Monthly Archives: May 2009

Up early this Sunday morning

I woke up before 6am this morning with the sun barely awake itself.  Jetlag as always.  I am actually relieved I did not fully adjust to the difference in time despite my being here two full weeks now.  I guess it means that I should be able to hit the ground running literally when I get back to New York on Wednesday and back to work on Thursday.

Dad’s talking more audibly and can last a few hours without his oxygen tank now.  I have been running around town trying to get him settled before I finally return to my own home.  Our situation is a tad bit complicated and makes it twice as difficult a goodbye.  I don’t even know where to begin.

I have not visited my space here on the web not because I haven’t had access but simply because I’ve been too tired at the end of the day to even log on.  And those select moments when I do get to log on, I find it too emotionally draining to write.  So instead I work and talk to New York as if I was just working from home.  But today, I woke up really early, and I feel a need to “speak my heart” out. 

There are many lessons learned from the last three weeks, two of which I have spent with the family back here in Manila.  I am most thankful for the blessings we have all been showered despite the trials presented by Dad’s life threatening illness.  While we all felt the weight of the world on our shoulders, we plodded on knowing we had each other.  I am thankful for the bond that brought my siblings and I even closer and the reminder of precious friendships that helped us make it through.

At the same time, the reality of a broken family has stared me in the face, and it has given me pause to revisit the various scenarios that might ensue should dad pass on.  It is not something I have really thought about, but this was a wake up call.  As the eldest of the brood, I feel a sense of responsibility to take the lead.  It’s not a hat I would choose to wear given how Dad now lives with his second family, but it is a responsibility I cannot shirk away from.

I have found myself staring at Dad and I see how frail and old he is now at this point in time — I am grateful that I was able to take care of him even if only for a short while, and that I was able to play a role in getting him settled back home on the long way to full recovery.  

I usually have a short chat over breakfast with Mom who is the early riser in the house.  If I were to take her lead, she is actually telling me she is way past feeling any bitterness over our situation.  Still…

As I get closer to the day when I actually must return to New York, I find more and more things that need to be taken cared of.  That’s the burden of the eldest child.  Meanwhile, it’s another Sunday and my last one here in Manila..
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Hello and Goodbye

I have been in Manila a week now and getting ready to wind up my spur-of-the-moment trip home and get back to New York.  Dad is getting better but will not be 100% of his already less than 100% health before this illness.  The pneumonia and the sepsis were ably taken cared of by his physicians, but his body needs more time to recover.  He is, after all, 74 years old.

Since I arrived, I have spent my days at the hospital, personally taking care of him.  He was already out of the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) when I arrived, but he needs assistance with practically everything from feeding and doing the other human necessities that come naturally to us who are of good health.  The doctors said they will try and wean him away from the oxygen that he takes through a tube up his nose, and if they succeed in doing that, they will release him.  He is still extremely weak.  I have seen him this way once before and he recovered in time, but he was much younger then.  This time around, we are trying to make him comfortable at least.  We are all hopeful for his recovery eventually, but we are being realistic.

My siblings and I know that the quality of care he will require immediately following and from the time of his release from the hospital onwards will be different.  While we are trying to handle our challenges one at a time, we have started thinking about what is happening and what will be done once Dad is out of the hospital. 

I have tried to make time to see some friends because this is a time when I need their support the most.  I have been deluged with invitations, but it is so hard to fit everyone in with so little time.  I have not tried to brush off the jetlag and cope — otherwise, I will be struggling returning to my usual routine once I get back home.  So instead, I grab some shut eye where I can, but for the most part, I’ve tried to keep to my New York time zone.

I have found great comfort in being able to personally take care of Dad.  As my other siblings all have work, I’ve been the one tasked with taking over the day shift from his other caregiver.  I try to make him comfortable.. Sometimes, I just give his arm a gentle caress to assure him I’m there.  I see an old man on the bed but I remember the man who used to laugh with such a hearty ring to it — his voice thundering above everyone else’s.  I look at his tired eyes and I see the same eyes that charmed people to listen.  I don’t see him smile these days but I see a shadow of that smile when I look at him.

The other day, a friend asked point blank if I’m ready to let him go.  I came home knowing this could probably be my goodbye to him.  There is hope that he will be around longer — but seeing how frail his health is, the possibility of him slipping away in his sleep, or rapidly deteriorating one day soon is not that improbable.  I paused and I told my friend, yes.

