How would you describe a dear father you’ve just lost? One way: by counting the moments you had spent with him and wishing that there could be more. My father, Amado Salas, died of stroke on September 8th, 2010. He was 63.
Daddy never had a favorite child. All four of us siblings were treated fairly. While there were times I delighted at the thought of me being closest to my father, he did not show signs of leaning to my fascination. The only time dad finally gave in to his feelings and revealed a clue that my name occupied a portion of his mind, was when he called my two brothers by my name (in separate occasions, of course). These incidents happened when he was already under medication, after his second mild stroke.
I miss dad. I still could not believe he died at a young age. Before I left for the U.S. a little over four years ago, I promised dad that when I come back home, he will be so proud of me. I said it with a tight hug. He shed a tear — it was a moment one seldom sees happening.
Daddy was not the talkative type. He seldom said a thing even if Mom was already at the top of her lungs lecturing us siblings for things we did wrong. Dad’s ways of conveying his anger at us were with piercing stares and a sure 5-peso deduction from our “baon” the following day.
And he was the generous parent too! He pampered us with extra coins for snacks in school. Mom only gave us what was enough for a banana cue and iced juice (or ice candy). But dad wanted us to buy a small pack of “chippy” and “bobot” that we could carry around and share with classmates.
When I went home last month for his burial, I saw that dad did some little fixings in the house, especially inside his small quarter. The fixes were visible because they were all tied with soft metal wires. Yes, dad was not fond of hammer and nails or glues. Whenever something breaks, like a leg of a wooden chair, he carefully and meticulously tied the pieces together with a wire. He became so good at it that anyone who used the chair could not even tell that the leg was previously broken. It was just as strong as new.
During my elementary years, dad would ask me sometimes to feed his chickens and fighting cocks before heading to school. I still saw a number of hens and chicks roaming on our yard, minus the combative roosters. I asked my older brother where the roosters have gone. He said that after daddy became incapable of taking care of his small poultry hobby, some of the livestock were sold and others died of some fowl disease.
Daddy was a lover of fighting cocks and had his own Sunday school. I wrote a separate story about it before. He adored his combative roosters so much that he fed them with expensive vitamins so they would grow with strong legs for combat. But what I admired most about dad was, he usually offered his treasured roosters for slaughter whenever any of us siblings would visit him at home (My brothers and sister used to live and work far from my hometown and we could only visit mom and dad twice a month). Dad would never hesitate to have his roosters slaughtered so we could have a celebration at home.
At the back of the house, just outside the kitchen door was the place dad used to bring his favorite chair and sit there for an hour or two — simply staring at a distance, sometimes looking up to the blue heavens. Whatever he was thinking during those times, nobody really knew. We did not even care to ask. It was our way of respecting his quiet moments.
One of the happiest afternoon moments I remember sharing with dad were those trips we had on his motorcycle. When we were kids, my older brother and I enjoyed trips to mountain slopes. In situations when the slopes were so slippery, dad would joyride us around town — sometimes he would bring us to what used to be the town’s deserted pier. We watched the waves hit the shore and looked at a school of small fish that had swam on the shallow waters.
I miss dad. I miss the times when he teased and tickled mommy while seated on the sofa watching soap operas on TV. We always had good laughs, especially when mom would move to the other side of the seat to avoid him. Dad was playful and had a one-of-a-kind humor.
He was called Madix by his peers. He used to teach at the town’s central school before he was forced to apply for retirement due to the stroke. Most in my generation, he was the teacher. He was sir Salas to most of the Argaoanons.
I cried many times during his wake. Apart from the one during the last funeral rite in church, no one had probably seen me cried. On few early mornings while everyone was busy doing his/her stuff, I went to dad’s coffin and looked at him lying so peacefully inside. I told dad so many things while bucket of tears flowed down my cheeks. He was just there, listening to me.
In the cemetery, I had a quick last look at dad. I put my arm over my mom’s shoulder and silently assured dad that I would take care of her.
“Goodbye Daddy, you will always be in my heart”, I said as I threw a stalk of flower into his grave.