Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunsets


I had the strangest dream last night.

My mom wore white- I think it was her nurse’s uniform. I was sitting on a stool with my arms resting on a counter. There were bright white lights (which I thought were fluorescent lights) above our heads and I was talking with her about food.

I didn’t really remember the conversation, but I think it went on a while. When I looked around, it was something like an airplane cockpit or a modern interior of an aircraft I saw on TV once. I was so astonished by its vividness that I suddenly woke up.

It was 3:25 AM and when I opened my eyes my gaze rested on my Mom and Dad’s portraits below the altar, visible in the darkness by the incandescent glow of the streetlamps outside- and I remembered they were already laid to rest, just two years apart.

* * *

It’s Sunday. The routine is: fix the bed, have breakfast, take my 85 year-old grandmother’s blood pressure and remind her to take her medications, and then prepare for church. The afternoon schedule varies slightly- I go to the movies or eat with old friends if my budget permits, otherwise I just curl up with a good book. Dinner comes, and that queasy feeling in my stomach ever since I realized it is only a few weeks before the result of the board exam comes out.

I’ve been sleeping in the second floor sala since Nanay moved back in our house- she was previously living with an aunt in Palo, but when Papa died last December she was here for us, and decided to stay.

My brothers and I sat down one day, and we all agreed- Nanay spent more or less thirty years of her life, the productive years, taking care of the three of us. From the time we were in Manila as kids and our parents were in Saudi, to the time we all grew up to be young men. It is our responsibility to make sure she is well taken cared of in the twilight of her years.

One night I found myself crying under the covers. It was a typical cool night in mid-January, I was checking my e-mail when our loss finally hit me. I laid on the bed and pulled the sheets over my head, trying to stifle a sob. I guess I just missed them both so badly. The past week we saw my brother off at the airport before he boarded the airline bound for the states. I’m the eldest in the family, and the one staying in the country- I guess I felt a little overwhelmed with the weight of my responsibilities and wanting to pursue my own personal and professional goals at the same time.

Sometimes I wonder about the choices we make in life. I think about fate. What if we did something differently in the past, would we still be the same person? Would we be happier? Had they never left the country, would my parents still be alive today? Would I have learned the same lessons in life if I did things perfectly, rather than what I learned through my flawed ways?

* * *

I still felt the shards of glass that hit my back for a second as a plate smashed on the concrete steps behind me. It was the morning of the concluding day of Papa’s wake in our home in Tacloban, and Nanay was instructing us on the rituals to be observed in funerals.

I found them strange- sweeping the floor but never dispose of the dirt until after the interment (so we had a pile of dust and dried leaves and matchsticks hidden just beside the flowers and the funeral lamps), we were never allowed to wear red- until forty days after Papa’s death, and before sealing the urn we cut a blessed rosary several times and placed it inside. Breaking a plate or glass was apparently one of those things.

The three of us brothers woke early that day, and the vehicle that would drive us to Abuyog, Papa’s hometown, waited for us on the street. They asked everyone to go out of the house, and I was to go out last, hugging Papa’s burial urn close to my chest.

They told us never to look back, and so I didn’t. As soon as my foot hit the pavement, the glass plate was hurled to the concrete and it shattered into a million pieces behind me. The sound seemed to reverberate in my head even as we sped through the highway.

Papa was finally going home.

* * *
The day after our father was buried was the first day of our Board Exam. I was anticipating all sorts of emotions from myself, but never had I expected I would just be calm. I wasn’t really numb, nor was I nervous, sad or excited. I simply was there for the next two days to do my best, quiet and praying that I make it through. 

Looking back the past few years, it really had been the end of an era: the conclusion of my twenties, losing both our parents, venturing into a new career path. Sometimes when I think about it, it seems too much.

I had been busy lately working on my applications to medical schools. I was stuffing photocopied documents and credentials on envelopes to be shipped to Iloilo and other med schools I applied to, when I gazed distractedly at the skyline.

The rain had just waned, and it was almost dusk. The sky seemed ablaze with fire in hues of orange, pink, and red as the rain clouds parted. It was such a stunning sight that I stopped for a moment to stare. Hard to believe only moments ago the sky wore a cloak of gray, now it was clear and absolutely beautiful.

Image source

3 comments:

ardee sean said...

ei thad, its been awhile.. em kinda lost for words. this really made me sad thinking of things - you know.. but i just wanna say that u're stronger enough to face just any other challenges in life and continue to be just that. hold on, buddy ;)

totoyguro said...

this really felt so real
:)

Thad said...

@totoyguro: thanks for the visit :-) loved your blog, care to exchange links?

@ardee: thanks for the kind words my friend

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