I'm late, as usual.
The idea of this blog came to me when I prepared for bed yesterday. It was a good day, with me and my parents eating more rice than the previous night even if we've been having the same fish sinigang for dinner almost every night. Dad was very cooperative; he ate his meal and had himself cleaned and dressed by Mom and me without complaining, and even seemed to enjoy the attention. It was almost like handling a baby! Best of all, he smiled. That was worth waiting until midnight for my turn to do my evening rituals.
And then, at 2:30AM, with barely a couple of hours of sleep, I was roused by my mother. Dad's nappies were soiled and had to be changed -- and we had to let him finish a few more minutes before we could freshen him up. How apt it was for me to have thought of it like handling a baby. It was going to be a long night. And it was just the beginning of a Tuesday, with the workday looming like a sales deadline.
It was, I think, in 2004 when I lent Dad my copy of Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. He started reading it on the plane to Narita Airport and finished it on a bus in Tokyo. He wept with sympathy for the old man in the story who eventually could not wipe his own ass and reluctantly had to let go of the independent life he once had. It was also around that time when Dad started contemplating about his age and his aging (see a bit of it in this old blog entry). He was worried about reaching that point in his life when he can no longer fend for himself. Over lunch by the poolside in the sports club where we spent many happy weekends, he admitted that he was terrified of being helplessly old. He was past 76, working as he had always been in government, driving an SUV. riding the MRT when he had the chance, and sending text messages to us at least thrice a day. He was strong for his age, yet he was fully aware that each day was a lucky card, and that luck would soon wear out.
Daddy was talking to me as though I was beyond my 25 years. I could only scratch the surface even if I tried to bury myself in his concerns. Yet I treasured that one hour with him, when I became not only a daughter but a confidant. And I will always remember how he looked that day, that seemed like any other day then but is now only a distant memory of how he used to dress: his cropped white hair which he still brushed with pomade to keep it from standing up like a fauxhawk, his clean-cut, after-shave scented face, his trusty Timex, the neatly pressed opaque barong with his elegant cufflinks, his trousers that naturally fell below his waist to accommodate his round belly, and his comfy rubber-soled Florsheims. He spoke with such a gentle yet powerful voice, with each word carefully enunciated, wishing to be forever etched in the convolutions of my immature brain:
"Love your mother and all of your siblings. Be honest in your work and in everything you do. Always be humble. Do not stay where you are not happy. Be careful of whom you trust unconditionally. But more importantly, just love. And be prepared to love greatly with a big heart."
He drove me back to the office while I was trying to hide my tear-streaked cheeks with makeup. He was so proud of me earning my own income and recently getting promoted. He was hoping I would still pursue higher education, and that maybe I had found the one whom I would marry.
We held hands before I got out of the CRV. Part of me was worried that he might have a health problem that prompted him to suddenly give me The Talk, but for the most part I was grateful that I was just there to listen to him.
It had been an hour now since Dad's diapers were changed, but the mixed smells of soiled wipes and baby powder kept me from going back to sleep. I felt like a young mom dreading the sleepless nights that came with caring for a human being who didn't know how his bodily functions disrupted my own. I looked over my own mother, who carefully removed her latex gloves to wrap in the used underpad, swiftly going through the motions in such a calm, orderly manner. Her quick yet quiet movements seemed to teach me the most important thing I could ever learn as a woman: grace. That is the one trait that keeps her frustrations at bay, that fills her heart with patience, that keeps her frail and fractured body able enough to still be at her husband's side. And I am determined to be her devoted pupil as we transition into this phase in our lives.
I hope to document in this blog all of our little milestones, to bring you into the world of oldsitting/elderly caregiving, which may not be as cute as a baby's "firsts" book, but is nonetheless such a wonderful world to be in. There will definitely be more difficult Tuesdays than this in the coming weeks, but we shall journey through them with the hope of brighter Tuesdays (and other days) with Daddy.