On a day like this 25-some years ago, we would drive to CCP Complex and ride our bikes from a lot across Manila Bay. It was a Sunday family ritual that was always followed by chicken and ice cream at Jollibee along Roxas Boulevard. On a day like this, I hoard those memories over and over again, knowing I can no longer experience them, neither can my daughter.
In his final home in Fort Bonifacio, I always say, “I wish you were still here.” Like he was there. Like he can hear what was only said in secret, never aloud. Sometimes tears would fall, and I would pretend I have something in my eye. No matter how old we are, when we lose a parent and grief strikes, we transform into helpless children. With death, there is no “You are too old to cry.”
On a day like this four years ago, he saw Lia for the first time. The last time. He stopped talking to me prior; he disapproved of me getting married at 25. I think he only forgave me when he learned about Lia three years later. She was already one year old then.
His eyes sparkled when I handed Lia to him. “Ang gandang bata, Chie,” he complimented.
He held her like he once held me when I was still small: with warmth and openness, like I was his own and there is no other blood that separates us. This is his granddaughter. It didn’t matter if she has a different middle name. Just as it didn’t matter that I don’t carry his.
Then, a few months after they met, he left, never to return again. I asked the universe why I had a dream that he was chasing my daughter when she was three, but all I get are blank stares.
“You would have loved her. Maybe even more than you loved me,” I thought, heaving a puff from my cigarette. “She’s smart, funny and a voracious eater – just how you want all kids to be.”
She calls you angcong. And she asks where you are now.
The sound of the radio has died down now. All I hear are leaves rustling.