My father died ten years ago today.
Early 2006, he complained about having severe back pains probably caused by the coughing bouts he has been having on and off months prior. Being part of the generation that hated seeing doctors, he, of course, self-diagnosed and ruled it as just muscle pains. Come Holy Week, he opted to stay home while my Mom and brother went off to our respective holidays. We were all taken aback upon our return. My father seemed to have lost ten pounds in the four days we were gone. We convinced him to have himself checked, brought him to the Lung Center of the Philippines and hoped for the best.
It was on April 28 that I got the most devastating news I have ever received. It was a Friday night, I was having midterm exams in Managerial Science in Graduate School. My brother called me and said, “It’s lung cancer. It’s already Stage Four.” I asked my professor if I can be excused, went straight home and slept. It’s a feeling that I would never wish for my worst enemy.
The three weeks that followed were both blurry and vivid. We were told he had six months to live, a year at most with chemotherapy. He did one session and said he could not take it. There were lots of visitors in the hospital. People were coming and going – relatives, neighbors, people my parents have helped. My two best friends visited one weekend and we played tong-its with my Kuya while the afternoon sun peeked through the room’s blinds. I wanted to write a letter to Sharon Cuneta (and actually started drafting one) in the hopes of … I actually did not know. Oprah seemed too far-fetched so I opted for Sharon.
My father spent his last two weeks in our house. We converted the guest bedroom into a hospice where he can receive visitors. When his conditions worsened, all his siblings from here and abroad trekked to Senna Enna to see him. My Mom threw a party during what would be his last Sunday with us. Around a hundred of our relatives came to bid him farewell. A drunk uncle callously said I was a disappointment in my dad’s eyes because I was gay. His lesbian sibling (who was also drunk) was quick to defend me. I continued singing “Ikaw Ang Lahat Sa Akin” in the videoke machine. I wasn’t having any of it.
That Sunday, my father was given his last rites by my cousin who is a priest. He then called us one by one to say his last remarks. My brother was called first, then my Mom. His siblings, nieces and nephews were called individually. I was called last. Unfortunately, no one had any concept of privacy and they decided to stay after they had their turn. So, I had a room full of cousins, aunts and uncles as my and my father’s captive audience.
In his deathbed, my father said that I should aspire to get married. Two of my aunts, including the lesbian one, whispered to me to just say “Yes, Papa.” I will not promise my dying father something I could not fulfill. I mean, this was in 2006 when marriage equality had not gained traction.
My father died on a Tuesday. When we woke up, he was already gone. He died peacefully in his sleep. It was something I prayed for back when I still prayed. I did not pray for a miracle anymore. I just did not want my father to suffer when it was his time to go. At least some of my prayers were answered.
My father died ten years ago today.
A lot of things have changed in the past decade since he left us. To list down all the great things and terrible things I have done since his passing will be pointless, but let me say this one thing: I have been continuously chasing redemption since that fateful Tuesday. Despite having resolved things with my father before his passing, and despite closure on a shameful thing I during my trainwreck years as an effect of his death, I still want to redeem myself. From what? I am not sure anymore. Maybe it’s to show him (if he can see me) and his siblings that I am not a disappointment. Maybe it’s to compensate for me being gay. Maybe it’s something else since I really have no issues with my sexual orientation and no one really should. Maybe it’s to make the pain go away.
It’s been ten years already but his death still hurts. We were rebuilding our relationship – one that suffered because of his four-decade stint as a seaman – during his last years. Just when we were actually enjoying each other’s company, he was taken away. It hurts to this day because I think about him every single day. Every. Single. Day.
When my father died ten years ago, a part of me died, too. Maybe I should stop chasing redemption and start focusing on resurrecting that part. Maybe then I will be whole again.
Vicente B. Platon, Jr.
(June 11, 1941 – May 24, 2006)
© 2016 Victor John Platon
All Rights Reserved.