the morning and the afternoon. Later in the afternoon, all the wrapped up suman would be piled into a gigantic (no exaggeration) cauldron, and my dad would lug out the gigantic cauldron out into the backyard where there was already a small fire being lit. And the cauldron would be siting there on the small bonfire from the afternoon until well into the early evening, with the suman being steamed inside.

He was also a person who has helped so many people–from his younger siblings to the tricycle drivers, newspaper boys, and taho vendors. I remember them asking me how he was and they also shared stories of how he has helped them–and how he has touched their lives.

As a father, he was strict, but also very generous, and he knew exactly when to spoil us. But what I will miss the most is spending time with him. I really will.

It’s not goodbye, Abba. Just see you again. I love you, always and forever.

 

Image credit: PNRI NIDS image archive.

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Filipina, thirtysomething. Public servant by day, grad student at night. Blueberry cheesecake and cat enthusiast. Loves a good caramel milk tea with egg pudding.

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