I had surrendered Dad to whatever fate the Lord had intended.  I kept praying and I still keep praying that if he is meant to survive, that he be given the strength to cope — and that if God will take him away anyway, that he go with the least bit of suffering as he has suffered enough.  I know it is not my place to haggle with God’s plans, but as they always say, it never hurts to ask.

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Things I learned on this trip

I like KoreanAir and have flown it roundtrip once before.  My Mom sings them praises for the way they handle their senior citizens which makes me feel good sending  her off on her own during her trips to and from Manila and New York.  But as my friend Fe had taught me a long time ago, I always learn something new everyday…so here goes..

Not all terminals at JFK have wi-fi. (So good thing to bring your wireless card.). I went to Terminal 1 where wi-fi was for pay, but rumor has it that the JetBlue terminal has a connection.

2. On the plane: It pays to research the type of outlet that is available and where your plug is because unless you’re in Business or First, you will have one plug for so many passengers. For the middle set of four seats (or five seats depending on the plane configuration), there is a solo plug between the two middle seats on KoreanAir.  Lesson learned is it pays to stick to the window group so you only need to jostle with one other person for that plug.  (So yes, easy to recharge your cellphone or blackberry on Koreanair as well.)

3. Also learned the hard way that unlike American Airlines power outlets on their planes, KoreanAir uses a multi-AC plug.  (So what did I order the car jack or plane adaptor for?  Oh, I remember now, for recharging while in the car and for American Airlines and similarly configured planes.)  This website, Seat Guru, is a treasure of a find but basically applies only to domestic flights.  It’ll actually be able to give you this information after you provide the required data on the type of plane you will be on.

4.  Incheon International Airport does have free wi-fi, but their power outlets need a power adaptor for us used to the usual two teeth parallel plugs.  (Not even sure that’s what it’s called.)  But love the wide open spaces, the seat configuration in their airport terminals and the totally clean feel of Incheon.. (Keepings fiingers crossed that next time, I’ll catch the Burberry store open..)

5.  While some would argue airplane food is airplane food (translated: Blah..), I like KoreanAir’s Bibimbap.  It also helps that you actual get real silverware, not plastic utensils.. that’s the old dining experience we used to have on domestic flights before security issues forced the change to something that is not in danger of being turned into a weapon.  But I am straying here..

Now if you’re not into it but feel particularly adventurous when the flight attendant asks you if you’re having “Korean food” or some other western alternative like Seafood Noodles or Beef with mashed potatoes, try this nice rice and beef and vegetable combo which you can make soupy with broth and as spicy as your nostrils can take.  They even have a “How to eat Bibimbap” handout that will teach you what you’re supposed to do with the rice bowl, the cup of broth poured over the kim, that red sauce in what looks like a tube of ointment, and how that bowl of kimchi’d jalapenos on the side can make this a firehouse experience.  

I stash the red sauce away because Mom loves it, although I see the Koreans around me using that as the dressing or broth base turning their bowl orange.  (A tad bit too strong for my taste.. )  To me, it’s part of my KoreanAir experience.

6.  KoreanAir serves wine during meals but here we go again with the “It wouldn’t hurt to ask for something” if your preference is soda.  I didn’t, but I saw other passengers do.  So yes, it’s on board and is not totally off the beverage list.
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First leg

(On my way home)

I’m trying to entertain myself by watching a movie after sleeping for around 4 hours.  It took me a while to figure out how to switch the language to English but I did manage to finally watch “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button“.

I had boarded the plane with the usual plane jack only to find out that KoreanAir uses a multi-plug AC outlet.  And of course for some reason, I manaed to stash away the other plugs in some other bag other than what I have stowed under the seat in front of me (which I would’ve discovered earlier if only there was an empty plug at the Samsung Mobile Charging Station I was hoping to connect to earlier at JFK.)  So I am unable to do the work I was hoping to get started on, nor am I able to watch the shows I downloaded for viewing while on the plane.  I am keeping my fingers crossed it’s stashed somewhere in my rolling luggage so I can use the laptop during the htree hour layover in Seoul and the three hour trip to Manila from there.

I miss my boys.  They’re probably having breakfast and negotiating between themselves about who gets to watch on the big TV.  Then they might spend the day at home or maybe go out to lunch.

Meanwhile, I’m counting the hours until I’m in Manila finally.
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On my way

It’s 10:49 pm Saturday and boarding time is twenty minutes after midnight.  I just realized that I didn’t have anything for dinner, and I don’t see a food concession anywhere near me.  Soda?  No luck.. in any case, my carry on luggage is too cumbersome to lug around, so I’m staying put.  I saw a Samsung Mobile Charging Station that wasn’t surrounded by other users, but the two seats closest were occupied.  So I’m across from the charging station, and I would rather not incur the ire of the others around me by laying my power cord across the aisle, so I’m hoping my battery holds.  (It should.. besides, I have the power cord to use on the plane, so not that I have to save my juice.)

