It has been a week now since we celebrated Papa’s 40th day. Catholics believe that like Jesus, the souls of the faithful departed linger here on earth for 40 days, visiting for the last time people and places significant to them before they finally go up the Pearly Gates. The count begins from the time of his death.
Those 40 days had also been significant to us, the family he left behind, as it was a time for us to grieve, pick up the pieces, and slowly reconfigure a new normal.
The new normal asks us to be each other’s support, to watch each other’s back, as the Pader ng Tahanan have already passed on. This is the first lesson we all had to learn and it came in a not-so-classy package about a couple of days after papa’s burial. I was up in my room resting on a Monday afternoon when I heard a loud conversation downstairs. It was Mama and Babs (youngest sis) talking to a male voice. Out of utter tiredness, I did not come down and just tried to eavesdrop on their talk. It turned out that the male voice was coming from a gas tank hose salesman and he is demonstrating its safety features. The two were already sold on the product and they wanted the salesman to install it as according to Babs, “Wala na kaming lalaki dito sa bahay kaya pakikabit na lang.” Then they called on me to shell out some cash for the payment. I was infuriated. To some extent, I think my ego took a slight whipping because of the statement but I almost instantaneously realized that I could never really play the part of the “lalaki ng bahay,” and I will never aspire to be one. What really got my goat was the fact that they are exposing our home to possible attacks as they proclaim our collective vulnerability. I made them realize that as soon as the salesman stepped out. I was shouting while telling them, “di na ba uso ang nag-iisip ngayon?!”. The salesman had companions outside our door. Too many perfect crimes could have been committed and we’d be helpless. None of us were talking until the next day, when we all had clearer minds. They got my point but I said sorry for the way I delivered it. Papa is silent on most occassions but his mere presence is more than enough to assure us that we are safe and that when we are threatened, there’s a father we can run to. All that is gone now and we all have to pitch in to fill that hole.
The new normal tells us that Papa, who stood for the familiar, is already gone. I realized this in a conversation I had with a close friend over the weekend. She was telling me how whenever she enters our house up until now, she’d still look to the direction of the sofa bed in front of the good TV expecting to see Papa. It was his physical domain. People visiting us would usually see him in that corner of the house answering a Sodoku puzzle or watching TV. It’s true for me too even on a wider scale. The customary “Pa, alis na po ako,” every morning, and the mano when I get home after work are some things I miss. Even the carrot juice is extract for him every morning in the hopes of abating his cancer, which for the record takes me around 20-30 minutes to do, is a goner now. The routines are gone now, time to make new ones.
On the upside, the new normal also now tells us that after that all she has gone through, Mama deserves to be pampered. While Papa stood for strength, Mama was a perfect example of fortitude. She run the house while attending to Papa (and his relatives) in the hospital while her children played supporting roles. Unimaginable is the scenario had she not been gifted with that grace. And now that the dust is almost settled, she now has time to tend to herself and we, her children, are afforded time to surprise her everyday and to think about our future. Joke is around now as to who of us three should give her her first apo. Now that is something to look forward to.