Day 32. Life Goes On

If dad were still alive, today would have been mom and dad’s 38th wedding anniversary.

Mom chose not to celebrate it, even with us. But she did pay him a visit at his crypt, lit some candles and laid out some fresh flowers.

It’s been a little over a month, and life has gone on. The “normal” that I longed for is back. I don’t find myself staring off into nothingness anymore on idle moments. I’ve remembered what it’s like to do things I used to love doing. I can watch our DVDs again. I can read the tons of books waiting for me again. I can surf the Net, chat with friends, spend time on Facebook, and blog about other things apart from my dad.

The flashbacks have decreased significantly. When they do come, pushing them out of my head is easier — almost second nature. I find that there are still many things I have not come to resolve within me. Memories of his last few months are still too painful to remember and think about. It will take some time.

I dream about him sporadically. In all my dreams, he’s already ill but still alive. It’s different variations of the same scenario come back to haunt me in my dreams. Once or twice, I remember crying in my sleep – only I can’t remember if those were caused by dreams I had of him, or if it was something else entirely.

Life goes on, and we all grieve in our own way.

My older brother has seen fit to take over the role of dad. In the hopes of not repeating his mistakes or his perceived “shortcomings” when it came to my dad, he’s obsessed about spending more time with mom. Which is okay, except that sometimes it’s bordering on coddling her.

My mom alternates between being okay, being sad, and dredging up the not-so-good moments of their marriage. It didn’t help that supposedly, one of the household helps in their compound told my mom a few days ago that dad tried to put the moves on her. Two days ago, she was dreadfully mad and sad at the same time.

My younger brother seems to be the one who has recovered the quickest. I hope it’s for real, and I hope he’s not just sweeping it all under the rug convincing himself that he’s fine.

My husband has yet to fully recover from the trauma of all the ceremony that came with dad’s passing. That’s a story that deserves its own post. But I’m not writing about that today.

As for me, for the most part I’m already at peace with his death, and have slowly accepted that he’s no longer physically around.

One of the hardest things I still deal with nowadays though are small triggers that elicit memories I’m not yet ready to confront.

When he was in the hospital, twice I went around the hospital neighborhood looking for magazines that could keep him entertained. Thus, seeing magazine stands now make me cringe and bring forth a barrage of recollections and emotions that overwhelm me.

When we thought we could already bring him home from the hospital, I promised dad that I’d buy him a DVD of the movie “Expendables” since we were just chatting about it that day. Of course we already know he never went home. And so perhaps it will take quite some time until I’ll be able to watch that movie… if at all. Thankfully the reviews weren’t too good.

Even taking a crap stirs a memory I push away every time. I’ll never forget that the day before he passed away, he soiled himself and the entire room since he had already lost muscular control. Afterwards, he was already in a diaper all the way until his crematory services.

It’s little things like this that still stir up emotions I’d rather not deal with yet.

While some would say it’s an unhealthy way to deal, I say it’s setting aside until such time that it becomes easier and less recent.

And so, after 32 days, life for me, goes on. Yes, time makes things a little easier. But I still miss him.

And always, I pray that everytime I whisper a prayer, that he’s up there helping convince the powers that be, to grant my prayer.

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The Things that Make Us Laugh

It’s been awhile.

With all the events and drama surrounding my life in the last few months, I’m thankful for the few things that continue to make me look forward to returning to the land of the living, and enjoying a daily existence filled with joy and laughter.

While things will never go back to how “normal” used to be, there are a few things that continue to take me to a temporary world of laughter and joy — enough to make me realize that in life, there is always hope.

This post is an homage to the things that make me laugh out loud and take my mind off all my worries… and an homage to the creators of these wonderful shows who bring entertainment and lightness into many homes.

1. Pscyh

Created by Steve Franks, appearing on the USA Network. It’s a criminal investigative show with a different twist – for at the core of the show are 2 friends who are the “Head Psychics” of the Santa Barbara Police Department. Light, funny, witty and laugh out loud. Close to (but not exactly) slapstick — the screenplay is brilliant.

Watch as these 2 childhood friends “work” with the stiff, upper-lip type Head Detective (Lassiter) and the hot detective chick (O’Hara) to solve crimes that take place in Santa Barbara – and see how detective work takes a different spin from the eyes of an ultra-observant guy posed as a “psychic”.

This “psychic”‘s dad is also¬† kinda funny, by the way.

