Thursday, July 6, 2006

Goodbye Lolo...

I was at the gym when I got the news. After my workout, I went to the locker room to check my cellphone. My dad texted me: Patay na lolo mo. He just left 45 minutes ago. My partner Rye was outside on the treadmills. I went out to tell him I couldn’t board anymore. I didn’t want to cry, but I broke down in his arms as soon as I told him that my lolo had passed away.

Driving to the gym that morning, a tiny yellow butterfly sat on the windshield of my car. It just stayed there for a couple of minutes, mindless of the strong wind that was pushing against its soft wings as I drove. I looked at it, and for a fleeting moment I thought of my lolo. What if this was his spirit already, bidding his farewell? I whispered a prayer: Wag naman Lord. My dad’s flight is tomorrow pa. Let him say goodbye to Lolo first.

The butterfly was my lolo’s spirit. He kissed me goodbye.

I have happy memories of my lolo. He loved me more than anything else. I was his favorite apo. We used to live with them in their big house in Mandaluyong. At night, we would always sit side by side on our garden grotto. My lolo would make himself a big glass of Birch Tree milk. And he would hand me an equally big glass of Milo, without water. I would munch on the crunchy brown granules, sitting beside him, while he told me many, many stories. I can’t remember the stories anymore, but the clear picture of the old man with the kind eyes, sitting beside the little girl, teeth all brown with Milo, is forever engraved in my memory.

After we moved to our own place in San Juan, I would go to his house and spend the weekends there. One time, I forgot to bring my toothbrush. So that night, we were all in his and lola’s bedroom, watching TV – lolo, lola, Tita Monette and Tita Ayet (my Dad’s youngest sisters). I stepped out of the bathroom and announced that I forgot to bring my toothbrush, and asked if there was anyone willing to lend me theirs. Tita Monette and Tita Ayet laughed – yuck! Ayaw nga namin magpahiram ng toothbrush! My lolo gave me a hug and said – sige apo, gamitin mo yung sa akin.

This was a long time ago. We all moved to BF Quezon City in 1991. Once again we lived with my lolo and lola in one house. Good times. Then around 1993 they – lolo, lola, Tita Monette and Tita Ayet - migrated to the US.

We only had one visit from them, one Christmas season during my college years. But even if we lived seas and continents apart, the bond I shared with my lolo was never broken. Everytime we spoke on the phone during special occasions, he would always cry and say Annejoy, yung favorite kong apo. Mahal na mahal kita.

I graduated from college, worked in my dad’s school, moved a few steps up the ladder, resigned, became a DJ for Wave – my lolo was there to witness everything through conversations on the phone, or pictures and stories sent thru email. I sent him details of my achievements – a copy of my album review column for a glossy magazine, a picture of myself when I was featured in Chalk, my KBP Golden Dove Award for Best Radio Jock. Lolo was so proud of me. I was, and forever will be, his favorite apo.

If you check out his wallet, the only picture you’ll see is MY picture. No snapshots of my lola, who passed away years before. No photos of his sons and daughters. Just the smiling picture of a young girl – ME – his most loved granddaughter.

I was about to end this when I remembered another story. Lolo always wanted me to go the US and visit him. He said he has money saved up for my plane tickets. I never found the time.

My dad went to visit him sometime last year. They were in a car shop. Dad wanted to buy this really high-tech car alarm system. When he was about to pay, Lolo fished out his wallet and told my dad – eto pera, boy. Bilhan mo rin si Annejoy ng ganiyan. He knew I just bought my own car. He wanted to buy that special alarm for me. My dad said – wag na. Tago mo nlang yan. May pera naman yun. Dun na siya bibili.

I think I have some pictures of my lolo somewhere in my photo album. My dad showed me a picture of him during his most recent visit, about three months ago. He looked very, very old. So much different from the picture I have of him in my memory. He was already getting sick and very weak that time. He suffered from a stroke, his second or third in his lifetime. After that, he gradually withered.

Now, my lolo is resting in peace. I know he is happy. God has sent angels down to bring him up to Heaven, where my lola awaits. But before he succumbed to his last breath, his spirit fluttered over me this morning, farewell butterfly kisses.

Goodbye, Lolo. I love you and I will always remember you.

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