Everyone and everything come to an end. Being human, that is with emotions and personal attachment, anything that deals with ending is always difficult. There are gradations of course, and the most personal is always the most difficult.
Suddenly, life as we know it is no longer the same. We know that as we age, everything in fact changes but we don’t notice it as when we lose someone really significant in our lives. Every step of the way, from when we were young until we reach adulthood, everything changes. When we start working, we have more responsibilities, most especially when we get to have our own family. In each phase, good or bad, there are changes. We deal with it, however difficult it may be; in the first place, we tell ourselves “shit” happens, we just have to deal with it. It is just entirely different when you lose your father, most especially when you no longer have your mother.
Of course, it is different for everyone. Some would say, when one is close to her/his parents, losing any of them is really difficult. Perhaps, but I also know of other people who may not be as close, but just the same, find the loss quite unbearable. Then I thought, no one can really say one is close or closer compared to another. One’s relationship to his/her parent is personal as it is individual. You will never know how and/or what the significance of one’s relationship to her/his parents, even if you care to ask and it is shared with you.
However we make sense of it, one’s relationship to a parent is significant, even if you don’t see them often or have been away from them for a long time, or even if you have never really spent time with them ever since you were young. There will always be that instinct to look for and yearn for your mother’s and father’s warmth and affection. So you can’t really imagine how much painful it is to lose a parent. At least for me, I really feel that I lost my anchor, I lost my proverbial north star.
However strong and/or successful one is, there will always be a time when you’ll need guidance that only a parent can give. After all, who knows you better than your parent. Again, one could say it depends on how the parent has been significant in the growing-up years of the person needing advice. Still, regardless, no one can deny that when one talks to her/his parent, it’s just different, compared to the comfort of just a friend, even one’s best of friends.
The thing with parents is that they always see you as their child. At least, in my case, that’s how my Dad always considered me, considered us. It’s different with my Mom. She never ceased to look at us as her kids, but she had a way of letting us know she knew and acknowledged we are grown-ups. I guess my Dad also acknowledged we’re grown-ups but he had his own way; if you are not able to get a good grasp, and believe me, it requires significant patience to do so, you won’t just fail to appreciate it, and you will end up having a discussion with him. Of course, it took us a little while as our hair got grayer, but we got there and even at this age, we felt he was really still that father we had when we were young. Always there for us, no matter what. Always there to tell us what’s right, no matter how harsh. Always there to make us get the message, even if it hurt us.
Then there were requests every now and then. Small requests but you felt he knew you’re there for him. Requests for comfort food, for any stuff that actually he could get on his own. Believe me, he preferred getting things on his own, up to the last minute. He didn't want to rely or expect anything from anyone. He was always generous (together with my Mom), but he (they) didn’t expect anything in return. Interestingly, they didn’t get much in return, especially from those they really considered and treated their own family. Still, you didn't hear any resentment from him (and my Mom). You wouldn't even hear him speak of anything he did for anyone before nor hear him say he was expecting or disappointed of someone. We were the ones who felt bad that we thought, any small gesture, a brief visit or call could have gone a long way.
Then suddenly, no one will get to ask me for any comfort food anymore. No one will start a debate on political issues. He felt strongly about his political views. He read a lot and kept tab of the news, whether in regular media or social media. He was from media after all. So, imagine me having to argue with him on so many different issues at any given time. Admittedly, there were times I almost told him, 'Dad, I know more because I know first-hand.' Good thing I didn’t because I still got to hear what he had to say and, in the end, actually learned more. Then I am reminded that anything about the human sciences is made up of different dimensions, often conflicting vantage points. It is only in trying hard to make sense of much of the different perspectives that one gets a better appreciation and reaches better judgment. And nothing could be better than having a Dad taking you back to school every now and then.
I will no longer have any of these. I still have our messages from his last few days, and I will forever treasure those along with the good memories. I’m not half the man I am today if not for my parents’ guidance. You can imagine, as I’m sure those who already went through the same would know, how difficult it is to take care of one’s parents and to lose them in the process. And this pandemic only worsened everything.
He would still be very much alive today if not for the pandemic and the lockdown. His operation was scheduled a lot earlier, 18 March to be exact. The pain would not have reached an intolerable level that, in the process, made him lose his appetite and weakened him significantly. My dad was 80 years old, but he was healthy and strong. He was never operated on. I can’t remember any time that he was hospitalized. He was a biker and he always made sure he had a balanced diet.
I wrote this not only to share my loss and pride for having a father like him. I thought of writing this to show the impact of the pandemic to me personally and to us as a family. I thought I’d share the difficulties that come along with this pandemic. Up to the last minute, when we were supposed to just be grieving, we had to put up with the difficulties brought about by new protocols. These are new and needed protocols, but the people putting them to practice simply made the protocols more of a problem than a solution. How I hope there were more people who could make an effort to understand better and make life easier, especially in times of loss. My dad did not die of Covid. He would not have been operated on if he was afflicted with this scourge of a virus. But then it seems to me, any and all, or at least most of those who are sick and/or died are considered as stricken with Covid. If we cannot do anything about this thinking and putrid of an approach, both in the public and private sector, would we be able to successfully get through it all?
(The author is the Executive Director of the Local Government Development Foundation and a professor of Modern Local Governance at the Ateneo School of Government.)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.