Thursday, October 24, 2019

My Own Sunset

Dreams do come true, kid.

I imagine myself telling some young ‘un “to keep on dreaming.”

Sunsets have always been ‘my thing’ (just like millions of people). Best when viewed as the sun disappears into the sea (or a body of water). I chase sunsets, everywhere I go.

And the dream has always been to have my own beachfront place to watch the sunset, in the sunset of my life.

Cut to... tiny homes, container homes

The movement is booming now. As early as 4 years ago, I have been fascinated with recycling containers into livable tiny homes. Sure there are HUGE residences made of plenty containers connected. But I was always attracted to tiny homes, to maximizing little space and making them beautiful.

Putting the two together, I used to fantasize a dream beach house made from a used container.

By Saturday, I shall be having it blessed. I never thought it would happen. But I honestly feel that it was Divine providence.

I didn’t think I could afford a beach property. I always thought it would be wayyyy beyond my budget. I didn’t even bother to do research, just to check.

But an ad in FB marketplace changed all that. A simple ad of a beach front property about 4 hours away just popped up. And at a stated price that was ... within reach.

In a month and a half, the papers were signed. Payment were made. It was unbelievably fast, yet with the required due diligence.

Finding my container home contractor was tougher. It was a search that took me 3 1/2 months, spanning about 4 suppliers. Again, divine intervention and I was able to handshake with a contractor willing to build, respecting my budget and my sensibilities.

Through monsoon season, the containers arrived, the build started. I honestly thought I would have a hard time balancing that with work and everything else in between. But I managed, splendidly, I must say.

I am so proud that it will be build according to my design, my aesthetics, and no one else’s. From the fence, to each and every bit of the interior, I had them all planned out in my mind’s eye, well and Pinterest, too. Haha

My dream is happening soon. A sunset to call my own. If it happened to me, it can happen to you, too.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

End of an Era - New Assignment

I never thought I would ever leave this company before retirement. 6 years to go before turning 6-O and in my mind, I would stay here, as I have done for the past 29 yrs.

But Fate has other plans. Just as we transferred to our new office (must say that I still like our old office better), I get a new assignment. This time, with the mother ship, and not even in my ‘core’ competence of IMC.

I foolishly thought they would allow me to do both, stay with this company while taking on this new assignment. But that new role is just too demanding. The responsibilities are in the billions, literally.It needs my full attention.

I have mixed emotions. I leave a comfort zone. I leave my graceful exit, my pre-retirement plan and jump into a space full of unknowns and uncontrollables.

I am excited. I am challenged. It’s my way of getting into the mainstream business of this huge corporation. And it is the shareholders’ way of showing trust. I cannot break that.

But I leave my ‘baby’, my 29 yo baby behind. I leave all those friends and faces I have acquired through all these years. And there is no turning back.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

My Own Endgame

Today marks two months since Tatay passed. Yes, time flies fast. And I’ve given up on my ugly cry. Today also makes me think of the time when my endgame happens. 

Preparing my living will

I haven’t prepared this yet. I should. And as I acquire assets, I should manage how each will be ‘disposed of’ when I die. 

How do I want to go

As if I can control this. But I believe in wishful thinking. I fear pain more than death. Perhaps that is the only thing I want to avoid when I go - pain. I feel that was also how my dad was thinking. Maybe. Can I just go peacefully in my sleep? Heart attacks will cause this massive pain, I feel. Maybe even strokes. Ugh, cancer will be one protracted descent into pain-hell. Would a gunshot wound, direct to the brain, be less painful (if instantaneous)?

Tatay went in his sleep. And that was what I had been wishing for him. But days leading up to it, he was going through breathing attacks, wretched gasping for air. That must have been so painful, some kind of drowning. As he would go through an attack, our worst fear was that his heart would just fail in the middle, and he would die painfully. The Lord was merciful enough to him. He slept and never woke up.

