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It was another family gathering in my grandparent’s house. My cousins wandered in and out, asking me to play with them, testing the degree of my shyness in front of the oldies–my uncles and aunts, though they never won.

I was trying my way to my parents who were busy accommodating the people coming in and out so to escape from them but here you go an avalanche of unfamiliar faces that I was compelled to kiss hands. I never saw this house so full of crowd.

I felt a little bit queasy. I asked Mama when we would go home and to my dismay, she told me that we could come home after three days. It was really suffocating and yet I need to endure.

If I’m not mistaken, I was on my fifth grade then. My three other siblings were as well excused on their classes for this event. Yes, an event that eventually brought a lot of thinking, especially to me.

I and my sister were sitting on a couch with other people whom Papa told us were our relatives. They all had vague faces as my memory couldn’t serve me well. But there was one person who I couldn’t help but observe at that moment–my grandma.

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The bond will still be there, inevitably.

She was busy chopping pork and ingredients in the kitchen, doing the all time favorite viand of her grandchildren–the dinuguan. I never trace any marks of sadness in her eyes which I suppose I was demanding to see at that time. She even jauntily cooked all the recipes laid down in the kitchen without silence. She laughed, sang and made joke to us. She was so happy to serve us, to see us happy all together. And as a kid, I was so confused. Why they were all reveling despite the doom background we have?

NEVER BEEN CLOSE

The whole clan went to the place where we need to mourn–that what I thought then. Everyone suddenly was silent upon entering the white room with yellow lights scattered on.

There was a rectangular box at the center (the way I described it at that time) with its lid open for viewing. I want to rush on the area, hoping to see grandpa smile on me. But of course, I enough understood then that it won’t happen.

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If only I can turn back the hands of time, I will.

I immediately decided not to look at him first, letting others peek on that box. I told myself that I want to have time to talk to him. My eyes were instead glued to the big picture of him that stood on the glass cover of his casket.

Grandpa really looked so handsome there. He looks like Papa but more of a matinee idol of his time though it was sort of a grayish look already.

That moment made me want to shrink. How come I didn’t have the time to play with Lolo unlike my eldest brother who is one of his favorite among us? I remember myself envying the first batch of my cousins because they were all close to him. They used to tell stories like how Lolo will drop on their rooms late at night just to bring his pasalubong to them after his work.

I felt quite betray. But what can I do? I was late born that’s why I wasn’t able to enjoy being with grandpa in his early life. I was only eight then when I first met him and he was already weak. And because of our distance, we only rarely see each other most of the time during holidays and reunions. And two years after that of my age, he was bedridden. He looked so feeble, unable to utter even a word. What really crashed my heart then was when he hugged my youngest brother (he was six then and the youngest grandson he had) with tears flowing in his crumpled cheeks. That really made me realize how happy Lolo was, seeing his last grandson for the very last time of his life.

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I know right now, I'm still with him.

LOOKING FOR A CHANCE

I know right now, I won’t have the chance to be with him again. The desire to play with him when I was a kid is now slowly turning into a memory. The chance to share thoughts and smiles with him, to share my frustrations in my academic life, how much I wish all of them will happen. Even though we didn’t have the time to do so, it is still uncomfortable living life which is being spent without him. It’s been a decade and so, but every breathing moment is a struggle every time I thought of him.

The moment when he was about to say goodbye to all of us, as that white box was slowly sealed by the soil that would permanently cover it, I didn’t cry. I know he was around. And even if it was just a fake one, I smiled.

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