“What are you doing hiding here in obscurity?”
He was a short Filipino man, wearing a pinstriped fedora and wire-rimmed glasses. He was one of my mother’s friends. If I remember correctly, he could play the piano by ear and could not read music. He was a genius in his own regard.
He was standing in front of me at a noisy restaurant with a buffet of MSG-loaded Filipino food. It was packed with people. Half of the space was occupied by close friends and family.
The reception lunch followed a memorial service for my late stepfather, Victor. He was a street-smart, Brooklyn-raised, Puerto Rican contractor who was married to my mom (on paper) for many years. Most importantly, he was my sister’s father.
He was in his early 80’s, spending most of last year at a rehabilitation facility after some medical issues and a fall where he bruised a few of his ribs. Then there were surgeries, exploratory procedures, early onset of dementia and other ailments. His last hour was a hospital in New Jersey, surrounded by a loving couple who wrote us a 6-page letter of their cherished memories of his last 8 months of life.
He had seven children, most of whom are grown, and now disbursed amongst the other States. My sister is the youngest, and the only one that he probably spent time raising. That’s not to say anything poorly about my stepfather. He found the Lord later in his life.
So her grief was particularly a shared load for me, only because I lost my own father in 2010. But I had my daughter then and my relationship with my father was at a point where I understood most things that adults tell you that you will understand when you’re an adult. I already had my daughter, which was sort of an anchor for me in terms of life’s benchmarks. My sister is in her early twenties, graduated college in the last two years and starting her career. She isn’t married and has no children. (Which is good since, you know, she’s not married yet. Just sayin’).
For two days, I tossed around what I would say in my eulogy. There were other spiritual considerations surrounding this event.
My sister and my mom were still Catholic. Mentioning heaven and everlasting life were framed differently in their minds. I prayed about how I could show love to my sister, honor my stepfather’s memory and stand for God. By the time I was asked to speak at the event, they had already booked the event at the Catholic church.
But then the interesting and miraculous happened.
Stay tuned for Part Two.