It was Tuesday morning of August 17, 2010, when my father died.
He was a most unusual man. So gifted, yet so deprived. He skipped his adolescence in lieu of a coerced maturity during World War II. He served as kid-help to some American GI's in war-torn Bamban, Philippines. Story has it that he barely escaped the bayonet if not for his father's hand gestures distracting the Japanese soldier to look at the sky. Being a pastor's kid, he played the organ, taught Sunday School, and swept the sanctuary floor.
He had a brilliant mind. He took up law at the University of the Philippines. He joined the Upsilon Sigma Phi, the oldest fraternity in Asia. He worked for the government diligently and with much pride. He did his best to elude the seductions of power and corruption.
When he met the beautiful Carolina Carlos-Manalili, a University muse and pharmacist, life took on a fascinating hue. Being a simple man, he had to measure up with the natural flair of my mother for social concourse. Papa was a very silent man. After work, he would always rush home. His passion was chess and a bottle of beer. His life was rather monotonous to a fault. But he was always there, dependable to the bone.
He was well loved for his simplicity. He was iconic in faithfulness until an invitation from the local Lions Club turned his wheels somewhere.
I guess he reinvented himself and turned into some crowd favorite. The nightclubs, the secret flings, the one-night stand, became frequent. With his troops, he would come home early, at 3:00 in the morning. My mother went down the wire to bear this but the fury of a darling turning into a disaster was just too much.
My mother left for the States. That was when I witnessed my father's withering. He kept a mistress, whose name was unsurprisingly, Carol. Every single day, his deterioration went South. Through the deep canyon, I knew he was trying to creep out and reset. He was no match to the combination of loneliness and the offer of a drunken bliss. There was one night I had to fetch him from town, in an accident, drunk and out.
He had esophageal cancer and emaciated to a scary 80 pound frame. He was pronounced dying. It was rather awkward for him to ask me, if I could pray and ask God for a few years of extension. He was granted 8 more years.
The piercing hits of chemotherapy were unforgiving. His cognitive and affective nerves were shot. He acquired Alzheimers overnight. It was surreal looking at him. The congruence of his speech was gone. He would come up with wild stories like having been appointed as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He would curse at my Mom like she was some junk. I have lost my bearings several times, reprimanding him for his insanity.
I was all too ignorant of the barbaric nature of Alzheimer's disease.
I could have decked him with a punch had it not been for some hard restraint. He was most of the time angry and incoherent. To avoid harm to our mother, we decided to take him to a care facility. There, nestled in paid-attention, he lived quietly but totally detached.
One day, I was alerted to what seemed like a miracle. Papa suddenly became lucid and well versed. He talked to me about his wife and how beautiful and kind she was. He was just wondering where she is. He ended our spell-binding conversation with: "Son, please tell my beautiful wife to come home now, I need her here."
A week after this conversation, he succumbed to coma. My mother flew in from New Jersey and as we gathered around his last few moments, there was a most unusual spark in his countenance. I have never seen such deep peace laced within. When we all whispered our final affections to him, my mother was most eloquent in affirming her life long vow.
The funeral was well attended. I just observed that none of his friends were there. Of course, I understand. It is quite difficult to plan to attend the wake of a monster.
In tears, I repented. My father was never a savage beast. He was ravaged by the true nemesis. Sin was too luridly delicious for him.
In all these, there was one thing that was left untouched. One day, somewhere back in time, he turned his life over to Christ for pardon. Although most of his years where served in his prison of lust, the outstanding grace of Christ halted his descent.
His death was actually a gift. His true nature as God's saint was set in order. Although not a single buddy showed up, the most resplendent of heavenly beings carried him to the bosom of his loyal Father.