When you watch an episode, wait til the end credits for the “Psych Out Moments” that are the perfect punctuation to an hour of silly but worth-it entertainment.

2. Big Bang Theory

Four geeks, a hot chick and awesomely geeky dialog — and four seasons later, you still can’t get enough. I would say that this show truly made geeks cool – for the first time ever. Suddenly, dressing up as the doppler effect and attending Renaissance Fairs in full medieval gear isn’t a loser’s style anymore — but a cool geek’s mark.

Knowing who Spock is; memorizing all the thousands of comic book titles and editions; and having a weekly routine of dinner fare is actually kinda fun.

And the beauty and the geek isn’t a far cry from reality anymore – cause truly, the nice geeks get the hot chick. Well, sometimes.

3. How I Met Your Mother

A love story in reverse; a playboy chauvinist who created the “Bro Code”; a truly lovable couple named Marshall and Lily; a Canadian teen pop star turned news anchorwoman; and a pitifully romantic idealist searching for his one and only “true love” — these are just some of the things that make this show what it is. Charming, endearing and almost addictive.

Lighthearted comedy that also strikes a chord in the heart of a romantic and hopeful – that really, no matter how bad things may get, there’s something great at the end of the road.

4. Glee!

Well, duh… after all my raves about this show, it cannot not have its own number on this list.

Hate her all you want, but I will always loooove Rachel. Aside from an amazing voice, she’s the one who makes this show different from all the other shows about teenagers that have the usual slew of mean cheerleaders, dumb arrogant jocks and loser geeks. Without Rachel (and okay, to be fair, all the other stereotypes that the show has broken – like the head cheerleader getting knocked up; the football team captain being dumped gallons of slushies…you get the drift), this show could have had all the possible markings of just another TV show about angsty teenagers who are obsessed with sex. Oh, and they sing and dance.

High School Musical, this ain’t.

Aside from the ear-friendly music that the show has generated… the fun, evocative and truly youthful dialogue… this is one show I always count on to take me away from real life blues to give me a couple of minutes of fun and pure enjoyment.

5. 30 Rock

Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy and Tracy Jordan make me laugh til my sides ache. Maybe because in some weird way, the show’s premise is a little close to what I do on a day to day basis.

Meeting deadlines everyday for scripts, print ads, television storyboards… battling it out with producers (or in our case, clients)… dealing with difficult diva talents and celebrities… and all the ins and outs and dynamics of people who work together and in close proximity every single day.

They say that laughter is always the best medicine, and I would tend to agree. And I would thank the geniuses behind shows such as these above for giving normal, everyday people like us reasons to remember that life is just life… with ups and downs… and through every down, there’s an up just waiting to happen.

So never lose hope, whoever you are.

If you’re feeling down in the dumps, sad, depressed, helpless, in pain or simply tired — pop in 30 minutes or an hour of fun and laughter to temporarily take away those blues. And these shows up here – they’re my reco. If you have your own list, then by all means, pop that in and laugh away!

Day 18. Back to Regular Programming.

It took some time but I think my subconscious has finally stopped looking for the chaos, unpredictability and toxic-ness of day-to-day life that was characteristic of the months when dad was ill, up to the time of his wake.

The first two weeks collided with much resistance to moving on. There was a feeble voice who demanded that I try to recapture the noise and confusion that was, instead of dealing with the silence and calm that is.

Little by little, the once-forgotten yet familiar monotonous routine of everyday is beginning to feel comfortable again.

So much so, that when random people suddenly ask me about anything related to dad, or ask me how I’m doing — I get shaken up. At certain moments, I have to physically stop myself from snapping “I don’t wanna talk about it.

The past few nights, I’ve been dreaming about dad.

Not the kind of dreams I longed to have immediately after he passed away. It wasn’t dad as he is now, gone but come back in my sleep to comfort me and tell me he’s alright.

No. A recurrent dream takes me back to the weeks he was in the hospital.

In another dream, he’s alive but ill – and has apparently separated with my mom, so now mom is dating another man. I saw the “other” man in my dream, and he didn’t look anywhere close to the kind of guy I’d want my mom to be with. He was skinny, short, had long, limp and greasy hair and looked like a homeless giggolo.

I don’t know what any of this means. In my conscious mind, I actually wish for my mom to find someone she can grow old with… not immediately, of course.

If it did happen, I wouldn’t mind. My dad will always live on in each one of us, and if mom falls in love with someone else, it’s not a betrayal of what dad was and who he meant to mom. We all deserve to be happy and taken care of.

