Mom found this recently and because I had no other picture with him I took this just for posterity’s sake. You can even see an outline of my shape in the photo. I just took a guess, flipped through a set of pictures and voila!
Last night I was deleting a message on my phone and for once I was granted access to my inbox. (Don’t ask. Some minor glitch made it such that I could read incoming messages but not retrieve them later on. But anyway…) I came across a message from my sister which meant so much to me then. She had gone to the US ahead to be with my uncle. Mom and I were fixing our visas and since I was just newly hired at the time, we had decided to forgo my application (which definitely broke my heart). Anyway, the message reads:
I’m alone with Tito Eddy now. He is calm and sleeping. A few minutes ago he asked me – how is your sister? I said she is ok tito. She got her eye removed and replaced today. I said also – do you remember her. You took care of her when she was a baby. She loves you. He said – I know. I love her also. You know i don’t have a daughter so she is like my daughter. When she would go home to Baguio I would get so sad. You know one of the happiest moments in my life was when she went to… He forgot what he wanted to say and said come on head and got frustrated and slept. He looks and sounds so much like lolo. The hands, the feet, the face and the body are the same. Anyway I’m silently praying the prayers for the sick and the dying while holding his hand. Let’s pray mom gets her visa so she can see him while he still remembers.
He died the following week on the day my mom got her visa. The last conversation we had on the phone was one of the most meaningful. At this point he had to be reminded about who I was. He had just undergone surgery for a tumor in his brain. The removal of this most likely affected his memory but it was the lung cancer that was discovered post-surgery that led him to expire.
During that last conversation, my mother had instructed me to keep it light and to try not to cry, or at least sob so as not to dampen his spirits. He was not told anymore about his condition because the pain and the memory loss were already taking a toll on his body. But I couldn’t help it. My voice would quiver and break every now and then. He said, next time we meet, we should go to the beach. Heck, he said, let’s go anywhere you want!
Mom spent a month in the States as soon as she got her papers. She and my aunt spent a lot of time talking and crying. I’m glad they had each other. On her way home, I asked for one thing only: that she pack me a shirt of his because I wanted to remember how he smelled.
My mom put the plaid shirt (I would have been happy with a ratty t-shirt) in a Ziploc and as soon as I went to bed the night she arrived, I took it out just to hold it and say my goodbyes. The shirt is still in the Ziploc. Something tells me I’ll need to hold it again in the future. But for now, I let it sit on the top shelf along with Bradbury.
You know what’s strange? I kept thinking about him today and on the Tumblr dash butterflies kept appearing (and this doesn’t normally happen). It was only later, when I had lunch with my mom and told her about my musings that she said, plainly, “you know, it’s his birthday today.”
What are the odds right?
Thanks for keeping in touch, Tito. Hope you’re having a wonderful birthday. Please don’t leave just yet. We have so much more to talk about.