In our family, birthdays were used as a means to have a gathering, to celebrate together and to have fun. We often found ourselves trooping to whoever’s house was designated for the party’s venue bringing any food, drinks or gifts we can carry along. My mom has two other siblings: her twin (yes, it runs in the family) and her older sister. Each sister has a family of her own. My mom has 4 kids, my Mama Esper 5 and my Nanay Remy 2. So counting all the spouses and kids, there were 20 more or less of us. Oh and yes, it does extend to our boyfriends and girlfriends who we happen to drag whenever possible.
We used to look forward to a birthday celebration but all of that suddenly change one October morning. My cousin’s girlfriend woke us up with tragic news: my Uncle Tony, Nanay Remy’s husband was dead.
Our beloved uncle was a victim of hit and run. My parents along with Mama Esper, Papa Arnold and Tatay Tony were on their way home from a cousin’s birthday celebration. My Nanay Remy was not there but I can’t remember anymore why. Papa Arnold and Mama Esper were going to bring my parents home in Cainta because we live about 5 minutes away from them. Tatay Tony has alighted earlier to cross over to the other side of the road as he was on his way to Manila. They had barely left the location where they dropped Tatay Tony when they heard a loud sickening thud.
As they looked back and scanned the other side of the road, they assumed the worst when they did not see Tatay Tony. The four of them went out of the vehicle and searched for Tatay Tony. He was lying there on the side of the road, bloodied and barely breathing. The van that has hit him has sped off and nowhere to be seen.
I can just imagine how my parents, my aunt and my uncle felt at that moment. We were all very fond of our Tatay Tony because he was such a funny and kind person.
When we heard the news, we cannot believe it because we have never experienced death in our adult life. Someone has died before but we were too young to understand the meaning of grief. We cried our hearts out and I felt for the first time the heartache of losing someone you love. It was gut wrenching and no matter how hard you cry and cry out, the pain in my chest didn’t seem to lessen.
I am afraid of looking at caskets for reasons I don’t understand. As such, you would see me in wakes but I usually try not to look at the person lying at the front, lifeless and cold. With Tatay Tony, I did not just look at him, I even touched him to say goodbye. The pain in my heart was so heavy and seemed endless and it was so strong that I was able to physically feel it.
It has been years since Tatay Tony has left. Birthdays are no longer celebrated like before. It was as if the whole family reached an unspoken agreement and we try to be cautious and not try the fates any more. We still celebrate birthdays but it is no longer the same.
They say that memory fades with time. But I can still remember Tatay Tony’s face in my mind like he was here just yesterday. I think it’s not as easy to forget the memory of someone you deeply love. No matter how much more time passes, I will always remember.
Nanay and Tatay are Filipino words meaning Mother and Father respectively. We use these words not only for our parents but also for relatives or someone we consider as second parents to us.
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