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My All-time Favorite Guy

If I had to pick just one person I’d get to spend a day with anywhere in the world, I would have to say, hands down I would pick my Lolo. He has and always will be my hero and it dawned on me earlier today that this month marks the fourteenth year since he passed away.

I can still see that day in my head, the day he bid us farewell. That was the saddest and most painful day in my life.

Since he died, I have only dreamt of him twice, both on very trying times in my life. And in those dreams, he told me the same thing: it’s okay.

Today as I was sitting in front of my computer trying to force down my morning oatmeal, I saw him vividly in front of me and he said it once again, “It’s okay”. It was just so timely because lately I’ve been struggling with a lot of intrusive thoughts that make me question the direction of my life and what it is exactly I want for myself. More so, I’ve been questioning my competence a lot and feeling like a failure for not being able to finish my graduate studies, which is perhaps one of the few things I started but never really finished. Then he says, it’s okay…either way, it’s okay.

And with that, I think I can say, yes, I’m okay 🙂 Thinking about him made me dig up the archives of one of my old blogs, and found a post I wrote about him that I want to also share here. This was a post I wrote two years ago and in many, many ways, what I wrote then  still holds true today.

There’s a song in my head, it’s been playing like a broken record over and over again. It started when I caught Miley Cyrus singing it on Oprah while I was channel surfing. In the show, she sang the song “I miss you”. In the background was a heart-shaped locket with the photo of her grandfather on it. It had a catchy tune, and it sounded kinda nice, so much as it may seem like such a juvenile song for someone like me, I went and downloaded it and put it on my ipod.  All this week I listened to it often, specially when I would be stuck in the car on my way to work. Every time I’d hear it, I’d feel a lump form in my throat and tears well-up in my eyes. Today, however, it hit home hard. I missed my lolo so much I could barely see straight.

It’s been about a dozen years now since he passed and while the pain of missing him has faded much over the years, there are days, like now, when the sadness is so fresh and raw that it really takes my breath away. At times I wish he were here to see me as I am living out my dreams, and succeeding in so many ways. Even though I knew he wouldn’t see me, when I first lost weight I went to the cemetery to show him how thin I was because that was the one thing I was never able to give him when he was alive. I remember crying so much that day because I wished I could see him smile and tell me “I knew you could do it”.

Earlier this afternoon my mom was trying to convince me to come and join the family for prayers at his gravesite. I chose not to, even jokingly saying “sabi naman ni lolo don’t bother kasi it’s not like he’ll see me there anyway”. While he did tell me that when I was younger, I used it as an excuse not to go. When she turned around, I told my mom, “and besides, masasad lang naman ako if I go”. So I stayed home and tried to get some work done, but to no avail.

I then got to thinking about my lolo and how much of a great person he was for me. I have come across a lot of people who have taught me a lot, but a lot of my most important life lessons I learned from him. Though these may be common lessons, or perhaps clichés at times, these are my favorite lessons from him:
1.    Don’t wait till someone is gone to let them know what they mean to you. I remember when he told me this. I was sitting on his desk, keeping him company while he ate. This was still in our old house in Urdaneta. I was eating chocolates, Hershey’s kisses I think, and he said he liked them too. Somewhere in our conversation we ended up talking about dying and visiting the dead and bringing them flowers or what-not. I don’t really know where that conversation began, but bottom line, I said I’d take some kisses to his grave when the time came. Then he said, what for? It’s not like I can eat it from where I’ll be. So from there, I learned not to wait. When I’d have the chance, I’d bring him chocolate and we’d eat it, just the two of us, while watching basketball in his lazy-boy.

2.    Say sorry like you mean it. Oh, how can I forget this lesson. Again, we were at his desk, and I was preparing his milk. He had this concoction he liked, it was (or at least as far as I remember) fresh milk, Sustagen and some honey. After mixing it, I set it in front of him. The problem was he was reading the paper, and he flipped the page at the same time I placed the glass in front of him. Of course there was a major collision. Then he got upset about me being careless and started raising his voice. After some discussion, I said “sorry na nga e!”. That infuriated him even more! He said if I was just gonna apologize that way to just forget it.  Even though we both were at fault, he said, I had no reason to apologize like I didn’t mean it.