Hence, the big question mark about what my dreams are telling me.

Nonetheless, I know my dreams of late manifest the thoughts I refuse to now confront in my conscious mind. It’s not “sweeping under the rug”, I think. I think this is just me setting aside the painful thoughts, to be resurrected again when I’m finally ready to deal with it.

It’s some comfort. Now I don’t quite feel as strongly about isolating myself anymore from the world and my friends. I think I’m ready to rejoin the rest of humanity again and get back the little joys I used to derive from reconnecting with the rest of the world.

The Thing About Reunions

Just a quick random thought.

When we get together with friends of old, do we automatically revert back to how we used to be back then?

And corollarily, do our friends of old continue to regard us in the same way they regarded us back then?

Day 15

Exactly one month ago was the day dad took a drastic turn for the worse.

This was the day we had to rush him to the hospital because he had started losing overall muscular control.

We all thought he would just stay in the hospital for a few days to regain his strength.

Little did we know then that it would be his last car ride ever. And that he would never again leave the hospital alive.

I recall during the seemingly endless and painful ride going to the hospital while dad was gasping for breath, moaning with pain and trying to hold back his bladder — I couldn’t speak, couldn’t even think. All that existed at that point in time was how unbearably painful it was seeing and hearing him that way.

15 days after dad’s passing, little bits and pieces of images continue to flash in my head every now and then. Images come unbidden of those moments where my once strong and happy father was feeling his worst inside out. The moments when his desire to live had deserted him, and all that was left was despair and hopelessness.These were the moments when he would cry, weep or shed a tear wordlessly. The moments when he would ask permission to just pass away and leave us behind.

I wish I could just erase these memory flashes, take away all the horror and despair that surrounded our family during these times. And I wish to God that my memories of my father would be nothing but the good memories.

It’s not to be so.

Those who’ve grieved all tell me it will take some time for the painful memories to become a little less harsh. It will take an even longer time to start resurrecting happy memories that don’t leave an empty gaping hole in your heart.

Over the weekend, I told mom that one of the most difficult things I have to live with now is the fact that in his last few years, most of my interaction with dad was very unpleasant. The last few years of his life characterized the worst part of our relationship. At some point, we had not spoken to each other for several months because I was angry. Mom acknowledged this, saying that the sad part about our relationship is that the last few years, our relationship was all about money.

My birthday was a perfect example. On that day, (my birthday was the day before we rushed him to hospital), dad never even texted me or called me to greet me a happy birthday. True that maybe he was feeling extremely ill already. But my mom reminded me… he was strong enough to text to ask for money.

Dredging up good memories is harder for me than it is for the rest of my family.

The hard part about all this is realizing that while I couldn’t change the nature of our relationship, I could’ve spent more time with him so that we could create better and happier memories to offset the memories we don’t quite want to remember.

In the hopes that this blog, and this entry would resonate with one or some of my readers, here’s something I want you to remember.

All human relationships have imperfections. We can’t all always get along. The closer we are to someone, the bigger the chances of encountering conflicts, problems, and the better chances of getting hurt or angry along the way.

But really, if we take time to nourish those relationships that matter, investing more time and more in the relationship is bound to give both of you more memories to cherish. So much so that all the things you wish had never happened; all the negatives that surround your relationship — would pale in comparison to all the happier times.

Photo from http://www.snapsandflipflops.blogspot.com

Day 10

I finally went back to work today in spite of a progressing cold and a slight fever. I think I couldn’t bear to spend one more day cooped up in the house trying to keep my mind occupied to avoid having flashbacks of the last 3 months.

It gets easier as the days go by.

And it certainly helps to start bombarding your head with other simple problems or obstacles to get through. It helps to put a temporary halt on reliving in your head the most painful moments of the last 3 months.

Since dad passed away 10 days ago, I’ve been keeping a mental list of the things that struck me the most throughout this ordeal.

First, an alternative career as a funeral planner is not such a bad idea. I heard a couple of friends talking about it a couple of weeks ago. I found it funny then. But now I kinda get it. Minutes after my dad passed away, we already had hospital staff bombarding us with questions we couldn’t quite answer properly. Where are they bringing my dad’s body? What is he wearing? Are we cremating or burying? Where will the wake be? Are we cremating now or later? Will the funeral parlor pick up his body, or should we put him in the morgue overnight? Who will settle the hospital bill?

