I am sitting here in a lounge chair just outside the ICU ward where my father is currently lying in one of the beds. It’s my second night on duty and I have been waiting for hours for the cardiologist to tell me the 2DECHO test they did to my father this morning. It’s almost 1 am. The results are in my bag.
Thickened mitral valve leaflet without restriction of motion; mitral annular calcification… Thickened right and non-coronary cusp without restriction of motion; aortic annular calcification… Reversed mitral inflow pattern indicative of Grade I left ventricular diastolic dysfunction… Mild mitral regurgitation… Mild tricuspid regurgitation.
Words that form sentences and that ramble into ribbon of spells like some witch concocting a curse of some kind. I had to Google every word to understand the whole shitload of words and piece them together like some puzzle. I have an idea already of what my father’s condition is. I just need to talk to the damn cardiologist. I can’t blame him – the cardio guy. He seemed nice and straightforward with somewhat of an affable personality when he delivered the preliminary prognosis to me at 2 am yesterday. “Your father has difficulty in breathing… possible solution would be angioplasty… still need to run some tests… before we can wean him off of the tubes." His delivery was effortless, with just the right pinch of bedside manner.
Drinking what probably would be my fifth coffee for the day; I stare at the electric fan on the ceiling and think of its rotating blades, and wonder how many times it rotates in a second.
My father is sick. And I’m here in a hospital waiting room on New Year’s Eve waiting for the doctor to tell me when they can take off the tube in his mouth. All I could think about is going home with my father and tell him that he’ll outlive me and he can be the prophet he always claimed to be when my siblings and I were mere kids.
I used to hate him, my dad. Loathed him even. My coming out party was on 9-11 and I punched a cabinet door just to prove a point. He hated my gay guts. I hated his philandering gonads (at 63!). I stormed out of the house that night, stayed with my best friend in another city and came back home after 6 months when he had a stroke. He survived a fatal one. He was damn lucky. I had to wipe his ass for one whole week.
Truth be told as much as I hated my father, I love him in my own weird and dysfunctional way. We were dysfunctional to some extent, our family. We’re a Filipino family in the ghetto with the portrait of the Marcoses in our hallways. He is Catholic by choice, I think; but his parents were Seventh Day Adventists. And every time he’d be in one of his saviour moments (those times when he would be thinking that he would be the new Moses or something), he’d make his children sit in the living room and proclaim the gospels for hours. We’d be sitting there, me and my older siblings, looking at him standing in front of us, one hand holding a very worn out Bible, the other hand gesticulating while he spurts out the Gospels with such gusto and bravado like those televangelists we see on TV. He’d be in that mode for hours, thinking of salvation and rapture, while my mom would be by the kitchen door shaking her head thinking what a nut job my father was, while me and my siblings would be thinking of dinner. Anything, but this, would do. We could eat paper with mayonnaise and we’d be ok. I’m probably not alone in this, but back then, whenever he was having his salvific moments, I was thinking or even devising of ways to avoid fire and brimstone that was about to beset the sofa where me and my brother and sisters sat. I was thinking if I could fake shitting in my 6 year old pants and my mother would save me from Leviticus and Revelations. My brother and sisters were prolly thinking of faking a seizure or something. The living room sermon will all come to an abrupt end when my mother would finally announce dinner. Then we’d go scrambling to the kitchen and eat as fast as the Marcoses could say Honolulu. That’s my father, the new Moses.
I spent this Christmas in our house in Caloocan. The house is different now. The house in 4th Avenue has lost its old charm. It’s worn out now, despite the repairs my mother commissioned. It pretty much looks and even feels like my father’s worn out Bible. Me and my father, we’re tight now. Age (both his and mine) became the catalyst of our father-son bond. He doesn’t care that his son is a homosexual. He prolly doesn’t remember. But my mother tells me that he knows and he’s ok with it. I can hug him now, I can even kiss him. He gets teary eyed whenever I do that. He never spurts the Gospels like a garden hose but he never fails to give his fatherly wisdom: “You take care of yourself… Eat right… Exercise… Stop smoking… Work hard… “I nod and say the customary yeses and uhums every time he says these things. He walks with a make shift cane, made from some polished tree branch with like hundreds and hundreds of rubber bands on the handle so he can get a better grip of it. From a short distance he did look like Moses to me.
Three days later, the whole family (including my father’s siblings) agreed to confine him in the hospital. He had a heart attack at 3 am. I was in my box sleeping and only found out at 7 in the morning. One of my nieces left a message on my phone telling me that Tatay was in the intensive care unit. I closed my eyes and counted backwards. I was thinking of the last thing I said to him last Christmas that he’d outlive me… that he’d live to be a hundred or two.
It’s my second night at the hospital. I told my family that I would be staying with Tatay till Sunday so I can talk to the doctors. With all the medical jargon they tell us I didn’t want my mother to have an aneurism just trying to understand what caused my father’s heart attack. At least I have Google and some episodes of ER and House for some references. I’ve only seen him once since yesterday. He has this tube in his mouth which helps him breathe but it looked like it hurt. It did, according to the doctors that’s why they gave him some sedative. Tatay’s still lucid. He wanted the tube taken off. He wanted to drink and he wanted to eat. He wanted to go home. He prolly misses his old staff. Like some clichéd line that was pulled out from some Emmy Award winning series, I told him that we were going home once he gets well. That he needs to listen to the doctors and not threaten to punch the nurses (he did according to Nanay) and that he should not make Nanay worry and that he should not write “I Want To Die” on paper. He was still strong, I said. He was still gonna outlive me (he waved off his hand at that remark). I held on to his knee and said those words over and over again. It was effortless in my part. He gestured something, he wanted the blanket over his legs. My sister and I put it. I patted his knee. My sister kissed his cheek. I kissed his forehead. Put the customary sign of the cross on his forehead and told him that we will be outside.
My sister had tears when she went out. I didn’t. My eyes were dry. Did I want to cry? Hell yeah. But I couldn’t because I had to be strong for now. I remember reading somewhere, or someone telling me or some shit that came in a dream or something that in a room full of people crying, there’s always somebody mopping the floor.
I remember that story in the Bible, when Moses was holding the magic staff with his arms outstretched for hours while the Isrealites were fighting of whoever they were fighting off so that they could pass the desert and go to the Promised Land and Moses was getting shit tired because his arms were outstretched for hours and hours. There was a person helping him, supporting him (I think it was his brother Aaron or some dude named Joshua) so that the Isrealite army would go for the win. They won. I need to be that guy for my father right now. I need to be his Aaron and his Joshua and his devil’s advocate for now. I need to wait and pester the cardiologist to just lay down the cards to us and for the damn 2DECHO results to be interpreted by a person not by some search engine. And to be honest, I need to rant and rave about mortality and the human condition and all that crap that I learned in Philosophy school. I need to channel Nietzsche or Moses or some dead writer. In the end after one thousand four hundred and sixty five words, I realized that I am my father’s son. I embrace it.