3.   Just because I love you doesn’t mean I’ll take your side. I used to be very mayabang and say no matter what, I’m sure lolo will be on my side. Granted it worked many, many times (which I bet my cousins’ hated!), I was shocked to learn that there was a limit to how much he would take my side. As a child I used to think that when you loved someone, it didn’t matter what he or she did, you HAD to forgive and HAD to choose their side over others. I think it was very much like the “blood is thicker than water argument”. However, one day my mom and I got into this huge fight and she said if I couldn’t live by her rules I should get out of her house. So mayabang me said “fine, I’ll go live with lolo”. Ah, little did I know that this time, he would not take my side. Maybe it was because he loved my mom too  ( 😉 ) but he explained that even though he wanted to let me stay with him, he was not going to take my side. I couldn’t get it and I felt quite betrayed by him at that point but eventually, he explained that it was not a matter of taking sides, but a matter of learning how to respect others, take responsibility for my actions and to compromise. With this lesson I learned that just because you loved someone doesn’t mean I have to stick by them if I knew what they were doing was wrong.

4.    Let it be, huwag kang pikon!. Being one of the most pikon children ever, my cousins seemed to find pleasure in picking on me about anything and everything. In hindsight I think it was because of my very OA reactions that made them want to pick on me even more, but growing up, it wasn’t very easy to just let them be and not to be a crybaby. Every time I’d get pikon, I’d run to my lolo and make sumbong. At first he’d act like he was on my side, but it seems that this was only to pacify me for the meantime. After I’d stop crying, he’d ask me if my crying or making sumbong gets me anywhere. He asked if these techniques solved my problems. I don’t remember what I’d answer, and maybe growing up I never learned that lesson but now that I’m an adult, I catch myself thinking that whenever I get sideswiped by some lame-ass driver (oops, getting carried away here…a little of that pikon girl still exists after all!) or perhaps when someone cuts in front of me in a line. While I rant and complain about these people, I stop and realize, bakit, may maaabot ba ang pagngangawa kong iyan?.

5.    Take responsibility for your actions. As mentioned in my previous lesson, lolo always wanted me to learn about taking responsibility. I may have learned this too much because at times I take responsibility for other people’s actions as well!!! Seriously, however, I recall how I learned this lesson. I went to Landmark after a day of browsing (aka private reading in the bookstore) the shelves of Sweet Valley High in Goodwill bookstore in the old mall in Makati (I think it was Northmall or something like that, the one close to where the old theater used to be). He had sent me to get some things for him in the grocery on my way home. While in line at the cashier, I killed time by looking through the magazines. Because I was so preoccupied, I did not notice that either I dropped my cash or got pick-pocketed because when I went to pay, my money was gone. I cried to him when I got home and said it wasn’t my fault that happened. He said that even if someone else was involved in whatever happens to me, I always play a role in it. He taught me not to be the helpless victim and reminded me to acknowledge my role in whatever comes my way. He said that while it is true that I may not be to blame, it doesn’t mean I’m free of any responsibility of what may happen.

6.    What happens with others is their business. I will be the first to admit. I’m tsismosa. I like being in the loop when people are talking or when things happen around me. I even have this tendency to try and give my two-cents all the time, even when it was unwarranted. When we were younger, I used to meddle all the time in my younger cousins and sister’s arguments. I’d act like the mediator and would force my way into their fights. One time it backfired on me. Maia, Chrissy and Gabbie were having one of their spats, and I kept insisting to Maia that she listened to me and be friends na with Chrissy and to not bully Gabbie into being mad at Chrissy also. To make the long story short, I just succeeded in getting the girls in a bigger mess and I ended up the one crying. My lolo asked why I was crying and when I explained it to him he said “eh kasali ka ba diyan?”. Oo nga no, di naman ako involved, nakikisawsaw lang.