Now a part of me understands why some people would want to control this, through willful dying. I will not go through the thorny ethical arguments. I just understand why.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order

Hosptial bills, wake and funeral bills. That would just zap all the money I have saved up for. And when I am gone, only the hospitals and the funeral would be wealthier.  I need to have a plan. I need to give directions.

I will put some of my cash into a medical fund. Loved ones can only spend what is there. They will not liquidate any other asset just to continue reviving me. Sounds good but I have no idea how this can actually be executed. Oh the burden this will probably place on the my loved ones as they ‘monitor’ the expenses and make a call for a ‘hard stop’. It’s like watching a taxi meter when you are almost out of cash. “I’ll get off HERE” just as it reaches the limit. 

My siblings and I had an emotional discussion (over FB messenger chat) on this DNR order for Tatay. I wouldn’t want that for my time. So what do I want them to do when my heart stops beating and/or my breathing stops? 

The routine: Pumping the chest. IV shots of epinephrine. Intubation to bring air in. And that awful electric shock. It looks so violent and desperate. Do I want this done on me? Maybe only up to a certain point - 3 minutes. 

Artificial Life Support

Then there is this question. What if I end up in a vegetative state? How long should I be maintained on it? Or should I even be? 

I can be placed on artificial life support but only up to 3 days. (Is “3” the magic number?”). Beyond that, pull the plug. Just recently, I read an article about how AI (artificial intelligence) predicted (at 90% accuracy?) those patients who will pull out of a coma. Maybe if that becomes the practice, that would help determine how long I should be maintained.

Burial or Cremation

I’ve long decided that I want to be cremated. I have bought a niche at the nearby columbary (at the back of the Parish church) where my ashes will remain.  Some people still frown upon cremation. Tatay was totally against it. Perhaps they argue that the resurrected body has to be ‘whole’. Of course I find that baloney. 

Wake and Viewing

I don’t mind lying in a casket first for viewing and paying respects. But the practical me kicks in. If I will be cremated anyway, why spend for the casket? So perhaps this should become more of a visiting and paying respects to my ashes and my picture. 



Funny how articulating all of this makes it sound so technical and matter-of-factly. Well, maybe at this point, it is. And it should be. So when my endgame comes, and all the emotions start pouring in, the people I leave behind would have basis for decision-making.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Endgame: Post Mortem

I have not had my hysterical breakdown, my sustained ugly cry yet. I have had moments of tears and some sobs. But not as much as I had thought or maybe even wanted. I thought at first because I had to be person in chrage.

It was a flurry of activities from last Friday, April 12 to Tuesday, April 16. One had to arrange for the mortuary and funeral services. One had to coordinate with the hospital for the settlement of the bills and the release of the body and the death certificate. Thankfully, Tatay had a life plan that covered some of the expenses. But more importantly, they (The service provider) assisted me from start (pick-up of body from hospital) all the way to burial. Loyola Lifeplan and its service provider, Santuarium, were very professional and helpful. I cannot thank them enough.

It seems almost surreal now. I was there when the doctors and nurses tried to revive him. I was there as they wrapped his body. I had to go down to the hospital morgue to ID his body before it was taken away (they might pick up the wrong body!). Late afternoon, I checked on him again, to approve his appearance, especially his make up. I didn’t like to be the one to do this because I honestly didn’t know how to judge whether it was done correctly or not. Tatay had lost so much weight so even using his pictures as reference was inadequare. Yet my Ate No. 2 didn’t want to accompany me (because that meant leaving my mom). Thankfully, the base appearance was improved. Visitors also commented how well he looked.

Then I was on full event organizer mode as the wake details were being planned. My biggest concern was the food. How does one plan for the feeding of thousands (I exaggerate)? I have to give myself credit for executing that well, including the logistics and venue set-up. (We were so fortunate to have been allowed to hold the wake at the nearby Home for the Elderly, run by nuns. Tatay used to be their doctor.)

And as all of that was going on, I also had to entertain the visitors, especially from my side (colleagues and friends). Telling the story over and over and over again to different people!

Then came the plans for the funeral Mass, and that trip to the cemetery to bury him. I thought this would be my breakdown scene. I even decided not to sing at the mass. But I surprised myself by being so composed, managing to even be lector and singer.