In the middle of all of this, there were family and friends to call. Calls to answer. Text messages to send and reply to.

Now I understand why one of my best friends immediately offered that she and her husband could act as our errand guys just minutes after I told her about the news.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world making decisions such as that when you’re still in the process of recovering from shock and grief.

Second, “last days” are the worst. I thought nothing could compare to the pain immediately after a loved one’s passing. I thought seeing his body being put inside the crematorium was already the worst. Nothing prepared me for the pain that comes with the last day of the wake, and the day of the inurnment. The days of the wake keep you busy and numb you to anything you might feel. So you go on thinking that it’s all okay already, and you’ve already gone through the worst.

Apparently, the “last days” are unbelievably difficult. It’s not the eulogies.

It’s the horror of finality. It’s the fear of knowing the “what happens next” is just around the corner, and sooner or later it’s time to deal with reality. It’s the emptiness of putting the urn inside the crypt and watching them seal it for good. It’s knowing that whatever physical form he had is now truly, utterly and completely gone.

Third, “condolence” truly is the emptiest word in the Dictionary. What does it really mean anyway?

It takes one who’s lost a parent, to know what to say to someone who’s just lost one too. The most comforting words I’ve heard are from those who just outrightly say that nothing they say can make me feel better. It’s the truth. And it’s comforting because I know they understand my pain, and they’ve been through it and have survived it. Which tells me that I’ll survive it too. That someday, it will be okay.

Because truly, when reality sinks in, the hardest part to deal with is fear that life as you’ve known it, will never be the same again. Life without your parent will never be the same again.

But when I see my friends who’ve been there, then I know that yes, it will never be the same again, but it will be okay.

Fourth, getting home after the final inurnment is perhaps also one of the most difficult hurdles to get through. Whether the death happened abruptly and quickly; or was a long drawn-out process — the sudden eerie silence can drive you insane. All of a sudden, there are no phone calls, no text messages to answer. No news to fear. No relatives to update. No errands that need to be done. No money to raise. No hospital shift to go to. No wake shift to go to.

Suddenly, there’s just nothing… just, silence.

Suddenly, you have all the time in the world to do the things you used to love to do, but don’t remember how to do anymore. And you can’t eat, can’t sleep — even if you’ve been running on empty for weeks already. You find yourself just sitting, staring off into nothingness as memories of what you’ve just been through suddenly come crashing down on you on that first silent moment.

It’s still difficult talking about these things with others.

I’ve found that the first few days after, I didn’t really feel like going out, not even to just take a stroll in the mall. It’s a bit painful seeing that for everyone else around you, it’s the same old thing and life goes on for them. It’s just another day, nothing new. And yet, in your heart, you feel so crushed and so empty that you just wish the world could stop for one minute and grieve with you too.

But that’s not the way the world works.

So often I’ve hungered to just be able to spill all the disturbing, dark and painful thoughts lingering in me, but hesitated. Maybe I just didn’t want to burden anyone. Or maybe, I’m not yet ready to talk without breaking down, yet again.

Grief

Written on September 4, 2010.

Grief was such a foreign emotion to me that when it hit me, suddenly, everything I just used to see, hear or read about just clicked into place. And suddenly, it was all clear.

It’s difficult to even articulate.

The feeling of emptiness, the longing just to get a glimpse of the man who’s been a part of me from the moment I was conceived. The urgent painful desire to just have one more hour with him, just to tell him how sorry I am for any pain I’ve caused him all the years of our lives together. The burning need just to tell him and assure him how much I love him, and how much I appreciate all that he was, imperfections and all.

I thought that “talk” we had was enough. But maybe nothing is ever enough.

So many words that should’ve been said before it was ever too late. So much time wasted on a battle of wills, fighting for what now seems so inconsequential. So much anger and bitterness getting in the way of something that could’ve been better.

Yes, I have regrets. I suppose that’s all normal and part of the grieving process.

I miss my dad with an intensity that’s making my chest ache.

This morning, we brought him to his final resting place. It is in a beautiful garden surrounded by flowing waters and angels keeping watch. I know in my heart that he’s finally found the eternal peace and rest that’s eluded him all his life.

But how I wish that when I close my eyes tonight and fall asleep, he will be in my dreams as I long to see him – happy, peaceful and bringing me comfort from that emptiness and pain that I don’t quite know how to dispel.

Life must go on, but it will be a life without him in it. It wrenches my heart just to write it.

Dad, wherever you are, I love you, I miss you and will always do.