Isn’t it strange how a single event can just elicit a thousand insights at the same time? It happens sometimes.
This morning’s event, in particular, practically ejected me out of Mindanao. I am now at the Lumbia Airport waiting for my rescheduled flight back home. I was supposed to leave Thursday and write a post on my favorite food discoveries and budget accommodation finds here in the City of Golden Friendship.
But I just ended up crying in the morning at Missy Bonbon while I bought all the pastel boxes I shipped to Manila via LBC’s one-day delivery service. As I phoned my mom to inform her of the arrival of these custard-filled goodies, I was just my usual hyper self. I was rattling about the pastel boxes until she cut me midway, her voice cracking on the other end of the line.
I was completely unprepared to find out that she was unable to sleep all night because my Dad Danny was rushed to the hospital this morning because of a heart attack. As I write this, he is still in the ICU. It was his first heart attack. We were always worried about his hepatitis and high blood pressure, but we didn’t know it would escalate into something like this.
He’s not my biological dad but he was the one who attended my high school graduation. I think I can remember a thousand T.H.E. projects in elementary that he helped me with. And he is the animal lover who loves to whistle while he tends to his fish at the garage most mornings. I don’t know a lot of how normal families work, but I had a father figure in him in as much as I have a father in my biological father who I visit once a month. There are hardly any distinctions whether a person is a father out of genetic order or out of one’s circumstance. It still feels the same whether it’s him or it’s my biological dad who’s encountering some health condition.
Moments of time spent with this father figure flashed like reels of a film and the thought of my mom (who has a thyroid condition) sleepless and unable to eat in a hospital waiting area kind of engulfed me in one second.
He’s not perfect as a person. We bicker on occasion and I have some personal issues from time to time. But when you get confronted with matters that involve monumental life risks, all those issues kind of diminish compared to the urgency of preserving a person’s life.
I felt even more guilt because last November 1, he was texting me during his freetime and telling me that the family misses me already. I was unable to reply immediately because I was busy doing those leveling loops before the spooky encounters. I was not allowed to talk to him now that he’s in the ICU.
I texted him instead. It was a relief to get a reply coming from him. He said he was fine and don’t worry. But this is the very first time that I saw him hospitalized. Even when he was previously diagnosed with hepatitis and was told that he only had five years left to live, we kind of shrugged it off because he managed to outlast the doctor’s prediction.
I don’t know about other people, but I find it much harder to appreciate my father figures on a daily basis. It’s not even half as close to the devotion I give to my mother.
Fathers have that tendency to stay in the background. We never know or acknowledge their needs until they start getting really ill or showing the signs of physical weakness or old age. They kind of just typically work a lot, provide, and then… wither when they get old. But before they wither, they hide it in all ways possible until one day, you just wake up and realize how little the remaining time is with dad. It’s like taking a structure for granted until you see tiny cracks that destroy the foundations and topple the entire thing.
In other instances, people just wake up and no longer have the chance to talk to their dads. As of the time of this writing, I still have that chance even if it’s just through SMS. I also texted my biological dad and told him I loved him, for good measure. I can’t even count the number of times I told Paul and Mom and Harvey that I love them.
Somehow fortunately for me, my bosses were kind enough to rebook my flight and send me home early. And so I am now here in the boarding area waiting for the plane to arrive. Had this been under a different boss, I don’t know if I can get a flight back to Manila just as easily. I am really grateful because the people in the office are wives, mothers, and fathers who know the urgency of the matter and will not ascribe my need as a professional inefficiency. It’s nice to work in a place where they don’t diminish your humanity. I need not even ask twice. Within hours, a new ticket was emailed to me. The genuine concern motivated me to work harder and continue to devote myself to the river project. But first, I just need to check on my family.
I only have homesickness and anxiety as my travel companions. Vaguely, I grasped at straws in my head and remembered what author Max Lucado said about having really good spiritual days and dispositions that prepare you for the unplanned events: that unexpected phone call, that sudden crisis, that surprising twist in the saga of life. But life is not actually a saga. It’s more of a single prolonged breath that we are everyday closer to losing.
(I immediately told Paulo of my Sunlife life insurance instruction, in case my own breath decides to cut itself…)
And while I was on the cab going here and the taxi driver was ripping me off and asking me to give him 350 (It was supposed to be just 150 pesos), it did not seem to matter. I just told the cab driver: “Grabe naman kayo, nasa ICU po ang Tatay ko tapos bulsa niyo lang ang iniisip niyo.” But I did not push it cause I did not have the energy to argue. The asshole settled for 300 pesos. That 300 pesos was the price of his soul and integrity.
Distinctly, I realize now more than ever that life is so SHORT. And while we make plans, we don’t know how much we’ve got left. So, it kind of made me think and reconsider. It compelled to try to be extra nice at any given moment, even to those annoying Prudential Philippines trolls with booths in the mall who lure you with a “free gift” but it was actually a selling technique. Because in the end, it no longer matters if people were ripping you off or selling you something while you are taking a leisurely stroll.
What matters more is how you cherished all the moments of your life, and how well-spent you made it. What matters more is the indelible mark you leave on people, which will outlive our own physical bodies that approach daily wear and tear, whether we eat or exercise or undergo cosmetic surgery.
So I’ve only got now. We’ve only got NOW. What have I been doing? What have we been doing? It kind of jolts me to take more chances, to step outside of my own mental bubble, take a look at my loved ones, and SPEND THE TIME WELL. NOW.
Because we’ve only got NOW…
It may mean a single text message, a five-minute phone call, writing that novel that’s forever lurking in your head, telling someone you love them, showing your love beyond telling, saying sorry to the people you’ve harmed, celebrating life and true friends, nurturing gratitude for each time we inhale because we never know when it will be our last inhale-exhale movement in this world.
I inhale. I exhale. I wait for my flight. And I feverishly send messages to my nearest and dearest. Because in moments like these, you kind of have the tendency to just HOLD ON to whatever semblance of forever you can have in the here and now.
We’ve only got now.
Now is the only sure thing we’ve got.