Unknown to him and everyone, my younger brother had at one time during our high school years nicknamed him Firecat, because of the way he drove the family car. At that time, 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 he was like the mad racers in the movie, he became Firecat. It had become a common sight to see my poor old mom ride in the front seat with her feet propped up firmly against the glove compartment while on the way to church on Sundays.
During those times, I figured, it must have been a welcome change for him to handle (or mishandle) the large Ford Galaxy his close friend and co-worker had lent him. That huge car was definitely much better than the beat-up station wagon that he regularly used for a time. for one, it distinctly had one rear window totally-covered with plywood where the glass used to be. Also, it had the uncanny habit of regularly conking out in the middle of Bankerohan bridge (of all places) every time he drove us to our high 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 bursts back to life. Then, as always, this happens as if on cue; the Philippine Women’s school bus would come pass by, with its pretty load of girls gleefully peeping out the windows (and some acquaintances cheering us on).
Alas, that was one of my fondest and unforgettable memories of growing up with our now-departed father. I often like to think, it must be, in more ways than one, he grew up with us too. Before the coming of grandchildren, he was our drill sergeant, serious in instilling discipline in the house. In his own words, this was needed to mold us into mature adults. However, with the coming of grandchildren, greats, and much later, great-greats, he took a full turn and mellowed down. Thus, 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. Some of his friends who believed in numerology had said that was a good combination right there. I only take it; they only say that to ease our pain a little. 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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