Heritage Park is quite far from our place. But that was where we were able to get a lot. If I had my way, I would have had him cremated and his ashes at the columbary near our Parish. But he explicitly did not want cremation.

It was super warm and sunny that Holy Tuesday. By 2pm, the funeral convoy had reached the park. We started the last blessings and viewing by 230pm. Though sunny, there was a nice breeze all around us. A handful of friends and family joined us. There was a lot of crying, except me. I was holding up very well, till they lowered the casket six feet below. And we all solemnly went home, mindful most of all of our mom’s condition.

With all that over, there still wasn’t any major breakdown. tried to induce crying. I listened to my playlist of super sad songs. I watched “Dad”, that 1989 movie of Jack Lemmon and Ted Danson about father and his son. Yes, I teared up but again, limited waterworks. I remember crying much more when I broke up with an ex. I was thinking that would be the level of my anguish.

Did I love him less? Is there something wrong with me? Have I become this husk of a person? Ok, a bit over the top. But now, after almost two weeks, I have stopped wanting to cry. I suppose it would just come. And even if it wouldn’t, it didn’t mean any of that nonsense.

I love you, Tatay and I miss you terribly. i honor you for being a humble yet exemplary doctor who brought healing, humor and genuine concern to your patients. I hold you in the higheat esteem for being a loving husband and dedicated father to us. I have the distinct pleasure of serving you and being with you to the very end of your mortal life. I hope that when my own time comes and we meet in heaven, you will tell me that I have made you proud.

Till that time, Tatay.


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Friday, April 19, 2019

Endgame: It Is Done.

When it finally happened, I was there in his hospital room asleep. I was awaken as the nurse and the caregiver were hovering over him, checking for pulse. It was 1:11am, April 12.

He had considerably weakened from that last hospital stay. His oxygen levels were low. He finally relented and allowed 24/7 oxygen. We wanted to get him a full-time nurse but none passed his standards. He became very particular about many aspects of his care. Only his night-time caregiver measured up.

That frustrated me. He insisted that the household help be the one taking care of him, as they already knew how to. I tried to reason with him that this would tax them, and they wouldn’t be able to perform their duties to Nanay and to the household. But he wouldn’t take it. I relented. Besides, my sister (Ate No. 2) was consistently watching over, too, together with Ate No. 4. And Ate No. 1, our doctor-sister, flew in from the US since end-March, so I knew he was around expert care.

April 6, c3 and I left for Zambales as planned. That was also the time his gasping attacks started happening. He would suddenly start having difficulty in breathing, literally gasping for breath, even as he was taking in oxygen. It was a like a panic attack with his heart rate racing. The only thing they could do was to increase oxygen flow and tell him to relax. Ate No. 1 listened in on his lungs and concluded pulmonary edema. His systems were now compromised and his heart was working overtime. Heart failure was imminent. Ate No. 2 was relating all this to me and how scared they were that he might go soon. But I reassured her that this wasn’t time yet. Tatay will wait for me to come home.

I was back April 8 evening. I made it a point to stay with him the following day, April 9, a holiday, I witnessed for myself the attacks. It was painful to watch and everybody felt so powerless to prevent it from happening. Thankfully, after a few minutes, he would calm down.

But April 10 evening was different. His gasping attack had not stopped, 20 minutes and counting. The caregiver and I were beside him, trying to calm him down. Yet he wouldn’t. His whole body was jerking and stiffening. We called 911 and brought him to the emergency room. He eventually relaxed, the gasping stopped when he was there. All they did was administer oxygen using the mask. His doctor insisted that he stay for tests, to check what was causing these attacks. He grudgingly agreed (he hated having to go back to the hospital.

April 11, he hardly had any rest or sleep even as he was in the hospital. The attacks would continue. The tests showed there was nothing major that was causing the fits. Though he did need another round of blood, it couldn’t be the reason. It seemed that it was really a psychological anxiety attack. And the only solution for him was to relax.

