White Roses for Papa (Hope Atuel)

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           Dawn was hardly breaking as I stood by the window of our old house. I was still clutching Papa’s letter in my right hand. It has been six years since I have seen him. And now that I’m finally home, he’s dead. I still could not believe it that he could appear oh cold and lifeless inside his mahogany coffin.

            I received the call last night Monday and I hurriedly got the next plane for Manila. Mama started to cry when she saw me at the airport. But she was not surprised when she felt my indifference towards my father. She knew all along that I only came back to respect for him.

            Ten years ago, we had been a very happy family that one would never dare to dream that one day, we would just be one of those broken families. Papa was a very successful architect while my Mama worked as a psychologist in a prestigious hospital. I have a brother and a sister and we lived a luxurious yet simple life. We were close in our own way. I remembered when Papa would throw a party for his employees every Christmas at our office and the whole family would be there. It was that Christmas of 2000 that it all began. Being the eldest in our family, I had been in-charged of all those games and raffle prizes. We were about to begin the raffle game when I remembered that I had left the gifts inside my Papa’s office. So I hurriedly went and to my surprised, I saw Tita Mely, my father’s secretary, enveloped in my father’s arms. They were engrossed in what they were doing that they didn’t even notice my coming in. I just stood there, transfixed in the doorway as numbness crept all over my body. I didn’t notice that Mama had followed me and as she saw Papa and his secretary she started to cry and shout. Only then, that the two realized that they had an audience. Everybody was shocked that we decided to break the party, that night, Mama and my sister stayed at my room while my baby brother slept with his yaya. We didn’t talk, we just cried the whole night. Papa didn’t bother to come back that night to give some explanations. He just came home the next day to collect his things. Tita Mely and my father started to live together and Mama couldn’t do anything about that so she just devoted her time doing her work. I have always gotten by on my own independently since then and the seed of hatred just grew in my heart. After four years, my Papa decided to come back and came to seek forgiveness. My mother loved him so much so they decided to pick up what they had left off. Both my brother and sister were too young to remember what had happened so they accepted him too. During that time, I was already on my way to becoming the country’s top interior designer and that there was offer for me to stay in New York. I felt that I had no reasons for staying and that I couldn’t bear the thought of living with him so I grabbed the opportunity and went to New York the following week. Since then, we never had intimate communication except for Christmas and birthday cards I sent.

            When I came back last Monday, my Mama gave me a letter that Papa made for me. I did not want to read it but then I did not want to upset my mother so I read it anyway.

Dearest Pie,

          I came back six years ago because I had discovered that I had a cancer of the lungs. When Mely knew about this, she left me instantly. So I decided to come home to those persons who really care for me, that is, my family. I tried my luck and surprisingly, your mother forgave me. Both Prissy and Paul accepted me back, but you chose to hate me. All these years I have waited for the time that you would call me Papa again and put me in your arms around me but it never came. So many nights I dreamed for the day when you would forget the past, but it never materialized. This is the punishment I have inflicted upon myself, even as I have long regretted my sin. I know that you will only be able to read this when I’m gone. I do not seek for forgiveness from you alone. If you forgive me, throw a white rose in my coffin as a token. And with this, I will die a happy man. I have always loved you, Pie, and I shall never cease to.

 

                                                                                                Papa

            I was startled to feel a tap on my shoulder. The sun was already up. Today was Papa’s funeral. My Mama came to tell me that the roses that I have ordered were here. I hugged her and then I started to cry for the very first time.

            “Not only will I throw a single rose, Ma, I will throw a dozen.”

            She just noded her head and started to cry. She didn’t say anything but I knew she understood.

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