ONE of my Dad’s brothers-in-law just died, and my father doesn’t have a clue about it. The maid-slash-caregiver and I didn’t dare tell him.
Victorino “Tole” Garcia, husband of my Dad’s sister Angelita “Lita” Garcia, died a few days ago. He was a cool uncle, who, in his younger days, was a behind-the-scenes broadcast journalist and TV news director who loved the great outdoors. May you rest in peace, Tito.
He and my Dad are of the same age—83. Had he been well, my Dad wouldn’t have passed up the chance to attend his brother-in-law’s wake, even accompany him to his final resting place. After all, the two have known each other for close to 60 years and were fairly close.
But since I didn’t want to further aggravate my Dad’s already precarious condition, I chose to keep the truth from him.
Tell me when it’s over
In a Facebook status I wrote a little over a week ago, I said that “the year 2015 is barely two weeks old, but I can’t wait for it to end already.” Really!
As some of my closest friends already know, our troubles started on the very first day of the New Year when Tess, our trusted maid, rushed my Dad to the hospital after he complained of severe stomach pain.
That’s saying a lot because my Dad, a very prayerful and patient man, has a high threshold for pain. During his younger days, he seldom went to the hospital to see a doctor unless it was really necessary. He would rather keep the pain to himself until it went away.
Since we were expecting guests that afternoon, I was out doing some last-minute errands. Globe’s signal was down, so I missed Tess’ frantic calls and texts telling me to haul my ass off and go home ASAP. She and my poor Dad ended up taking the tricycle to reach the hospital.
The day before
Just the day before, New Year’s Eve to be exact, my Dad and Tess were even at a nearby mall buying drinking glasses and additional raffle prizes for our guests. (I planned to raffle off a number of gifts I received from well-meaning friends and publicists during the recent holidays).
Since my mother and I would host the raffle, my Dad even bought us a pair of Santa hats to liven up the occasion. Yes, that’s how funny and creative he is.
Well, it pains me to say that he won’t be going to his favorite mall that sells obscure stuff anytime soon. If his first trip to the hospital was due to so much pain, his second trip in a little over a week proved to be life-changing to him and perhaps his entire family.
What was originally diagnosed as a ruptured appendix turned out to be much, much more. Before New Year’s Day was over, I had to sign a second waiver allowing my Dad’s attending surgeon to cut nearly a foot of his cecum—a section of the big intestines.
In fact, his appendix was just collateral damage. Since it was sitting next to the abscessed cecum, it ruptured from all that pressure.
I had an idea of what the doctor was talking about, as I was ushered in to the OR by my Dad’s anesthesiologist. There, lying under the glare of those huge, scary lights was part of his spilled guts, including the diseased section.
“If I simply remove his appendix and close him up, the infection would still continue,” said his surgeon. “Sooner or later, he would be back in the OR.”
He then pointed to me the affected section of the cecum, which harbored a few cysts (a pathology report on the excised area released a few weeks later is silent on the presence of cancer): “If this were meat, I wouldn’t buy it even if it was offered to me at a bargain. There would be no takers.”
In short, what was a simple appendectomy turned into a major operation that lasted for over three hours, as the surgeon, apart from cutting the affected area, had to stitch together both ends of my Dad’s cecum.
Through it all, I tried to be brave by saying the Rosary (something I haven’t done in a long while) and reading in my Dad’s hospital room in a vain attempt to pass the time.
Eight days later, we were poorer by almost P240,000, but I was glad that the worse was over, as I drove my Dad home. His release coincided on a Friday, the feast day of the Black Nazarene, which, for all I know, was probably a portent of things to come.
By Saturday of next week, we were back in the hospital. The worse wasn’t over! This time his condition had nothing to do with his recent operation. As Tess and I suspected, it was something more debilitating and life-altering.
It was also the same Saturday when Pope Francis said Mass and commiserated with the people of typhoon-devastated Tacloban. Before the morning was over, pilots who flew the Pope from Manila to Tacloban insisted that they leave soon as Typhoon Amang was about to make landfall in nearby Samar.
While a young female volunteer lay dying from head injuries she sustained from a toppled overhead speaker used during the Pope’s Mass, Tess and I had to assist my father as he struggled to make his way from the living room to the garage and into the waiting car.
My Dad’s balance and coordination were off, and his arthritis had nothing to do with it. Part of his body was dying, too. We just didn’t know how and why. (To be continued)