1st Father’s Day without my Father

During my Dad’s last few days in the hospital this past May, he was breathing but taking his last breaths. Listening but unable to respond. In one of our last one-sided conversations with him, my mom told him she wanted to smell gardenias when he was around (and she does) and I said I wanted to see a butterfly. Since his death I’ve seen butterflies in places, and at times, that I’ve never seen them before: when I clean his car (he loved his car!!) and today, on Father’s Day, while walking around Magic Island, a cherished beach park that my parents would take my sister and me to when we were kids.  

Will not having Dad around ever start to hurt less? I doubt it. But today, I’m sitting here in the sunshine. Laying out on a mat in the sand near the ocean. Smelling ono meat being grilled. Listening to kids and family’s play and make memories. And feeling grateful to have 40 years with my dad who did everything in his power to make sure I was healthy, happy and safe. I miss you Dad! Happy Father’s Day!


Shit happens

On Thursday morning I worked from home and was able to take my dad to a lunchtime doctor’s appointment. That morning the doctor’s staff called several times asking about blood test results that they should’ve been able to get from another doctor.  My dad was annoyed as hell and feeling well enough to bitch out the doctor.

On Saturday I went grocery shopping for my parents. I bought fresh veggies and made veggie stock. I also made a dozen meatballs. Mom was too busy being Dad’s nurse that I pre-made food so they could just heat up or cook healthy and tasty meals quickly.

On Monday I stopped by to pick up books that I ordered from Amazon along with some other stuff that got delivered to my parents house. I told Dad he had to eat more and do his exercises so he could get strong again. He told me that Luke Walton had gotten hired as the Lakers head coach because he knows I’ve been following the Warriors this season.

On Tuesday my sister took my dad to his doctor appointment. Doc said cancer in his back shrank so I was pleased to hear the radiation helped. In hindsight, my sister thought Dad’s cancer doc was too hopeful and not realistic with us.

On Wednesday, Dad was admitted for in-patient chemo. I requested an Uber to transport him and Mom to Queens. That evening I visited and he was no longer talking. He was in pain. He was really drugged up. He slept early and  Mom and I left for home early.

On Thursday my mom got a call from his doctor saying Dad is confused so they’ve moved him closer to the nurse’s station. When I visit he doesn’t say anything. Dinner is untouched. 

On Friday, chemo is stopped. There’s nothing that can be done. Did you know a side effect of cancer treatment is cancer? This one spread to his abdomen and lungs. When I visit, my dad is mostly sleeping and no longer very responsive. He reacts by grunts and moans at the sound of his sister’s voice – a call from the Philippines – but he is no longer talking. 

On Saturday he’s not able to take meds orally or open his mouth. He’s mostly sleeping and unresponsive. 

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, he’s nearly completely unresponsive. His hands lie limp. My family fills the hospital room in three  separate shifts to say their goodbyes. Dad manages to open his eyes but he appears unfocused and is unresponsive. I know he heard us praying over him and sharing our love for him.  As she gives Dad his morphine dose, a single tear falls from his right eye which I see the nurse quickly wipe away…probably to spare us even more sadness. 

At 10pm that night Mom calls my sister and I back to the hospital – the nurse says his time is near. They can tell because a dying man breathes shallow breaths. I stay up all night. I can’t sleep and the rollaway bed and chair are both uncomfortable. Inbetween episodes of SVU on Hulu, I watch my dad inhale….and exhale…And at 405am I watch his last exhale and the last bit of stored energy leave his earthly body. He left this world in peace and I’m glad I witnessed it. 

Dad, I was devastated and scared when you were diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and I remember mom saying the docs said it was aggressive and un-cure-able. But what made it easier to cope with was that for the majority of these past few years, you looked great! You were actively volunteering in church, driving around to run errands and to your various doctors appointments. Even though you didn’t appear sick, I know you struggled with horrible pain and discomfor and It was especially difficult to see you suffering toward the end. You were so resilient. You fought a courageous battle with an ugly, mean disease and I’m relieved that you can finally be in a place without pain. I love you dad; please continue watching over us and visit often. 


Grateful today is Friday. Spent most of the evening spoon-feeding my dad water mixed with a dye so the docs could do a CT scan to get a better picture of his cancer. He doesn’t have to drink thickened liquids anymore but he still can’t drink straight from the cup or through a straw to prevent pneumonia.

