UNKNOWN to him and everyone, my younger brother had at one time during our high school years nicknamed him Firecat, because a movie entitled “Flash and the Firecat” was then being shown at the Roxy. The action flick had not only featured girls in bikinis, but also flaming orange hot rods and dune buggies as well. And because our father during that time drove like a mad racer, it had become standard procedure for my poor old mom to go ride with us to church on Sundays in the front seat with her feet planted firmly against the glove compartment, below the dashboard.
I figured then; it must have been a welcome change for him to now handle a large Galaxy other than the beat-up station wagon that distinctly had one rear window covered with plywood where the glass used to be. Not only that. It had the uncanny habit of regularly conking out in the middle of Bankerohan bridge (of all places) whenever he drove us to a school in Matina every morning. My brothers and myself, would then alight with heads bowed very low and in our fresh khakis and white polos, push that Calfur jalopy until it burst back to life. As if on cue, the Philippine Women’s school bus would always pass by, while its pretty load of girls gleefully peeped out the windows.
Alas, that’s only one of the million memories I have while growing up with our now-departed father. In more ways than one, I was sure he grew up with us too. To think, that much-storied time had come even before the advent of grandchildren. Back then, he was intent on molding us into mature adults (as he always said when we were in second year high) so much that, thank the heavens, when the outpouring of grandchildren, great, and great-greats finally did come, he had already mellowed down full turn and the tag of the Firecat was no more.
My dad passed away peacefully in his sleep on the morning of January 22, 2022 at the age of 93. For some numerology people, that’s a good combination right there, whatever that meant. I understand that perhaps, they only mention that to ease a little our pain.
Another peculiar thing I have heard a lot from people lately. Since he died in his early nineties, they reiterate that was already a bonus in itself, as if “bonus life”, as in the context of computer games, was now the prevailing unit of measure for assessing one’s existence in the world. I’d love to live to be a hundred or more if I could.
My father, in all of 93 years, had shared with us so many facets and phases of his life (including that of being a musician and a sportsman). His rich timeline had included a dashing all-in-white young dad standing by the roadside in Ponciano, a sporty grandad in tennis shorts playing with his apos and finally, a frail and shrunken old man confined to the drab cell-of-a-bed.
Still, I imagine through those eyes, he had witnessed the world change, from the almost black and white of wartime to the neon greens and other vivid imageries of today. He saw it all and as he did with all his most beloved grand, great and great-great children, he embraced it all. Only in a passion I rarely saw in others. No one should ever see longevity as a fat bonus. To love all you are blessed with, that is the only reward. I love you more than you’ll ever know pops.
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