I always believe that immortality isn’t real, and if there is, only God possesses that power. All people need is to spend enough time with their families because life isn’t forever. And sooner or later, one beloved may just pass away and the last thing you could ever do is just to offer a can of powdered milk and a box of biscuits.
It was a cold afternoon. After a long ride from Dumaguete, I finally got off the bus. I ordered a pack of sliced bread from a local bakeshop, and eyed my phone for the time. It was five o’clock. I needed to hurry. After a few minutes, I finally arrived at my grandpa’s little kubo. I fished a 50-peso bill from my wallet and gave it to the habal-habal driver.
It was a native house my mom built for him. My grandparents could no longer understand each other. My mom built a house for my grandma, too, ten meters away from my grandpa’s, so that they could have their own place to stay, at peace. Perhaps, they have outlived love and their age ravaged the promise they’d exchanged in the altar.
Theirs was a life so simple. Their houses were covered with trees, plants, chickens, and cows. I always visit them from time to time. I always go there to grab a glass of my grandpa’s fine coconut wine. And the last time I saw him, he was still in good condition. He could even manage to climb a 20-feet coconut tree at his age of seventy plus. He always offered me a drink. That was the good thing about him. He never ran out of coconut wine because he has got plenty of coconut trees.
“Lo, kumusta na man ka?” I asked upon entering the dim-lit room. He was looking at the window and I was sure he didn’t hear me, or even noticed me. He sat on my Winnie the Pooh sofa. I gave it to him when I went to college because I realized that I could no longer avail to sit on a kiddie sofa at the age of sixteen, even if I still liked it because it could rotate at 360 degrees.
“Lo?” I called again, louder this time. Then, he turned his head towards me. Surprised, he said in a soft manner, “Uy dong, ikaw diay na?” His sincere smile made my heart jump. Though it was hard for him to move, he leaned closer and hugged me. Perhaps, he missed me. I missed him, too. My grandparents have been always good to me. I was their favorite.
I have noticed that his skin has turned yellowish-white, so pale. He seemed to have no blood flowing through his veins at all. He smelled so old, too. I also wondered the last time he took a good, long bath. Or perhaps, he could no longer do that because he was tired and could no longer walk by himself. He was so thin, and when I hugged him, he was so puny, just like a child. I kissed his forehead and we sat down.
“Kumusta na man ka dong? Dugay na man kang walay anhi-anhi,” he asked.
“Gwapo giyapun.” He smiled as quickly as I gave my answer. “Busy man gud kog skuyla lo.” Then, I pulled a plastic bag underneath my chair and placed it in my lap. I showed him a can of Bear Brand, a bottle of Efficascent oil, a pack of sliced bread, a plastic container full of biscuits, and a box of vitamins – Vitamin C and Vitamin-B complex capsules.
“Ako diay ning gipalit para nimo lo,” I said, smiling at him. I told him to drink two glasses of milk everyday, morning and night. I also encouraged him to take the vitamins because it would help him recover faster.
He just nodded, and then looked away. “Gikapuy na man ko dong.”
“Ayaw ana lo. Mawala imong ka-gwapo ana. Pa-hospital man daw ta ingon si Mama. Ugma dagway.”
He shook his head, “Kapuy na man. Diri na lang ta.” He called my aunt and asked her to give me something to drink.
“Dili raba ko magdugay lo. Muuli rako dayon run.”
He paused for a while. He looked down as if disappointed. We were silent for a couple of minutes. He looked so weak. He was as fragile as a child inside his mother’s womb. He had lost the strength of his early years.
“Pero mubalik rapud ko sunod Sabado lo,” I said in assurance.
He looked up and said, “Ato na lang timplahon ning gatas dayun mangaon ta.” I nodded. The truth was that I was full. I just didn’t want to hurt his feelings anymore. We had a nice talk after that. I told him to be strong, and assured him that he would be okay. I promised him that I’d come back, too.
At seven o’clock that evening, I went back to Dumaguete. I have felt a sense of relief. I had encouraged him to take the vitamins and medicines on time, and he was attentive to that. I couldn’t wait to come back. I was happy and at the same time sad because it was not so long ago when the two of us were planting Kamatis seeds together. The seeds were my birthday gift for him. He has a green hand. He was always good at taking care of his plants. He was a natural farmer.
My phone beeped. It was a message from my aunt. I checked the time and it was nine o’clock in the morning. I stood up, grabbed a shirt and realized that I was still sleepy so I went back to my bed. I remembered my trip the other night, and I was hoping that a few days from now, grandpa would be fine. I took my phone to read the message: “Dong anhi niya diri. Patay na man si lolo nimo. Gipangita baya ka ato ganiha. Bag-o pa jud.”
Note: This is a true story. This story was published in the Features page of the Negros Oriental State University Weekly Student Publication under my pseudonym The Soulhunted. My grandfather, Keliano Gantalao, passed away on November 2011. I wrote the first draft a day after his death. May this story touch your hearts.