Friday, November 17, 2006

Regrets As Goodbyes Draw Closer

When my father came to Dumaguete to visit, our battle of wills resumed with a vengeance. For this column today, I planned to grumble about the difficulties we encounter as our parents grow older and more sick, about how bullheaded they become and how they refuse to listen to reason and simply go about their obstinate ways.

From what I hear, this seems to be a common problem with aging parents – and we always hear the complaint: “ang hirap magpalaki ng mga magulang.”

But that changed because of a sudden turn of events. Let me explain.

My father has cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, arthritis, stomach ulcers, and his latest shocker: he has liquid in his lungs causing him to have bouts of breathlessness. Watching this painful struggle for air tore my guts out, but I still resented him for having brought all these to himself.

You see, Daddy used to be a heavy smoker and drinker. When liver cirrhosis finally caught up with him, it didn’t come as a surprise. After trying in vain for years to make him stop drinking, I somehow expected this disease sooner or later.

He stopped drinking after that – but his smoking continued. In exasperation, I asked him what would make him stop? Lung cancer? Hurtful words said in anger and frustration … little did I know how true they would become.

I could not bear the sight of my father chasing his every breath so I took him to the doctor, wanting to know if a procedure could be performed on what he told me was liquid in his lungs.

X-ray and CT scan revealed a solid mass around seven inches long, 3 inches wide and 3 inches thick. It is so massive it practically covered the upper half of his left lung.

The sentence has been handed down: death in a matter of months. Past excesses finally caught up with him, and Daddy will be paying with his life. At 64 years, he is too young to be leaving us.

I am angry with him for wasting his life away. I want to thrash at him for refusing to listen to all the warnings. I want to shout at him: “Look! You’ll be leaving behind young daughters without a father. You had bartered your time away for a puff and a drink! Are they worth it now?”

Yes, I’m very angry with Daddy, but I am also filled with overwhelming sorrow. Daddy, how can you leave us this soon? Why were you so weak? Why didn’t you fight your addictions before … for your children’s sake? Now you will have to leave us and we’ll be left without our father.

I am pouring my heart out as I write not because I want any sympathy. But I do want to share the following thoughts:

1. Whether we like it or not, our excesses will eventually catch up with us; that for the sake of those we hold dear, it is high time we clean up our act.


Go easy on alcohol;

Quit smoking (imagine your child’s face as you do);

Cut back on your sweets … forget coke with every meal – if you have to, reserve it as a well-deserved treat maybe twice a week?

Also, it wont hurt to put some distance between you and too much humba.

2. Anybody can get the same diseases that my father has. No one will be spared.

3. Don’t be like me. I am facing the eventuality of my father’s death with every kind of regret in my heart: regret for not having loved him enough; regret for not having had enough love to be patient and forgiving of his weakness. I regret all the angry words I uttered to him. I regret not having called him or spent time with him more often. I regret not having showed him my deep love and making him understand that it’s because of that love that I got so angry with him at times.

Our parents can make us feel the most tender of emotions and make us roll our eyes and shake our heads in exasperation at the same time.

They can also ran our patience dry with their obstinacy, or make us want to stump the ground with our feet in total frustration – especially when they start saying: “anak ra ka ….”

But whatever our relationship with them may be now, love and respect are always there. Let’s make the most of that while we still have them. Their time with us will not stretch forever. So let’s give that hug, or whisper I love you or a simple thank you, pick up the phone and talk about nothing, show that you care … don’t wait until the last minute … do what you can now, so you won’t have to look back with regrets later on.

As for me, I have a lot of catching up to do …

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