Man, I’ve been staring at this blank screen for a while now. I don’t even know how to start this post, I just know that I need to write it.
Imagine being with someone for 44 years and for the first time, they’re the one who needs saving. That was the reality for my mom not too long ago. She met my dad when they were both in their early twenties (she claims he picked her up at the local market and the rest was history), and he always took care of her. Don’t get me wrong, their story wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies - they experienced their fare share of hardships, family feuds, and don’t even get me started on how prevalent classism was in 1970’s Philippines. But they got through all of it - together. They built the kind of family life that I want to provide for my children one day, and at the head of that was my father. I can’t remember or name an important day in my life where my dad wasn’t there. I can’t even tell you a time when I needed something and he said no.
So when I got the call from my sister at 5am and she said “we had to call 911 for dad,” I knew everything was going to change. For the first time ever, my dad was asking us for help and we needed to be there for him like he’s always been there for us.
You feel numb when something like this happens. I felt numb the entire train ride. I sat in silence, headphones in my ears but everything around me was empty space. When I arrived to the hospital, I rushed into the emergency room and by that point I knew that my father was in surgery. I didn’t even know what to say to the woman at the desk. I just remember blurting out “my dad’s having surgery but I don’t know where and I don’t know where my mom is but I need to find her.” When I did, my sister and brother in law were there with her. My mom looked tired, I could tell she was tired - worried, sad, confused, numb. We sat. And we waited.
And when it was finally time to see him, he was in surgical ICU. He laid with one tube attached to his nose, a bunch of others attached to a bunch of machines I’ll never understand, something attached to his side that was pumping out liquid from his stomach, and an IV drip.
Needless to say, it was the hardest day of my life. I had never seen my dad in a condition where he couldn’t sit up straight, couldn’t eat or walk on his own. He was tired. I tried to hold back the tears, but there was no doing it - I broke.
It was like that for three days. Home with mom at night, hospital all day. Over and over like a continuous loop. We wanted to stay with him, but with the little strength he had, he said no. Even through his pain, he wanted to make sure we got some rest. I stayed up that first night - thinking of how he was, how I didn’t want him to be alone. I wondered if maybe he had his nurse turn the television on for him, if he needed water, if the room was too dark. That first night was the toughest.
It got a little easier day by day, and he got better.
I remember the third day, walking into the room and seeing him sitting at the recliner. I have never been so happy - he was…sitting up in the chair, watching TV. I knew he was in pain, but he didn’t show it. I knew he was scared, but he didn’t show it. I knew he was worried, but still he didn’t show it. I had never seen such strength - such love.
It was the toughest week - it tested me in ways I never expected. But it was beautiful to see - I witnessed my hero fighting for us just as much as he was fighting for himself, and he triumphed. I witnessed my mom doding over every little thing he needed, my sisters taking turns in the room, friends and family checking in constantly. I imagined a world where everyone cared this much, all the time. With the pain came beauty, support, care, love - lessons.
When he finally came home, he sighed. It was a sigh of relief that the worst of it was over. He was home. We were whole.