Good things:

  • Pizza for dinner
  • Sierra Nevada Otra Vez
  • Season 1 of Jane the Virgin…can I please
  • #beacheselgato 


Random Dad memories. 

7th grade. Leaving school early, going to a doc appointment then stopping at the McDonalds near Navy Exchange to eat Big Macs and fries. 

8th grade. For some reason I had friends who lived with little supervision. My bestie Maria and I were hanging out in AMR with some boys we crushed on. I think we went to watch a movie at this kid Casey’s house and all of a sudden it’s after midnight and Casey’s dad has to drive us home. I didn’t call my super-strict Catholic parents to let them know I was safe..when I got back home, I just knocked on the front door, hoping to be let in. I was let in by my pissed off Dad who grabbed my by the shirt collar, lifted me up 3 feet so I was face to face with our grandfather clock in the hallway, all the while screaming “do you know what time it is??!!!”  

Driving. My first learning to drive experience was not in a class or by getting behind the wheel, but by observing my dad from the back seat. I would anticipate when he’d change lanes, make turns, speed up or slow down. I was 15 when I got my license.

College graduation. I can’t think of any other moment that I’ve seen him so proud of me. I remember the staging, then the walk to accept my diploma. My dad would find various spots to pop out and take my picture. He was using one of those green, FujiFilm disposable cameras. I graduated 16 years ago and have never seen those pictures! I wonder if my parents forgot to get the filmed developed. 

2011. I finally made the trip with my parents to the Philippines as an adult. My dad has 5 sisters and it was nice to see them reunited. After that trip we made plans to return in a couple years. I never expected that to be his last trip home. A few months after we returned to Hawaii, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. My basic understanding of the disease is that it’s a cancer that lives in his blood and is incurable; his treatment just slows the disease. His newest cancer diagnosis, and the reason he’s been in the hospital for a month, is due to another cancer: plasmablastic lymphoma. He lives a healthy lifestyle and has no history of cancer in his family. 


The elevator door opened up to the 7th floor. I was about to take a step out when I looked up and saw my co-worker, a guy who sits one cube away from me, who was about to step in. I stepped out and he took a step back. So hey…followed by a brief moment of silence to acknowledge the situation. 

“Hey I heard your dad was sick. I didn’t realize he was still sick though. Is he on this side of the floor?”  I vaguely point left I don’t know why I did, I have no clue what’s over that way. “Or is he there?” Then I point toward the right — where all the patient rooms are…where there are orange biohazard signs taped to some of the entrances of the rooms, patient precaution signs, nurses in plastic gloves and masks, and patients muffled groans of discomfort. And I get to thinking of my own father’s room where a couple days ago a new sign in bold letters got taped to his wall:  “Spoon feed only! Thicken all liquids. Asphixaton precaution.” And that issue happens to be just one of his minor problems. 

My co-worker nods. Yup he’s over on the right side too. Right side. The cancer side. Well at least that’s what I think of it. It’s what my co-worker’s dad has, and mine too. It certainly doesn’t feel like anyone’s getting healed quickly on the right side of the 7th floor. I’ve been visiting my dad for the past 7 days – of his overall 20 day stay -and I’ve only seen one other patient in the halls. She’s a firecracker of an old lady who hates going back to her room. Last night as my sister walked by her chair, which hospital staff placed outside of her room so she could watch the floor traffic, she called to my sister: “lady. hey lady! They don’t bring us enough food around here.” She’s certainly a character and hearing my sister tell that story made me giggle. But today I was walking up to her room and noticed she was not on her perch. As I passed, I overheard her asking her nurse why she had to get a shot injected in her belly. 

punctuation while texting

I love writing and I’m always going through phases of trying to practice more, but what usually ends up happening is that I get sucked down the evil rabbit hole that is the Internet. 

A few weeks ago I found a 12-day plan of simple writing exercises on Writers Digest. Will it take me a month or more to finish 12 exercises? Probably. But, here I go.

Day 1: write 10 potential book titles of books you’d like to write. (These aren’t titles but ideas. And, some are thoughts that I’d like to happen so I can write about them!)

  1. How I quit my job to travel the world (and get paid!)
  2. Cooking and entertaining with my BF
  3. How yoga changed my life – and helped me lose 40lbs
  4. My summer in New York City
  5. My life had I made other choices
  6. Oahu’s Best Public Restrooms 
  7. How my dad made it to America
  8. The stories of my family
  9. Growing up brown in a white world
  10. Finding happiness. Do you. 

Till next time…