Last weekend was eventful but not. I got a facial, shopped for groceries, had some folks over for pizza before going out to see Match Point which, by the way, gets a big “Eh” from me. Even if Jonathan Rys-Meyers is so dreamy in an ambisexual sort of way. I tagged along on a shopping trip to Lord & Taylor with Kathy, got my nails done, ate some chicken. I enjoy these weekend errands, though I sometimes wish I could wake up at 2pm and not care too much that I got up too late to do all my laundry in a single day, or that I missed that magical hour when Trader Joe’s is not too crowded.
I’ve been making an effort — a decent one, I think — to go out on school nights. Monday night, I put on my makeup and joined Molly and our upstairs neighbor Sweta for a drink at the Charleston. I had a perfectly adequate hot toddy.
Wednesday night I made a board meeting for DMSF and put my name down for the fundraiser at Rockit next month. I hadn’t planned on going but I was in a good mood, as my gyno visit that afternoon had gone well. I don’t know how to explain it without getting all explicit — I can only say that I feel like Pinnochio whenever I have to go. But in, like, a good way. On the way back to the office, in the lobby of the building where the doc is, a crowd of young, nubile men stood around and chatted energetically while waiting for elevators. Med students at Northwestern? Male models for Playgirl (this was the Playboy building, after all)? Who knows? Who cares? They were cute and I was feeling all ogly.
Thursday, I went to a talent show organized by Cynthia’s “gentleman friend”, who acted as emcee for a motley crew of dancers, singers, and rappers. There was Ashley, the tiny Asian girl with the Christina Aguilera-like (okay, maybe more like Willa Ford-like) voice whipping her curls as she belted Oleta Adams’s “Get Here” to her adoring pack of friends. John from California, who auditioned on a whim and tied for first place with Ashley. Robert, who played the keyboard and tore into “When A Man Loves A Woman” — he was my pick for first place, but his friends were not nearly as loud when it came time to vote by audience reaction. I would have liked to stay out, get a souvenir picture from the professional photographer who set up a space where you could get your picture made in front of a sheet spraypainted with a moonlit sky and Ionic columns, but I was tired and went home instead.
Friday night was Ira’s surprise birthday party at My Pie. I hardly knew a soul except for Molly at the beginning of the night, but was bonding with some of his high school friends at the end of the night. His friend Michaela totally pegged me for a Flip, as she herself is a 1/4 Filipina — she said it was something about how I used my eyebrows. Yeah, I give good brow.
After dinner, Molly and the girls went back to Ira’s apartment where Ira’s roommates had organized more drinks and a pinata for Ira to bash at. I decided to go home and read ‘In Her Shoes’ until 5 in the morning. Which was not good — it doesn’t help to be single and alone in bed and reading a story about two estranged sisters, one of whom is awkward and plain and insecure and not unlike how I had been feeling the last few days.
Good gyno appointment aside, I was feeling a bit raw. Patrick had IM’d me at work Thursday morning, like he does everyday, and told me our grandather (Daddy’s dad) was unconscious. Dad and the aunt and uncles who lived in the States were flying to the Philippines this weekend — “They’re like Voltron“, Patrick said, and I had to laugh. If that’s true, then my dad must surely be the Keith. It’s only fair.
Years of respiratory issues, high blood pressure, and general malaise drove him and my grandmother back to the Philippines a few years ago after living in the US since the early 80s. My uncle the doctor could look after him at home, take him to homeopaths and acupuncturists. But one day grandpa got pneumonia, a lung failed. He got better, went home, felt something that ended up being a mild stroke, then asked to be taken to the hospital probably a beat later than he should have. He was unconscious all day Friday, during which time Uncle Bob, Tita Lot, Uncle Jimmy, Dad made plans to join the rest of the family — Gramma, Uncle Butch, Uncle Ritchie, piles of cousins and in-laws. They bought plane tickets, called their mother. While lying in bed, I thought of my dad, who sounded so small when I called from the restaurant to see how he was doing.
I heard Molly come home at 2am, but I didn’t move or make a sound. I kept reading, waiting for the hallway light to go out, which meant Molly is asleep and I should probably go to sleep, too. But I didn’t. The story turned for the worse — one sister quits her job and starts walking dogs while the other runs away to college for a bit, discovers poetry, and runs again to their long-lost grandmother. I could hear my dad in their dad who, though long remarried, still missed their mother, the love of his life. Not because my mother is dead but because I think I can hear something in his voice that breaks my heart. So instead of going to sleep, I begin to cry, if in a futile sort of way. It doesn’t last long but it feels like forever, and I’m confused. Am I sad, because my father’s father is dying? Am I relieved because I myself am long estranged from him myself, and maybe I don’t have to feel guilty about that anymore? Am I angry because I never got to be the bigger person and forgive him before he left, show deference to make my parents happy though he could not be kind when I needed him to? I’m not sure that I know or care, only that I’m lying in bed and gasping and heaving into my pillow and hoping to hell that my roommate doesn’t hear me and knock on the door and ask me if she can do something to make me feel better. I don’t want to feel better. I want to start grieving, because for once it’s the right thing to do, and I can actually do it.