That evening was my turn to sleep over at the hospital. He specifically requested that a family member should be with him constantly. I arrived at the hospital and he was still restless. He was now complaining of some allergic reaction or side effect that rendered him unable to speak properly. We tried to check what was administered to him. He was then given a dose of antihistamine.

He slowly drifted to sleep and finally got to relax. Ate No. 2 went home. leaving me and the caregiver at the hospital. I also prepped and lied down on the bed beside h is. The caregiver kept vigil over his pulse rate and oxygen levels.

Past 1230am, she said she noted that a pulse, a heart rate couldn’t be detected anymore. She called the nurse to take his blood pressure. I woke up as the nurse came in. We all tried to check for pulse but couldn’t detect any. He didn’t seem to be breathing anymore. Caregiver and I tried to wake him up as the doctors and nurses arrived with the cardiac monitor. They immediately started CPR procedures on him, except for intubation (He explicitly refused that in his DNR [do not resuscitate] order). After about 3 minutes of this, at 133am, I asked them to stop. An ECG machine came in to certify his death.

I teared up a bit as I was calling my sisters to inform them of his passing. But that quickly passed. I kissed him on his forehead and prayed. I left the caregiver and the nuses to take care of the paperwork. I came back to witness his body being wrapped and taken to the morgue.

Numbness came over me by that time I got home, at around 230am. There was still a lot of work ahead. There was no time to grieve yet.


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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Endgame?

Earlier today I had my voice lessons. And after the vocal warm-ups, I picked “Nahan” by Ernani Cuenco for practice. I was doing ok with the first two passes. Then on the third, I suddenly choked, holding back my tears. I just realized that I might be singing this song to my father soon.

It was in early 2017 when he was diagnosed with Prostate CA. He was complaining about urination problems then. We thought it was urinary tract infection. And when he had his Xray, it seemed like the bone metastasis had begun. “It lit up like a Christmas Tree” A quote from “Fault In Our Stars”.

He was 81 then and declined any radical procedures or even chemotherapy. His doctor gave him hormone treatment. He responded well until late last year, probably around October. His PSA level started to climb again. His doctor became more aggressive with the treatment options. Yet, the tests seemed to confirm a re-awakened CA. Although he was still ‘clinically’ healthy: no pain, no weight loss.

It made a turn for the worse in December. First it was anxiety palpitations, with loss of appetite. Before Christmas, he contracted pneumonia and we had to hospitalize him. I posted about that last year. Though we were able to bring him home right on Christmas Eve, he seemed to have started to decline rapidly. He was generally weaker, though he would stubbornly try to fight it. We hired a night-duty caregiver and day nurse.

He started to show some recovery. But he had a relapse in January 2019. So we were back in the hospital. We even stayed longer as his body was taking longer to respond to the antibiotics.

But he managed and we took him home. We also just maintained his night-duty caregiver. He was slowly gaining his appetite. He seemed to be getting stronger. Until in mid-March, he had severe stomach ache and was vomiting at 3am. My sister and brother in-law took him to ER and he was given medicine for his acidity. He was home quickly but not for long. By mid-afternoon, he was having severe headache and asked to be brought back to the hospital.

His hemoglobin levels turned out to be very low and he had to undergo transfusion. And he still had a lingering infection that needed antibiotics. And he even had a mild heart attack. The transfusion brought back his color and after a week, he was back home.

Now, it seems that he will not fully recover. The doctors have told us to brace ourselves for the inevitable. But until this afternoon, I was still in denial. My sisters from abroad have visited. And they have been doing their rounds of tearing up. Not me. Not until today.

Nahan

Di ba sabi mo, kay ganda ng lahat. Kulay rosas pa ang mga bulaklak. Tila sa akin ay ayaw kang magtapat. Yan ba ang sabi mong pag-ibig ay wagas.

Ang iyong ngiting dati ay kay tamis. Pag ikaw at ako ay nagkakalapit. Nahan ang yakap mong dati ay mahigpit? At ang ligaya kong matamis mong halik?



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