A grandfather is someone with silver in his hair and gold in his heart. Author Unknown
For one reason, death always scares the hell out of me not because I fear my own. I’m gladly to welcome my own demise if ever. However, what I’m scared about death is the fact that it might take away anytime or anyhow the ones I loved which for me could be the most excruciating feeling of all. There’s nothing more painful than seeing any dear member of your family departs from this world. It is the scene I’m so afraid of, the scene I don’t want to go through.
It was barely a month when my Grandfather passed away and it’s his passing that acquainted me with what they call death. For the longest time he had been suffering from a lung ailment which doctors diagnosed as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He has a difficulty in breathing which he acquired ever since he engaged himself from an odd job which is sea diving. My grandfather used to be a diver to provide for his growing family then. During his time, divers on our town were using old, conventional and improvised air compressors as substitute for oxygen, a device which for so long he was exposed to, that unfortunately distressed his weak lungs.
Tatay Tibo as we fondly called him has cheated death numerous times. He survived several hospitalizations until things mired up last June and he never got out of it. He died at the age of seventy four, quite a long existence but not enough as what I believe. I had seen him suffered from the confines of the Philippine Lung Center for over three months battling his sickness.
He has endured a lot from the tests and apparatuses the doctors affixed on his poor body. I could still remember when we were made to decide whether he should undergo experimentation on which they intend to put a pipe on his throat as an air passage so he can breathe with a little ease. It was not a guarantee though, that he might be cured from his ailment or a security that he will live longer.
Our family members turned down the option and let Tatay resort to conservatively take his medicines rather than go through a terrifying operation. If we did, we will not be able to talk to him. We will not be able to hear his moans and sufferings every time he was in pain. He will be just there, breathing but living a zombie-like life. Who could stand seeing someone lying on a wheelchair and oxygen on his side and a pipe on his neck? Gross! It’s a torture I must say, which often brought me to tears every moment I entertain that thought.
Two days prior his death I dreamed of him. There was a bright aura on his face and the constant grimace I usually see on him was absent. He was happy, I supposed. For two days, I was not receiving updates from my Lola and my uncle who attend to him every day, until a terrifying text message exploded like a bomb after I checked my phone. Tatay was gone. The man I am indebted of so many things breathed his last. Tears slowly poured on my cheeks as memories of him loomed one by one like a flashback I usually see in movies.
Tatay was a quiet man. He chose to live his life in the solace of the idyllic mountains of Tibo, a far off barrio in my province, Catanduanes. Funny how he obtained his moniker which we (his grandchildren) had baptized him following the name of his barrio, that we had grown fond of. He has been a chieftain of this little place for a long time but relinquished his duty the moment he felt his health was worsening. He contented himself in the company of his barrio folks, those people whom he had served with so much dedication through his upright and an untainted way of fulfilling his post. Tatay being a chieftain has a good sense of leadership. I’m not saying this to exalt his name but I have seen it, on which I believe to be a trait I can never ever have. I had seen how his being calculative, his knack to prefigure things ahead of time served him. Also, I observed his prudence on how he decides on things.
One thing I feel to have inherited from him was his gift of empathy. He has this deep sense of understanding other people’s situation which I believe to be also innate in me. He may not have left me with any material endowment but the trait he bequeathed that runs through my blood is greater than any inheritance I could ever have.
From the accounts shared to me by my mother about Tatay’s youth, I have come to agree that he was a man worthy of admiration. Growing up, I have so many doting memories of him. My mom during vacation would send me together with my siblings to Tibo and Tatay being so welcoming would make our stay comfortable enough so we wouldn’t get bored up to the whole vacation. He would usher us from the vast playground near the house and would let us witness the ocean where he was fishing during his youth. Tibo is a lovely place full of nostalgic memories. From there, I have witnessed how Tatay longed to have young companions in his house, on how he wanted to resurrect the times gone by through his grandchildren.
During fiesta on his little barrio, I have seen many faces of politicians hoping to be endorsed by my grandfather to his barrio folks. I have seen handful of them. He was sought after to rally support but it’s only those he believed can do upright whom he supported. Faces of these politicians were dazzling in my memory as they frequent Tatay’s house but neither of these faces popped out on his wake. Well, as they say, some forget and some remember. That’s life.
Tatay was more than a grandfather to me, he was more of an ideal father that everyone wishes to have. I have seen it on the way he fathered his children on which he was blessed to have eight. All of them gave him problems and pains but he was so enduring to receive it. My mother for example, when she eloped with Papa leaving her studies at the age of nineteen to face the repercussions of early marriage was one of Tatay’s depths of despair. My mother being so naïve of things got pregnant and was faced with responsibility of raising a child. But instead of abhorring her, Tatay offered support that even my Mom is pregnant still he took the responsibility of bringing her back to school, as he believed that education is the only thing he can impart to my mother. My mother did graduate in College; a gift he owed to Tatay for believing in her even she failed him once.
Even from the start Tatay was there paving our roads so we can have a smooth travel in this journey we called life. He was like a flat iron that every crease we encounter he was there smoothening it. I remember last year, it was our family’s most trying moment that we went through a horrible, unimaginable kind of trouble. If not because of him we will not be able to think and decide well. He never left us emotionally and even financially so we can be hoisted up from that dismal plight. He waited until things became okay. He was true to his promise not to leave us in times we needed him so much and it was last month when he knew everything is well that he finally breathed his last. Even on his last hour on this world it was our welfare that he secured first.
Sometimes, I blame myself that I haven’t invested more time to be with him. It was at this point of time that I feel a great remorse for not thanking him personally, though he knew we always are. I haven’t done a thing for him in return, thus I want to repay him through this piece of writing captured from my innermost thoughts that even in this small act, people would know how worthy he was being a father to his children and to us( his grandchildren).
“Tatay Tibo” is Cerilo Valenzuela, my maternal Grandfather whom I am indebted of so many things.