Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bye Tito

When I was really young and still living in the Philippines, I used to visit my dad's side of the family quite often with my Tita Laura. We would ride the bus for hours from my mom's town to my dad's town. Whenever I would go on these trips, my mom would give me a white cotton handkerchief to keep in my pocket. I remember they usually had little flowers embroidered on them. I would try my hardest not to lose them because my mom would always look for them when I came home. But half the time they would be missing because my stuff would get washed at my grandma's and my handkerchiefs never made it back. I remember this really frustrated me because I knew it wasn't my fault the handkerchiefs went missing. I have this very vivid memory of this one particular day, me sitting outside of my grandma's house watching my aunt hanging the laundry while talking to some lady and then seeing my handkerchief fall from the clothes line and the lady picking it up from the ground and putting it in her pocket. I was maybe three years old. For some reason I remember the smell in the air that day and every time I catch a whiff of that smell somewhere, which is very rare, it always brings me back to that place and time. If someone were to ask me, what does it smell like? I would have to describe it as the Philippines when I was three years old when that lady took my handkerchief. A couple times last week I caught a whiff of the Philippines when I was three years old when that lady took my handkerchief and it drove me a bit crazy trying to figure out where it was coming from and I couldn’t shake the thoughts of my dad’s town. Then last Friday morning I received an unusually early phone call from my mom bearing bad news. She said "Your Tito Sergio died last night. I think he was hit by a car in the Philippines." I can't remember what my response was. I just remember putting the phone down, walking back to the kitchen and then sobbing while I packed Nugget's lunch and my thoughts went back to my dad’s town.

I barely saw my uncle when he was here. I think the last time I saw him was at Christmas. He spent a good chunk of the year going back and forth from the Philippines so I would maybe see him at a birthday party or some other family function when he was in town. But there was a time when I was younger that I saw him almost every day and he was as much a regular part of the family dynamic as mom and dad. My Tito Sergio was the reason my family was able to come to Canada. He was the one that sponsored us to come here to have a better life and I can't even imagine what my world would be like if it wasn't for him. When I think of Tito Sergio, I think of two specific memories. I remember the flight coming here for the first time. Being in a plane felt weird to me. My mom was very pregnant with my youngest brother and my other two brothers sat with my mom and dad. I sat with Tito Sergio and my Tita Laura. The stewardess thought I was their daughter. I drank banana juice and played with the Hello Kitty purse that the stewardess gave me. It said Japan Airlines on it and for the longest time afterward, it was my most prized possession. I was four years old.

The other memory is probably one of my most favourite. When we were kids our family was quite poor. We knew early on that asking for anything, especially toys was just out of the question. Going to a department store and walking by the toy aisles was just torture. There was this one day when I was about six years old, we were at a store and out of nowhere Tito Sergio asked me what I wanted from the toy department. I remember just looking at him not knowing how to respond because no one had ever really asked me that before. He pointed to the toy aisle with all the dolls and told me to pick out what I wanted. I walked up and down that aisle pondering over doll after doll, not knowing which one to choose and worrying that if I picked one, it would be too expensive. So instead of getting a doll which I really wanted, I chose a yellow plastic vanity play set with a hair brush, hand mirror and fake perfume bottle because I didn’t want him to spend too much. My uncle was so patient, I was standing in that toy aisle for what felt like hours and I handed him that set. He kind of looked confused by what I chose and asked me if I was sure that’s what I wanted, and I nodded. He probably thought I was dumb. But I was stoked that he wanted to buy me whatever I wanted, it didn’t matter.

I’m sad that he’s gone. I’m sad that he was taken from us in such a tragic way. And I’m sad for everyone he left behind. I haven’t been able to sleep much and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the town in the Philippines that I used to visit when I was three years old.

Tito Sergio with Nugget on her first birthday.

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