Fight

The past two or three weeks had been tough for the family, more particularly for my dad. He was rushed to the ER for two consecutive weeks, and for the past few days, had been struggling to move and eat.

The most difficult and heartbreaking for me is to see my dad in so much pain, to see him cry, and for me, the whole family, to keep it together and remain stronger for him.

We remain strong in our faith and trust that the Lord will not let us go through challenges we as a family cannot overcome.

For the past couple of days, dad has been showing some progress. From barely moving in bed all day and needing to be lifted and carried, he can now slowly sit, stand, and walk on his own even without his cane. He’s also regained some of his appetite, too. Slowly but surely, he’s getting stronger and stronger.

We remain strong in our faith and trust that the Lord will not let us go through challenges, we as a family cannot overcome.

There’s still so much to be thankful for though despite the challenges.

—-
I wrote that two days ago, as dad was undergoing a bone scan.

Today, we received the results, and unfortunately, the cancer has metastasized to dad’s bones, particularly his skull, sternum, clavicles, scapulae, ribcage, vertebral spine, pelvis, humeri, and femora. Dad has to undergo IV treatment, similar to chemotherapy, once a month for six months, and after which, another bone scan if the medicine is helping.

Help, that’s all the treatments can do – – – help slow down the cancer, because to put it bluntly, there’s no more cure.

To be honest, I am feeling a mix of anger, pain, exhaustion, and sadness. But I also quickly realize, what the hell for? Where will feeling negatively bring me? Nowhere. And if I’m feeling this way, how much more for my mom, and especially dad.

We are badly bruised as a family, but we’re not beaten. We know to remain strong in our faith and trust that the Lord will not let us go through challenges we as a family cannot overcome.

We are not beaten. Our fight continues.

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Time

This morning did not unfold the way it normally does. I woke up at my usual 3-330am, transferred to the couch after my brother had left for work, to catch on more sleep, and then finally got up around 4am to begin my Friday.

As I was having my first mug of coffee and figuring out what to prepare for my breakfast baon, I thought of what my parents would be doing today. I wondered, as I always do, what they would decide to have for lunch, how they would spend their Friday, how they would feel having all their kids out and having our lonely house all to themselves.

My parents are elderly, and unfortunately, my brothers and I cannot take them out as often as we used to anymore because apart from their illnesses, they tire pretty easily nowadays. They stay home almost all the time. We only get to spend time with them when we come home from work (which is always cut short because sometimes either my brother and I are already too tired from work, or my parents turn in very early at night, or chores get in the way). My brother and I spend the weekends mostly running errands and doing chores. I’m not proud to say it, but I feel we don’t get to spend enough quality time with mom and dad. And that bothers me.

So as I was having my coffee early this morning, I decided to ditch work today and do something nice for them. But what?

I remembered they’ve been craving for ginataang halo-halo for a couple of weeks now, so I offered to go to the palengke to get the ingredients. They know how much I dislike going to the palengke, so they were in disbelief that I would actually go. Their faces lit up the moment they realized I was serious about it.

The ginataang halo-halo was cooked and enjoyed by my two tanders (and me of course). During the meal, we were able to catch up and talk. There were lots of stories and lots of laughter – – simple, but quality time.

I’m not proud about ditching work today, and I don’t claim to be the best child ever, I just feel when one must weigh family and work, the former trumps the latter. And clearly in my case today, I made the right choice. When family and loved ones, especially parents, are in the picture, I feel there’s no such thing as ‘I’m too busy with work’ or ‘I don’t have the time’. Hands down, and it doesn’t even have to be said, you make time.

Switch Off

I was busy reviewing a case when I noticed that my reading area had gotten dim. I thought either my eyes were getting tired, or there was someone hovering my area and covering the light. As it turns out, the fluorescent lamp nearest to me had just officially died, and unfortunately for me, the Maintenance Office claims to have no stored bulbs in its supplies. Tough luck. The light from my computer screen is not enough. This is torture for someone with poor eyesight and migraine.

On a lighter note, I just asked an officemate, who is a mother, to serve as an ‘ilaw ng tahanan’. Corny, but it made both of us laugh anyway.
Obstacles. Minor compared to what most are experiencing.
Like in most obstacles, I had two options. One, to dwell on this negativity, rant my head off, and succumb to whatever miserable state I was in. Or two, be more optimistic and claim that as soon as tomorrow (with fingers crossed), my ‘problem’ will have its solution.
There’s an obvious right choice. However, sometimes the obvious right choice is difficult and challenging to do, so I tend to do the other. I rant. I complain. I explode. Sometimes it solves the problem. Most often, it does not.
And that’s why I chose to do the right, more sensible thing. I feel good about it.
Fast forward to a few hours later. Here I am, in the dark again, stuck in the most terrible traffic, faced with yet another obstacle. I am tired. I am hungry. I have food, but I don’t want to eat here. I want to be home with family.
My driver, who’s probably already in his 70’s, seems more tired and much hungrier. He seems more anxious, too.
We talk. I offered him candies and some takeout food, which he happily accepted. He now has a smile on his face, and so do I.
One hour and thirty minutes (and counting) for what was supposed to be just a 20-minute ride home. Unless this car had long mechanical legs or wings, then I can’t do anything (rant, complain, blame myself for choosing the wrong day to run an errand), but wait and be patient.
Patience. My thoughts run back and forth to the fluorescent lamp (or the lack thereof) at the office and the decision to eat some of the takeout food that I have. Just a bit more, we’re moving. Slowly, but moving anyway.
I blink, and it’s not as dark anymore.
I’m home. ❤️

A Love Letter

I’ve never really had a proper Valentine’s Day with a significant other. Over the years, it has become significant to me for the wrong reasons: I broke up with two ex-boyfriends on two separate Valentine’s Day. One, on the day itself, and the other, a day after. I don’t really dislike the occasion, and I did what I did with my ex-boyfriends because of immaturity and lack of good timing. I have nothing against Valentine’s Day. I just have not had a good one, I guess. Sadly.

