My family mans our booth in nearly every event the Café attends. There’s my mom, my brother, me, and my dad. We’re a constant sight at conventions.
We’d all carry in our things, then it’ll be up to me to arrange all the designs. I take the longest because I’m the only one who can really do it, while everyone handles customers who’d already picked from designs I would put out as fast as possible.
Lunch would come, and dad would usually volunteer to buy food and bring it in. He’d also buy us Coca Cola in case we’d run out of the ones we usually pack, or go out with my mom to enjoy a little merienda when my brother and I can manage alone. When he wasn’t at our booth, he was mingling with our fellow exhibitors. It’d be a running joke that all our neighbors would become his buddies.
It was dad’s idea to prepare paper bags ahead, readily puffed open and ready for use. It was also his personal brand of entertainment to occasionally announce that the keybies were “50 each now, and only 2 for P100 later.”
His antics produced enough confused faces to make us laugh—sometimes out of embarrassment—but make us laugh he did.
When it was time to leave, he’d be the first to bring out the heavier bags, insisting he was fine despite having had a medical problem with his back a long time ago. This sometimes rubbed my concerned mom the wrong way, but my equally stubborn dad sometimes got his way. Sometimes.
Then, like he would on the way to every event, dad would also drive the whole family home. It was always the 4 of us together. This would be our routine for almost 5 years, until December of 2013. That was when dad began complaining of back pains.
We found out he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer shortly after Christmas.
Our family spent lots of time with him out of the house until his second chemotherapy session. After that, he would stay in bed with my mom, who kept him company. Much later, a daytime nurse would assist her.
He managed to greet my mom a Happy Birthday midnight of June 3, after I woke her up to greet her. He even sang her a few short lines. That’s the thing about Papu. He was never bitter about his situation. He’d joke even about his own sickness, and smiled or made funny faces whenever he could tell that mom was getting too worried.
He was smiling when my mom played Amazing Grace for him on Friday, June 6, when his breathing was especially labored. They managed to exchange ‘I love you’s. She also told him that his kids loved him while we all rushed home from work, because the way he breathed was scaring mom. He told her he already knew that. We were all with him as he breathed his last.
I know we don’t see him any more, but we all know he’s in a better place. Knowing he’s completely free of pain beats the loneliness we feel when we miss him, just a bit. It helps even more to know that he knew how much we loved him, all the way to his final moments.
I may not see him, but I’ll always remember him, especially whenever I hear classic rock. I’ll remember him whenever songs like Bette Davis’ Eyes start playing on the radio, since he’d always pause at stations that play songs I like just so I could listen in a time when internet didn’t let me download mp3s.
I’ll remember him whenever I catch a game with Miami Heat, or watch either the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, or the National Geographic Channel. I’ll remember him whenever I watch a rerun of FRIENDS, or watch a good action movie—especially with classic action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose name I couldn’t spell without Google.
I’ll remember him whenever I drink a satisfyingly fizzy Coca Cola, and remember the special high five we did, because that’s what we’d do if he were around this Father’s Day.
Above all, I’ll remember him for his humor, and the fact that despite his pain, the strength of his character showed through in his smiles and the smiles he put on our faces with his jokes. So, Happy Father’s Day, Papu. We love you.
I’ll tell people that keybies are 2 for 100 for you.