“How will I deal with grief?” I ask myself every time I remember how I almost killed my father when I was still a child. I was naive back then.

Will I cry? Will I hide my sufferings behind a smile? Will I be able to move on and continue with life?

I don’t know―and I do not want to know.

I still vividly remember the first time I met my father. It was at the airport. We were waiting at the parking space when a tall, dark-skinned guy―with an Arabic-themed tattoo on his right arm―entered our van. I stared at him for so long as I did not recognize who he was. I did not approach him or talked to him as my mother always warned me that people with tattoos are bad. I stayed still and silent until mama introduced him to me, “Jay, siya nga pala ang Papa mo.” I felt ecstatic and started telling him different stories. We talked and bonded on our way home.

As an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) for over two decades, Papa traveled a lot. He already went to different countries in the Middle East―where he met my mother―and Southern Africa. Every time his contract ends, he would immediately go back home to spend his days with us before he gets another gig. I was always excited every time he goes back as he always brings us a variety of chocolates from the duty-free shop and other souvenirs I requested beforehand. As my little brother and I devour the chocolates from time to time, our parents, most especially Papa, would remind us, “Anak, hinay-hinay lang sa tsokolate. Nasa lahi natin ang may diabetes.” At that time, I thought it was just a simple illness, like cough or cold, that one could immediately recover from―I never knew it could be fatal.

One day, my father and I were bonding like how a father and son would. He would lift me in the air as if I were Superman. He would tickle me until my last breath. He would joke and tell me stories about his life abroad. We were having fun―and I loved that.

While we were resting, I unknowingly offered him my favorite sweet popcorn snack. He immediately grabbed and ate one. He would then grab another one until we finished eating the whole pack. However, after several minutes, he collapsed and started convulsing on the floor. I was stunned and scared. I didn’t know what to do back then. Luckily, one of my uncles saw what was happening and immediately called an ambulance. I stayed still and silent as my mother explained how I should’ve not given him anything sweet.

“Jay, may diabetes ang Papa mo. Bawal siya sa matamis,” she explained.

Strangely, I did not cry or feel devastated. I was able to continue with my life―studying and playing with friends as I usually did―while my father recovered in the hospital. I may have worried a little, but that’s it. During our hospital visits, I would just sit beside him and talk if he was talking to me. I knew I was supposed to be sad, crying, but my brain never asked me to. It was as if I was an emotionless robot or an alien incapable of processing emotions. It had never occurred to me during that time that my father almost died―and it was almost because of me.

Am I that numb? Or was I just too young to understand?

Nonetheless, my father recovered, thankfully, although the doctor prescribed him additional medicines to control his diabetes. We talked and bonded as if nothing had happened before he went back abroad to work again. He has never brought it up to this day.

Today, despite his old age, my father is as strong as ever. Although there are times when his body fails him, he will make sure that he will recover from it immediately. After all, he is still our family’s breadwinner.

He would always remind me, “Jay, mahalin at alagaan mo mga kapatid mo ha? Lalo na kapag wala na kami ng Mama mo.” I can’t help but shed a tear, smile, and assure him that I will.

However, as much as I want to erase the idea of their loss, I can’t help but wonder how I will handle grief.

Will I react the same way I did when Papa almost died? Will I become an emotionless robot or an alien incapable of processing emotions? Will I burst out crying? Will I hide the pain I feel behind a smile? Will I be able to move on and continue with life without them?

“How will I deal with grief?” I asked myself again.

I don’t know―and I wish I will never know.

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