7.    To be fair does not always mean to be equal. I suppose the constructs of fairness and equality are very similar, but because of lolo, I learned that when you are fair, you don’t have to be equal. Being fair meant giving what is due, and being equal is simply that: giving everyone the same piece. While growing up I have to admit I got a good chunk of a lot of things (attention, money, rewards…) he made it a point to remind me he was doing this because I deserved it. So sometimes when I hear myself say “it’s not fair”, I stop and think about it because maybe it is fair, and I just don’t realize it because I am not on the winning end of things.

8.    It’s not important if you’re number one, what’s important is you do your number-one best. On the outside, I may seem like a confident and self-assured individual. On the inside, I am the exact opposite. That’s why I always had to be number one. Being first covered up all my insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. Lolo used to see through that pretense of confidence and call me out for my competitiveness, especially with my cousin Andy and my sister Chrissy. He said that I tended to think that if I beat them, I was good. He said I had to learn to be proud of my own thing, whatever that may be, and not to always have to be better than someone else to feel good about myself. This is a lesson I always tell my preschoolers. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the top of the list, or if you have the best work. What matters is you tried your damned hardest, even if this doesn’t measure up to others’ standards. I used to think being the best was the most important thing. And just because others may be better than you, this doesn’t make you any less, as long as you do your number one best.

9.    Do good even when others don’t do good. I have always been a goody-two- shoes. Not too long ago, my cousin Anamie and I were reminiscing about lolo and she said that growing up, they (meaning she and my cousins) often got irritated with me because I was such a “good girl”. That’s why they’d always tease me and pick on me. When my sister and I would fight, she always knew my Achilles’ heel: calling me a goody-two-shoes. It’s true: I never tried to make takas, I never broke curfew (then again maybe it’s because I never had a curfew ☺) and I never got hooked on smoking, drinking and the like. It’s not that I was afraid of getting caught, it just never seemed interesting to me nor was I attracted to it. Not too long ago in a therapy session, I was asked why I was so uncomfortable with the title The Good Girl. I said it was because everyone was doing the opposite of me, and I didn’t want to be the one singled out. After some processing I realized, maybe I never got involved in the bad stuff because lolo always taught me that it was okay to be different and that just because others were doing it, I didn’t need to do it too.

10.    When you love someone, you love all of them. When I say love all of them, I mean this literally. Being a fat kid, I often felt unloved and unattractive. Add to that the fact that I come from a beautiful breed…literally! If you see pictures of my family, I can say there is not one unattractive face in the bunch. Well, except me. Or so I thought. As a child I was always the least attractive because of my weight. But with lolo, I always felt that he loved me even if I was as big as a hippo. He loved me even with my yucky, kinky matted hair, my smelly armpits and everything else in between. While he always encouraged me to try to go on a diet, he always said that as long as I was happy, he’d be by my side and that he’d love me no matter what.

When I started working as a psychologist in my clinic, I had to go through some personal stuff in order to make me a more effective therapist. I remember one time a colleague and I were discussing, or should I say attempting to work through some of my inner demons, and she asked me to tell her about my childhood. As we discussed it, I saw how much stuff I’ve gone through in my life: good, bad, very bad, oh-my-god-that’s-terrible-bad…and despite all that I made it out in the straight and narrow. She asked me what it is that made me so resilient through all those difficulties, and I said I didn’t know. She said that the way she saw it, it was because I had someone like my lolo in my life.

I know she was right.

So this Father’s Day, I thank God for giving me a lolo like mine. I ask Him to tell my lolo that I miss him so much, and if I could sing to him, I’d sing that song that’s ringing in my head.

I miss you
I miss your smile
And I still shed a tear every once in a while
And even though it’s different now
You’re still here somehow
My heart won’t let you go
And I need you to know
I miss you

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check out my other blogs! Fat Girl No More | Daydream Believer | Teacher Ria | OnADietDaw