(On Dealing with Feelings of Ambivalence through Poetry)
One of the reasons I immigrated to Canada in 2003 was to take care of my late maternal grandfather. I spent almost three years as his live-in caregiver. It was a tough time; but in retrospect, I gained much in the process in terms of becoming a stronger and more courageous person and a more proficient and prolific writer. Despite all that, I never deny that our relationship for the most part was a bittersweet one. I always found myself in a dilemma and my feelings for him had become ambivalent. There were moments when I was sad because I knew that his death was coming; but there were also moments when I was secretly wishing for his death to come sooner, so I could finally be relieved of such a difficult task of caring for him. That’s the truth. Within me sprang a well of opposing emotions… dilemma… antithesis… oxymoron. Such bittersweetness!
However, beneath all that was honesty, which is therapeutic when a person is dealing with a mix of negative and positive emotions.
Grandpa died on July 8, 2006. He was 91. The experience of having been with him in the last three years of his life until his death continues to make me introspective and sensitive especially as a writer. Here’s one of the many poems that I wrote in those days, when poetry to me became a bittersweet solace and a cathartic outlet.
Dilim Bago ang Dulo
Pagod na pagod na ‘ko
Mga mata ko’y laging mugtô
Ang tigas ng ulo ng lolo ko
Mukhang mauuna pa yata ako
Di na ‘ko makatulog nang maayos
Pagbabantay di matapus-tapos
Ni wala man lamang mayapós
Sa t’wina ako’y mistulang nauupos
Di ko na mawari ang aking nadarama
Nasa pagitan ako ng dalawang demoño
Walang itulak-kabigin, parehong talo
Sitwasyon ko’y parang wala nang katapusan
Kailan pa kaya panibagong buhay ay masisimulan?
Kunut-noo, kagat-labì, buntung-hininga
Kailan pa kaya ako muling makatatawa?
O makangingiti man lang nang ubod-sigla?
Pagong pa rin ang usad ng panahon
Sukò na yata ako sa mga araw na mapanghamon
Sana naman tutuo ang kasabihan:
“Sa dulo ng bawat lagusan
Ay may liwanag na maaasahan”
At kung iyan nga ay isang katotohanan
Sapat pa sana ang aking isipa’t pangangatawan
Upang bagtasin ang kasalukuyang dilim
Na sa aking buhay ay nagpapakulimlim
The Last Leaf
Only when one is honest with oneself would one be able to be truly honest with others.