I Miss(ed) Your Calls

Most people would describe him as taciturn, capable of only a smile and a nod. If you’re lucky, you may even get a verbal response of “okay lang” (“I’m okay”) when you ask him how he is. He wasn’t too dissimilar towards me and my family. He would facetime me almost everyday when I’m at university, and too often we would scramble to find questions to keep the conversation going. Sometimes I would ask, “ano naman, ba’t tumatawag ka na naman?!” (what now, how come you’re calling again?!) and he would say, “wala lang, namimiss lang kita” (nothing really, I just miss you). I recognised that the small talk was the only way he knew how to tell me he loved me.

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My earliest memories were spent by his side, clinging to him. Holding his hand, sitting on his shoulder, perched on his lap, or on his back. He never failed to raise me up. He was always complimenting me any chance he got. Even if I was out of tune, singing on the karaoke, he would say “sige lang, practice ka pa ng practice” (go ahead, just keep practising). He genuinely believed I could make it to the X factor.

His shyness often obscured the man I knew and loved. We assumed this shyness as his barrier. Last year in August, I was lucky enough to have spent 36 hours with him on a coach travelling from Leyte to Manila. He took such good care of me, making sure I was fed, hydrated and he even let me use him as a pillow. It also became an opportunity for deep meaningful conversations, where he let me into his childhood. Finally, I understood him. I understood why he would be short-tempered or why he didn’t know how to remain soft with my brothers when we were growing up. The barrier I didn’t realise that I had also built during my awkward teenage years had collapsed altogether. Not only did we rekindle our relationship, but all of his shortcomings as a father were forgiven, and my respect for him flourished.

When we paid him a visit in the chapel of rest, a couple of days after he passed away, he seemed so peaceful. He appeared warm in the eye but cold to the touch. I wanted to wrap my arms around him to keep him warm as I knew he would easily get cold. It was bizarre to see him so passive. Talk to me. Call my name. Ask me what I’m up to. Ask me what I’m cooking. Demand me to fix something for you. Annoy me. My mama told me stories of how, as a baby, I would fall asleep on his chest as he comforted me. That day, with my head pressed against his chest, I hugged his lifeless body as he lied there, so stiff and so numb. It was a full circle.

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I looked back at our most recent conversation on Facebook messenger.

As I scrolled up, I was met with an infinite amount of ‘you missed a call with Ronald‘. A flood of guilt drowned my conscience. I registered just how much I took him for granted. I just always thought that I had another day to answer or return his missed calls. Now I am left missing his calls.

He was never afraid to call for help. He would call me so much that I would get irritated and say “ano na naman!” (what now!). He would then say “pero ma-mimiss mo naman yan” (but I bet you’ll miss it). The significance and accuracy of that remark didn’t strike me until lately. I wish for him to call my name over and over again. If given the chance, I would run to him in an instant and promise to never grow tire of helping him. I would vow to never say “teka lang!” (just wait!) again.

Now and then, my friends would ask me “how have you been doing?” with a certain look of sympathy in their eyes, and I would know exactly what matter they’re referring to. My usual, template response would be “not too badly”, which fails to fully justify my actual grief. However, in my head, I concluded that words could only cheapen the emotions I truly felt.

On a positive note, I have a list of things I would like to thank him for. Things that have shaped me to become the person I am today. Because of him, I have an ingrained appreciation for music. Because of him, I have learnt to cherish all of life’s little pleasures. Most importantly, because of him, the family has grown closer and we are no longer shy of explicitly saying “I love you”.

It’s fascinating how much you don’t realise how big of a gap someone fills in your life and within your day-to-day routine, until that someone is gone. However, I refuse to perceive this as a loss. To me, I view it as a gain. And at 7:15pm on the 28th April 2018, I gained an angel.

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