It doesn’t mean I don’t or have never cared for it though. I remember in my childhood, I would make big and small cut-out hearts from red art paper – – – the kind they teach in preschool, but a habit I carried with me until I was in college. The heart-shaped paper cut-outs would always be filled with my notes of love and thanks, which I then decorated further with more hearts and sometimes, hearts with arrows drawn across. Those hearts I’d give to close classmate friends, while the big ones, I gave to mom and dad.

My parents will be celebrating their 42nd anniversary in June. Theirs has never been the perfect union. There had been fights – – – small and terrible ones, there had been so much tears shed, and words that should not have been uttered or thought of, and there had been times when I thought they would be separating. I am so thankful they didn’t, and they never will. In fact, it was the struggles, the problems, and obstacles that made them and their union even stronger – – – that made them love each more. They held on and stuck it out despite all the struggles because of their love for us, their love for each other, and their love for the Lord.

Love. Just a couple of days ago, when dad had to undergo his prostate procedure, I witnessed yet again how strong their love is. I saw them hold each other’s hand as they prayed. I saw how mom refused to leave dad’s side as he was prepared for the procedure. I witnessed their anxieties and fear of the possibility of not being with each other anymore. I teared up at the sight of them, keeping each other in a tight embrace with the most relief and indescribable joy after being reunited again. They spent just a few hours apart, but it seemed like the longest few hours for them. A love that binds and strengthens – – – that’s what my parents have.

And that is perhaps why, despite not having an unforgettable or remarkable Valentine’s Day (yet) of my own to share, I continue to celebrate it. And why not, when I have become witness to just how great, how nurturing, how strong, and how courageous love can be – – – through my parents.

 

‘Ling (For Mom and Dad)

Through the darkest and murkiest of paths

Even and especially through powerful wind and rain

And the highest hikes up a sharp-edged mountain

No matter how impossible to cross and bear

Darling, we held onto each other’s hand tightly

We made each other strong – – – stronger than before

We gave each other courage – – – looking forward to each day and all its challenges

Darling, it’s never easy, but all are worthwhile with you beside me

I promise you now the same promise I gave before

To continue to be stronger when you are weak and tired

To continue to protect when you are faced with danger

To vow to always love and never let you go

To never leave your side and face every day together – – – forever and ever.

 

PAUSE 

About two weeks ago, my mom and dad went out to run a few light errands and unwind on their own. The two went to SM The Block, and then afterwards transferred to Trinoma using the footbridge connecting the two malls. My parents are obviously not as young as they used to be. They move and walk slower than before, get exhausted much faster, and find it more challenging to see and hear, so when in public, they’re more careful and walk with much caution. As they were making their way to Trinoma, hand-in-hand, one protecting the other, they noticed how other people walked hurriedly past, with some even accidentally brushing against them, and almost all giving them slight glances. My parents chose not to mind them. They continued walking, as if having a stroll in the park, even exchanging jokes and stories, keeping each other safe until they reached their destination — exhausted, but in one piece, and a complete contrast to most around them, who were clearly in a rush. 

Despite their brittle bones, the lapses in memory, and the body aches and pains, both my parents experience all too frequently nowadays, they remain at their youthful humor and wit. I still often find them bantering in the kitchen – – – cooking still the most delicious meals; I most of the time catch them in playful moods – – dancing and singing particularly to Sunday music; I always find it a joy to listen to their laughter, oftentimes in complete disregard of the urgency around them, taking in every moment, still looking after and loving each other, and enjoying the moment – – – taking everything in.

With such demeanor and without their knowledge, my parents are teaching me the value in living in the moment    – – – making every moment count. Breathe.

“Tatanda rin kayo,” my parents would often muster when they notice how my brothers and I would sometimes disregard certain things in life. Sometimes in our busy lives, we forget that we will all reach that stage where bones get brittle, memory fanes, movements get limited, and senses fade because we’re all too busy and entangled with ‘the now’. We tend to ignore little but precious moments because we have so many ‘more important’ tasks to be busy with and to accomplish, only to realize later on life, when time and chances are already limited, what could have been. We start to regret lost time, gone opportunities. That’s when we’d pause and ask ourselves, “Where’d time go?”

Where did time go, indeed. I admit, it’s often more difficult to take our time and just enjoy rather than to dive in our all too often chaotic lives. It has become so difficult that we start to believe it’s the right thing to do. Is it really though?

“Tatanda rin kayo,” – – – before I get there, and following my parents’ example, I hope to walk slower, breathe deeper, laugh and cry more – – – take everything in. Live.

*For my parents.

*Photo taken of my parents, holding hands while walking (pa-sway sway pa) in August, 2015.