Remembering Papa

I  don’t remember ever celebrating Halloween as a child. We observed All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day by going to church and the cemetery to clean the graves and light candles for our departed loved ones. When my grandparents passed on, my mother would “offer” some of their favorite delicacies and tobacco leaves for my grandfather, (he rolled his own cigar) on our small altar which had small statues of Jesus and several saints. As children we eagerly waited for our parents to finish praying (for the souls’ “eternal repose”), so we could eat what had been “offered.” That was fun.

When my father passed on 12 years ago, I started my own tradition of drinking and smoking a cigarette twice a year — on All Saints’ or All Souls’ Day and on his birthday/death anniversary. I’m alcohol intolerant so one glass of rum (okay, rum and cola) is enough. He never liked beer.  I’m not into smoking, so one or two is all. I used to like watching him blow smoke rings, so now when I do smoke I try doing the same.

So Halloween is here again. I cannot really get into the spirit of this festival. Tonight when people party celebrating life, I’ll be lighting a candle and smoking a cigarette and drinking rum (and cola) while listening to Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, remembering one of the most important people in my life.

 For Papa

(This was written 8 years ago. I know it’s sentimental, but I think we are all entitled to be sentimental once in a while. So bear with me.) 

Is it true?
You see your entire life
Flash in front of your eyes
The second before you die?

And if it is,
What did you see?

Did you see yourself
Smiling and waving
To people who called out your name
When you won that basketball game?

Did you feel proud
Being in that moment again when
Your opponent shook your hand
After you beat him at tennis?

And what was it like,
When you relived that moment
At the altar, with that young woman
With whom you exchanged “I do’s”?

Was it as amazing as the first time
In May, when you first saw
And then held your first child,
So tiny and fragile in your arms?

Was that October day vivid still,
Or did tears make the flashback hazy,
As to the altar, you led your second daughter,
To where her groom was waiting?

Did it make you laugh hearing
Your third daughter’s ringing laughter,
The one you always tried to copy
And made her laugh all the more?

And did it pain you again,
When your youngest daughter came home
That night you would pass away, when she barely looked at you
As she hurried to her room to work on her thesis?

Did you feel that love
That we sometimes were too greedy
To give you, yet, you know we had inside.
Did you feel it as we surrounded you

On your death bed?

Did you hear my mother and my sisters crying out your name?
And did you hear me whisper, “Don’t go, Pa. Please fight.”
Was that why there were tears in your eyes
That few seconds before you died?


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