November makes me melancholic.
All the sh*t seems to happen on this month.
Mainly though, it’s because of the death of my grandfather. His death was by far the biggest blow in my life. That day was such a difficult time to handle and I still feel the effects to this day. He died on November 27, seven years ago.
My Heart Is Heavy So I Write This
I am now in Kuala Lumpur, typing this. I just came from beautiful and exotic Chiang Mai where I successfully attended an industry conference. I managed to network somehow as well. Overall, I had a great and productive time.
I should really be feeling happy.
But I am not. My heart is heavy. It has been heavy since November started. All because the death anniversary of my grandfather is right around the corner.
It was devastating to say my final goodbye to him.
And I still feel that sinking feeling in my stomach whenever I think about him. I miss him terribly and I regret that I am unable to spend more time with him.
Grandfather Was Instrumental in Shaping My Adventurous Outlook
I consider my grandfather as one of the main reasons why I have the guts to go on adventures, why I have a curious nature, and why I view the world in a generally positive and rosy light.
When my siblings and I were young and when school is out, our parents will cart us all to Sogod, Cebu. This is where my father is from and this was where my grandfather lived his life together with my grandmother.
Tatay, that was what we called him, was always happy to welcome us during school vacation. We would live at his place for around a month. This was our setup back then because both our parents had to work and so our grandparents had to watch over us.
Those were halcyon days indeed. Since my grandparents’ house was near the ocean, Tatay took us to swim almost every morning. That part of Cebu had no powdery white sand beaches. So, my first beach adventures were spent stepping on sharp ocean rocks and harvesting seashells for dinner. I was often sunburnt as a kid, but I didn’t care.
We had so much fun and I always got excited about those mini-adventures. Since the development in that area back then wasn’t pronounced, we’d trek through a jungle to get to the ocean. On rare occasions, I got to go during the evenings and watched as our neighbor fishermen got ready to go out to sea.
There weren’t any smartphones or computers back then. Just me with my siblings and grandparents, surrounded by lush rice paddies and greeted by the salty aroma of the ocean each morning. I was happy.
My grandfather was quite an adventurer himself. So, he encouraged his grandchildren’s curious nature. He didn’t get angry at us that much if we found ourselves in some childhood scrape or trouble. He comforted me when I needed strength. He gave me chores to develop my character without turning me into a pushover.
Sometimes, he’d take us to a river nearby. We’d picnic there or wash our clothes because that was how it was done back then. As a result, I spent so much time near bodies of water, lush forests, and hills when I was a wee child. This was how I fell in love with nature and why I always seek nature when life feels too oppressive.
But more than that, Tatay was always supportive. I used to spout all sorts of “dreams” and “what I want to become in the future” back then. He never discouraged. He encouraged and guided, and he showed us that he loved us. And I really love him for that.
Years Rolled by and Adulting Happened
As is always the case, kids grow up. I did. I went to college and so the trips to Sogod became scarce. Then I found work and I barely got to visit my grandparents. As I entered adulthood, Tatay entered his senior years.
Then he got sick. Diabetes.
I made the mistake of thinking that it was okay, that I had more time to see him. Until I didn’t.
One day, out of the blue, I heard from my father that Tatay has been hospitalized.
I was still working at an office back then. I was making progress in my career. I didn’t have the time to make that trip to Sogod, so I thought. Imagine that. I used to look forward to those trips when I was younger. The hours of riding to get there were fun; it was a road trip! But then “adulting” happened. I wanted to focus on my career. I wanted to spend time with my friends and my boyfriend that time.
But really, I simply didn’t want to spend time with my grandfather. Somehow, he has fallen by the wayside.
That Fateful Week
Few more days later, my father forced me to see my grandfather. He said that Tatay has become bedridden and was wasting away. That he couldn’t even speak anymore. That all of his grandkids had visited except for me and one other cousin who happened to be in Manila at that time.
I was mortified. I honestly hated myself for not going sooner. Really, what was so important for me to do that I did not make time to see the man who was practically a second parent and a huge part of my life? The man who raised me to become a confident and adventurous woman despite my introverted inclinations?
So, I went to Sogod. I visited Tatay at the hospital. He was indeed bedridden and was just a husk of the vibrant man that he used to be. My heart felt crushed.
Then, as I approached him on his hospital bed and called out his name, he recognized me. I saw a bit of strength come back to his body, even if he was unable to speak anymore. He couldn’t move much either because of all the medical contraptions hooked to his body.
I grasped his hand and I could feel him forcibly gather his strength just so he could squeeze my hand back. I wanted to cry right there but I couldn’t. I wanted to show him that everything was ok, that I will be okay. You see, I felt like he was waiting for me and he did not want to let go despite his suffering. I did not want him to suffer any longer.
“Tatay, it’s okay. We are going to be okay.” I held his hand for the longest time.
Then, visitation was over. I went back to my grandparents’ house to sleep.
The next day, my father came to my bed to wake me up. He simply said, “Tatay has left us. He has gone.”
My grandfather was gone.
That was definitely one of the saddest moments of my life.
And now, November is here again. I remember my grandfather’s death. I remember his life. I remember my happy childhood. I remember the man who helped raise me to love nature and to go after my dreams. I remember and regret once more that I did not go and see him immediately when I should have.
I miss my grandfather so bad.
Following My Grandfather’s Lessons in Life
November makes me melancholic. I cannot help it. Also, it seems that negative energies come to my life during this month. Right now, my grandmother on my mother’s side is sick and I am filled with worry about that. And as my grandfather’s death anniversary draws closer, the sadder I feel.
But I’m sure my Tatay will chide me for feeling down all the time.
So, I’ll honor him by continuing to find adventure and beauty in the world around me. I will celebrate his life by celebrating mine and those of my loved ones who are still with me on this earth.
I really just needed to write this as that is my main way of coping.
So, wherever you are right now Tatay, this is my love letter to you. This post I dedicate to you. May you be happy wherever you are now, enjoying the sunshine and having a grand adventure!
ADDENDUM: As I finished writing this, the neighborhood outside my hotel window erupted into a beautiful fireworks display. Apparently, they are celebrating the Deepavali holiday here in Malaysia. Would it be too much if I’d think that one of those fireworks was from my grandfather showing me his love and support? I’d like to think that is the case. 😊