I dreamt of Tatay.
Tatay is a Filipino word for father. In our family, we use it to call our grandfather.
In my dream, I visited Tatay in their house. He was lying on the bed. Next to him is my Dad while Nanay, my grandmother, is sitting next to his feet.
I asked how Tatay is. Dad mumbled something.
Then I sat next to Tatay, cupped his face, looked at him in the eye and asked him who I am. He said my name, Leslee. Then he gently caressed my face, similar to the way he caressed it the last time we visited him in the hospital.
In my dream Tatay was staring at me, was looking deep into my eyes. But it seems he is staring blankly, like he cannot see me.
As we were locked into that gaze, his face changed into a young man. I recognize that face. It looks similar to one of the photographs hanging on the wall of my grandparents’ living room. That was Tatay’s face on his wedding day.
Then I woke up. There was heaviness in my chest.
Tatay is 89 years old. He just celebrated his birthday last November 7. I wasn’t there to greet him personally because a day before that I flew to Indonesia.
Two weeks before his birthday, he got into an accident. He slipped/fell as he was getting out of the bathroom. That dislocated one part of his thigh. He underwent an operation last October 31 to hinge the bones and was allowed to recover from home last November 5.
I clearly remember that night of November 5. We visited him in their house. Tatay has just gone out of the toilet and is sitting on the wheelchair. I was sitting in front of him taking in Tatay’s state.
Then he asked me, “Kailan ang iskedyul ng kasal mo?” (“When is the schedule of your wedding?”).
I stood up, smiled and gave Tatay’s hand a light squeeze.
Then I sat next to him, “Tatay, hindi po ako si Ate. Hindi po ako ang ikakasal.” (“Tatay, I am not Ate (my older cousin). I’m not the one who’s going to get married.”)
Tatay replied, “Alam ko. Iba yun. Yung kasal mo ang tinatanong ko.” (“I know. Her wedding is different. I am asking about your wedding.”)
I can only manage to give him a smile again as a reply, gave his hand a light squeeze for the second time and caressed his bruised hand where the dextrose was previously attached.
I talked to Dad today over Skype. I was asking him about Tatay. He filled me in on the details. Then I saw my sister’s newest FB post, a photo of her and Tatay, and I cannot help but swallow the knot which suddenly formed in my throat.
What makes this extra difficult is that I am not there.
I would have wanted to sit next to Tatay and listen as he recalls stories of how he courted Nanay,
of how he stole a kiss when she is not looking,
of how he told Nanay, “Akin ka na lang. Tapat ang pag-ibig ko sa ‘yo” (“Please be mine. I swear my love for you is real.”),
of his advices in choosing the person we will marry in the future,
of what he will say when he meets our future husband, “Mahal ko yan kaya sana mahalin mo rin.” (I love her so please love her too.”)
Tatay, the pain might be unbearable now as what you were whispering that time I was sitting next to you when you were in the wheelchair, “Napakasakit. Pero kailangan ko nang gumaling. Marami na ang nahihirapan. Ang Daddy mo nahihirapan na.” (It is too painful but I need to get well. Too many people are already being bothered. Your Dad for one.”)
Tatay, nobody is bothered.
Take as much time as you need.
We will always be here.
The whole family, near or far, will always be here.
We love you.
Please get well soon.
You still have to tell our future husband to love us… because Tatay loves us.