The doctors said there was no hope for recovery because of too many complications. For three days in the ICU, daddy was fighting for his life under all the hoses connected to him. Manoy Wingwing, my older brother who watched him all day and night, had witnessed how daddy suffered in a very dire condition.
With teary eyes, each stare my father gave to Manoy felt like a plea to end his life. Unable to articulate his pain, he looked as if trying to beg to cut his life support so he could finally rest — right then. That was the time Manoy made a long distance call from Chung Hua Hospital in Cebu to South Dakota, US.
It was early in the morning and I answered the hardest phone call I have ever received. Manoy asked for my opinion on the idea of pulling the tube out of my father’s airways. Long silence followed while tears ran down my cheeks. Barely able to utter a word, trembling at most times, I finally answered in between short sobs “Why would you let me kill daddy?” I heard a cry from the other end of the line. I understood Manoy’s proposition since he could not stand to witness daddy’s pain anymore. We both cried while I told him to be strong and to keep the hose, for as long as it is necessary. Three hours later, the last gust of wind ceased to flow and daddy, at the age of 63, closed his eyes and silently bade us goodbye. My father, Amado Salas, died of stroke on September 8th, 2010. Daddy died without me by his side.
I terribly miss dad. Before I left for the US 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 — that was a very rare moment because he had never ever been emotional.
Daddy was not the talkative type. Seldom would we hear an angry word from him even if mom was already at the top of her lungs lecturing us siblings for our mistakes. Dad’s ways of conveying his fury at us were soundless, yet effective: stares that pierced the soul and a 5-peso deduction from our baon the following day. In good moods, he was the generous parent. He pampered us with extra coins for snacks in school. Mom only gave us what was enough for a banana cue and juice. 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 September 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 strips of metal wire. 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.
Dad loved to raise chickens and was a lover of fighting cocks. I asked my older brother where the combative 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. Dad adored his combative roosters so much that he nurtured them with expensive feeds. But 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), he would never hesitate to have his treasured roosters slaughtered so we could have a little celebration.
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 and we did not even care to ask. It was our way of respecting his quiet moments.
I miss dad. I miss the times when we joyride with his motorbike to the town’s deserted pier and watched the waves hit the shore. I miss the occasions 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.
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 about my US trips while bucket of tears flowed down my cheeks. He was just there, listening to my stories.
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.
Note: This piece was published on the Philippine Star Online [philstar.com] on December 7, 2010.