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How about a holiday in the islands of grief?

It’s been a while and I think I just need to get rid of the notion/thought that I need a reason to post here because a) I used to just post whatever I wanted, and b) I should just do that again. And the lack of updates usually indicates Too Much Shit Happening, rather than the opposite.

If I didn’t have anything to deal with, I’d probably be on here 24/7, but then again, that’s what Twitter is for.

I’m in the middle of several tornadoes (I think, anyway), but I guess the biggest, worst one is my dad’s dad dying last June 10. He had been sick, bedridden, and unresponsive for a few years, so for me, his actual death was kind of like a second mourning. Like, it still caught me off-guard, but the rational part of me is a dick and is like, “Well, why are you so surprised?”

When he was still alive, I kept thinking about how I missed him, which was always followed by the thought that I probably shouldn’t post that caption or tweet—that I missed him—because it made it seem like he was dead, even though he wasn’t. Not yet, then, anyway. Not technically.

I was in Chicago for his last birthday. I couldn’t make it home in time. And then I lost my passport and had to stay there just a bit longer. I told myself I’d make it up to him when I got back, but I don’t even remember the last time I went to go visit him. Which, frankly, makes me feel like shit, but that’s just a thing that happened that I can’t take back.

Honestly, he was one of the best, most magical people. I also think that this view of him I have is probably influenced by how highly other people speak of him. To me, he was just Tatay, my lolo who I owe a lot of myself to, who didn’t care if he ate corn on the cob messily, who cut too-tight shirt collars neatly down the middle (only to reattach both sides together again with a strip of masking tape), who liked crushing Ritz Bits and sprinkling them over Cookies and Cream ice cream, who’d rather do the inconvenient thing than hurt people he considered his family, who spoke brazenly about the things he knew to be true.

In another, less gooby, part of my brain, I’m held in awe. When catch myself being a shitty person, I think about him and how he’d probably handle the many messes in his life, in his deeply flawed, human way, and it helps me be a slightly less shitty person. When it feels so, so easy for me to give up and be lazy, I think about how those were things he never did, and pulling through feels a little easier to do.

When he started losing his memory, my dad would quiz him a little, just tests here and there.

“Who is Akira Kurosawa?”
“A filmmaker.”

“Naaalala niyo pa po ba si Ina?”
“‘Yung mahilig magbasa.”

I think there is something quite nice to be found in the thought that, to someone, you’re frozen in time forever, in theory. Tatay never really saw me get involved in art, which I don’t think is something he wanted us to be a part of, necessarily. He never knew me apart from “Reader” and “Writer,” his apo with a short fuse, funny hair, misplaced angst. There are so many things I’d like to say to him about work, our dogs. I miss hearing him laugh, even if it wasn’t usually at any of my jokes.

It’s just weird when I think about all the different versions of me he never got to know. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I miss the conversations we never even got to have. A bit of a strange feeling, I guess.

I think that’s where most of my grief comes from. He never really got to know me as I am now (or the people I’d been in the last ten or so years), and I don’t think I tried hard enough to get to know him beyond how I knew him. I still keep finding new things about him that I didn’t know about before. It’s strange and sad in a way that I suppose deaths are, most of the time.

I keep accidentally finding parallels in both of our lives. Like how he did graphic design and worked in publishing before becoming a full-time artist. Like how he painted on the side, while he waited for things to happen. And these small, probably inconsequential, discoveries—because I can’t share them with him—makes him feel both closer and farther away.

I don’t really know how to write about it “properly.” The more I think about him, the sadder about it I get. Which probably explains why I’ve been hunting for diversions. Just when I thought I’d filled every crevice of myself with stuff to do or learn or read or write or Google, a cavernous void opened up, and I don’t know what to do except to find more stuff to do.

There are waves of grief. Or, more accurately, pulses of it, which hit me when I least expect them to find me. I don’t know how to shake them off, make them go away, but lately I’ve been feeling a little bit like maybe I don’t want to stop feeling the sadness. What I feel is that this grief is all I have left of him, and I don’t want to lose that, too.