Saturday, August 27, 2011

House rules

THE RECENT separate reports of demonic possession make me wonder: Is the craving to communicate with the unknown just a novelty for the young or a preoccupation among those already pierced by the twinges of mortality?

I watched on the news several people restrain youths after they played spirit of the glass or the coin. Male and female students of different schools located in different parts of the country, the youngsters shrieked, rolled their eyes and talked unintelligibly when a cross was pressed against different parts of their body.

According to a schoolmate who backed out at the last minute, the Cebu-based students made a pact to play the Ouija board at noon in an empty classroom. This is a sheet covered with letters and signs, which players “read” after a spirit, summoned by them, enters and moves around a downturned glass to deliver a message.

What can the living learn from the “beyond”? Curiosity about Anne Frank (Does the spirit grow older after dying? Was she working on a follow-up of her memoir?) made our book-loving group plot to play spirit of the glass on seniors’ night in high school.

However, after making sure the coast was clear of teachers and monitors, we realized not one of us brought an Ouija board or could draw one from memory. So we settled for spin the bottle, giggling after crushes were dredged up and pushed away all desire to command to “tell all” the soul of a young Jewess murdered in a concentration camp.

The fount of youth is not a fabled elixir but the arrogance to keep death at a distance, between the pages of a novel or six feet beneath a moss-encrusted grave marker. My immunity ended six years ago when my father died.

On the night my father suffered cardiac arrest, the medical staff was responding to another Code Blue on another floor. This private hospital had only one team to respond to such cases. The time it took for the staff to stabilize the first patient and rush to my father’s bedside was crucial: my father graduated from being an emergency to a case for resuscitation and then life support.

When he passed away days later, I was conscious of the weight of his displeasure. All my calls—from bringing him to a private hospital when he preferred the public one he served for 30 years as a surgeon to allowing his medical resuscitation when he didn’t believe in extreme measures—were opposed to what he wanted.

In death as in life, my father could nurse a grudge. In the years immediately after his death, I dreamt variations of the same speechless, sinking horror: standing outside his hospital room, the dread of anticipating what lay beyond the door crushing me; or looking down at his body, unable to tear myself away.

I don’t know when but in time, my father lightened up. He still visits me in my dreams, but we’ve moved away from room B-552. He’s often in his faded shorts, with his favorite accessories: a cold bottle of beer and his second or third pack of cigarettes. Sometimes he’s reading the news or rudely butting in while his favorite commentator blares from the radio that’s never switched off when he’s at home.

Where he is now isn’t our old home. I don’t know where this is because my old man has become unusually restless. I’m always following his stooped figure down a strange street that looks oddly familiar. We visit family but other folks I don’t know. Sometimes, I wish he wouldn’t overdo this socializing. I have to work in the morning.

And can he talk. We never had to talk to understand what each other wanted, but in these recent dreams, my father is positively garrulous. When I wake up, I don’t remember a thing he said, only that I never say a thing. After having everything go during those last years—his teeth, his eyesight, his memory, his hearing, his appetite, his independence, his daughters—my father’s back in the driver’s seat and I’m a grayer version of my school girl self, sitting beside him, dutiful and silent, occasionally coughing when the wind wafts cigarette smoke my way.

In the spirit world, the living must remember that we’re only guests.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Aug. 28, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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