That’s nervous talk.  Yes, I am on my way home.  While all my previous trips were exciting to me and full of anticipation — this is one trip where I have butterflies in my stomach and I find myself overcome by anxiety.  Angelo was tearful earlier as we said our goodbyes — and he’s really the hardest thing to leave here in New York.  Alan and I have been apart longer due to his business trips, but this is the first time I’m the one leaving instead of the one staying home. 

And of course the biggest source for trepidation for me is what I’m going home to.

I’ve received some good news that Dad’s situation has started to improve.  It doesn’t mean he’s well, and I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I’m thankful that he is not suffering as much as he was earlier this week when he had 4 IVs, and he was breathing through a ventilator and he had a tube running up his nose.  (Thank you for all those who are praying with us for his improved health.)  In any other situation, the appearance of positive developments like this would have caused me to rethink my plans — but not this time.  And it’s not even the “change” fee in the ticket that a cancellation of my trip would entail, but I feel as though I got the message loud and clear to go — reaffirmed many times over in different ways and by different voices. I had made my mind up to go — and while the sense of urgency has abated some, the need is as strong as ever.

I’ve prayed over this and friends have prayed for and with me — and even just the thought of having resolved to go home to see my Dad has helped to give me strength to deal with all that’s been happening to him.

Angelo has called me twice already, his voice heavy with emotion.  He’ll be fine.  I’ll be fine, too, but it’ll ake me a little longer to adjust to being away from him.

I feel my body starting to cave in to the excitement surrounding this trip.  I did some last minute errands — bought Dad some tools I thought he might need..  I also bought some supplies for the house.  In fact up until I hit the shower before leaving the house tonight, I was cooking some tinola for at least 5 meals of Angelo’s..  (Like me, he can have the same thing day in and day out for every meal until he tires of it.

Beyond Angelo, I’m spacing out.  I told him I had gotten him a vest earlier like his Dad’s which he could wear on chilly days over a short sleeved t-shirt — and he asked me innocently what made me think of him.. I told him I always think of him first — even before I think of myself.  It would’ve been great if Dad could see him with me, but if we are lucky, they might yet get that chance to see each other again when we come home for Alan’s high school reunion end of this year.

Right now, all I can think of is I’m thankful that I got the chance to actually take this trip.. I feel truly blessed that I will see Dad again, whether it is the last time or not.. I feel blessed to be with the family I miss as I have started my own.  I feel blessed that I have friends who stand by me and my family through this crisis.

See you soon, Dad..

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Heart over matter

I have been walking in a half daze the past few days.  In the midst of celebrating Angelo’s 5th birthday and Mother’s Day, I have been dealing with my father’s sudden illness 10,000 miles away.  He was rushed to the hospital and has been in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) since Friday. 

My father is almost 74 years old, and has had to balance his medication between treating his Parkinson’s Disease and helping his lungs cope with decreased efficiency through the years.  What helps with one doesn’t necessarily help with the other. He had gone to visit an ailing sibling a few days  before, and the theory is that his immune system was already weak, and had been hit by an infection his body couldn’t fight.  They have been administering antibiotics to help his body fight his pneumonia, and my siblings tell me the prognosis is optimistic, but he isn’t out of the woods yet.

My first impulse is to want to be by his side, but 10,000 miles, a job, and a family I take care of 24/7 give me pause to think about the wisdom of hopping on a plane to give vent to a daddy’s girl’s desire.  His hospitalization is already costing us a lot, and my siblings and I are all doing our part to defray the costs of Dad’s treatment which isn’t anywhere near ended yet. 

There is a part of me that so badly wants to be able to see him and hold him before he breathes his last.  While I know I will be making that trip home if he finally succumbs to what ails him, I somehow feel like the money and more importantly the effort to make the trip is better spent and expended for when he is able to appreciate that I was there by his side.  The thought is tearing at my heart, but it isn’t as simple as wanting to be there with him.

If I do go, how long should I stay?  Will my boys be able to cope if I was away for an extended period of time.  In any case, I can’t be away too long because I have work to go back to.

This morning, I felt the tears fall down my face as I prayed and I asked God that if my father is meant to leave us now, that he take him so he doesn’t suffer anymore.  But if he is meant to survive this challenge, that He help him cope with his suffering and bring him on the road to recovery.  Even now as I write this, I feel a knot forming in my chest, as I say and I surrender Dad to His will. 