My sister’s called me a bunch of times, but I don’t much feel like talking. She leaves messages in my voicemail box — “He’s still unconscious. Where are you? Call me.” — until I finally answer her call Saturday and let her blather at me while I stare at the television, on mute, playing in front of me. I go out for brunch, see “Last Holiday” with Kathy — such a good-natured movie, such charm and humor. At home, I turn off the ringer on my phone while Kathy and I make dinner — pork chops with honey and pecans, spicy green beans, macaroni and cheese — and eat in front of the television. After Kathy leaves, I do the dishes, enabling the speaker on my cell phone while I listen to my sister’s latest message. “Hey Jasmine. It’s me.” Beat. “He’s brain dead.”
It’s almost midnight and I’m waiting for the phone to ring again — Daddy and Uncle Jimmy and Tita Lot’s flight left on time. I look up Filipino funeral rites, superstitions on the web — I don’t want to call my mother to ask her.
Filipinos believe that spirits called aswangs can possess a person and cause illness. Many Filipinos blame spirits for making people sick and they sometimes depend on faith healers to cure the person, rather than calling a medical doctor. One method or curing aches and pains is called hilot, which is a way of massaging certain parts of the body to take away the pain.
It is said that if a person dies, all of the house windows should be opened because the open windows would allow the deceased to depart. The Filipinos will make a fire until the deceased body is returned to the family from wherever he may be for instance from the hospital. When the family has the body, the body is positioned in a way that is facing the door. The feet is faced toward the door so it will allow the spirit to depart easily. The Filipinos say don’t go to bed with your feet facing to the door because it is like you are asking to die.
There are old time funeral directors that have said that when the casket leaves the house, a person of the family would cut off a chicken’s head and throw it at the feet of the deceased person. It is said that if you slaughter an animal, it will help the person go to heaven. One director remembers how families have thrown dishes at his feet. Maybe it meant that the evil spirits are scared of the sound.
After a funeral, the Catholic Filipinos have a novena. Novena is nine nights of prayer for the deceased. On the fourth or ninth night the spirit returns. Food is left on the steps of the house for the spirit to return. It is said that if the people make a joyful atmosphere it will make the deceased go on to its journey to the new world. Filipinos bury their deceased in mahogany coffins. They pack clothes, their favorite hat, wallet, eyeglasses, dentures, and family pictures.*
I like the idea of a joyful novena — Daddy and Uncle Butch sitting in the driveway, smoking cigarettes and drinking beers with their friends. Uncle Ritchie’s children running all over the yard with the puppies. Grandma’s tattooed eyebrows wiggling at a joke. I hope they a nice time.
It’s midnight and Molly isn’t home yet. It’s midnight and the tag on my camisole is itching my back. It’s midnight and unseasonably warm. It’s midnight and it’s been raining gently all day. It’s midnight and a ‘Roseanne’ marathon is on television. It’s midnight and I’ve had enough to eat. It’s midnight here and I don’t know what time it is on the plane where my father, his sister, and one of his four brothers are sitting in tight airline seats, drinking water and eating snacks and hiding their tears, making their way home.
Sa ‘king palad ang ‘yong pangalan
*miscellaneous notes for items that didn’t make it into this flip front”
1. I don’t think “The Da Vinci Code” would have worked for any stripe of Protestantism.
2. I want to write a song called “You’re My MacGyver” for Patty and/or Selma to sing on “The Simpsons”
3. When I have to put on my game face to deal with bullshit, I sing “Juicy” by the Notorious B.I.G. in my head.
4. One of the resolutions I made this year was to spend a day saying yes to everything. I’ve decided it will be the 24 hour period between 6pm Friday, February 17 to Saturday, February 18.
5. Kathy’s next t-shirt is going to have “The Magical Negro” printed on it (inside joke, I assure you)
Arthur Alexander – You Better Move On; Beach Boys – Don’t Worry, Baby (which always make me want to listen to the Beatles’ “I Will” followed by Garnett Mimms and the Enchanters’ most perfect “I’ll Take Good Care of You”)