I had the chance to take care of him during a previous illness many years ago — staying by his side, helping him through his pain. One regret I have is that the distance between us precludes me from doing just that this time around.

Every time I leave Manila, he tells me he will wait for my return. I tell him in jest he should try not to get sick until I get the chance to go back. I know that in his struggle, he is trying to keep that promise, and I wish I could tell him it’s okay to go if he has to go. But of course if I could have my way, I would prefer he stay around just a little bit longer.
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Celebrating my passion: Motherhood

I used to celebrate Mother’s Day as a daughter paying tribute to the woman who helped make me the person that I am.  Five years ago, I was blessed with the arrival of this boy who gave Mother’s Day an altogether new meaning for me.  That he was born just before Mother’s Day then made it all the more special.

I try to celebrate my own Mother who is 10,000 miles away.  I get reminded by her own mortality as I see my little boy growing up right before my very eyes.  Five years ago, my little boy’s tiny fingers clasped hers as he was being cleaned up in the birthing room — even before I could hold him in my own hands.  That memory is forever precious in my mind as I introduced them to each other then.  That experience is something unique to the two of them to this day — as my Mother helped me to take care of Angelo the first three years of his young life.

I woke up to a take out breakfast from McDonald’s which father and son snuck out to get.  I was napping in the living room and had a fun breakfast with my boys.  The day was spent at home, simply being together as a family.  We’ve had our Mother’s Day dinner the Friday before.. we were out Saturday to celebrate Angelo’s birthday, too.  It’s celebration after celebration each day with the ones who make me the Mother I am.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there..
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Wednesday Morning Prayers

Status updates that greeted me this Wednesday morning:

From Toni – Matthew 11:28: 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

From Maricon – LORD, I put my trust in you today. You are my security and protection, my shield, my fortress, and my hiding place, and I praise you. When enemies surround me and troubles multiply, help me to remember that you are ever faithful and that you surround and protect me, both now and forever. Adapted from The One Year® Book of Praying through the Bible by Cheri Fuller

From Rose: God is good all the time !

From Marney: GOD, GRANT UNTO THINE MORE TIME FOR UNCEASING PRAYERS ESP. TO THOSE WHO BADLY NEED ONE, I seek protection & safety for them in the Lord of the earth & the Lord of the heavens. I seek protection & miracle in the One in whose name no sickness/illness can hurt. I seek protection in the One whose name is Blessed healer and a Cure. And for all -Thy glory be unto yours forever & ever lives. Ad majorem dei gloriam!

To all of that, I say Amen.

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X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

I’ve always liked the X-men comic series, although I have to admit I didn’t get “introduced” until later in life — law school, specifically, when one of my classmates during my freshman year proudly showed me his “comic book”.  It was one of those produced like the comic books of Tintin (which I had started reading in my childhood) — so it wasn’t a typical comic book, but I borrowed it and got my first taste of the mutant heroes.

Being married to a sci-fi buff guaranteed I watched most of the new releases of this genre — and of course we hied off to the theatres to catch X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.  I was actually excited to watch it because I like Wolverine the character and I love Hugh Jackman.  (Who doesn’t?)

It’s interesting to note, though, that Wolverine’s story on the Marvel Website is not as simple as the abbreviated introduction that we were shown at the start of this latest X-men movie.  (No spoilers here, I’ll let you read it for yourself straight from the pages of Marvel’s own home on the web.)  

As a movie goer, I’m rather easy to please.  As long as you don’t bore me and even the fantastic is presented in a logical manner that doesn’t make me feel like the people who made the movie were insulting my intelligence, I leave the theatre thinking my money was well spent.  I go to the movies to be entertained, plain and simple. 

I liked the pace and the way Wolverine’s character developed, but note that I am not a die hard X-men fan — so I watch and don’t scrutinize the accuracy or faithfulness of the movie to what people know from the original writers and creators of this character.  (Note that my reference to the more extensive background at the Marvel site is purely informational and not meant to disparage the way the movie capsulized the beginnings of the young Wolverine.)  I’m not a fan of gore and brutality, but the violence depicted in the movie was justified to define the character.

I left the movie theatre wondering which character was up next for a prequel.  As the title suggests, there is hint of a “series” of prequels to show the X-MEN ORIGINS.  With Marvel producing their superhero movies (finally), I know there will be more than enough characters for them to pick from to keep the franchise on the screen.
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