COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
A few friends observed that I talk of the dead as if they were alive. Admittedly, I talk of the dead in the same manner as I talk of the living. Only that this time they’re absent.
I really don’t know how to do otherwise. I always refer the departed ones in the present tense, like they are just in another place. No pretensions of being kind in words, yet not disrespectful in any manner. One doesn’t have to die first in order for another to pay respect.
This lack of sense of the past being done often elude me. The present still appears to be a continuing past.
Probably it’s a result of passing information from one generation to another. My mother used to talk of her dead ones—her parents, siblings, and personages in our community as a daily chore. She would relive small incidents, little surprises, and moments of distress in narrative details of those who lived in her time and way before her. Her story telling would go on at the dining table, in the bedroom, in the yard and in the kitchen while doing the usual chores at home.
So as I spend time with her each passing day, these people whom I have never seen continue to live with us in her tales. They stay long enough in our consciousness to be considered dead. All of them perhaps are physically absent, but their personality lives.
These past few years though, I’ve seen the passing of loved ones, friends, and members of my clan. To a few I bring some notes in time for the second of November, in celebration of the All Souls day.
For Mano Dani: “To the end, you continue to puzzle us, leaving behind riddles and paradoxes. As you are used to tinkering and problem solving, you unknowingly intended that we do the same. After you left, most of your things went away too. Some are in the hands of people only known to you, unclaimed. Others simply cease to function so I threw them away. But I kept your notes from SenecaCollege in Toronto, especially that one on Statistics on the subject Reliability.”
For Nanay: “Hazel gave birth to a baby boy that made me a grand aunt in my thirties. Had you waited a little longer, you would have seen your first great grandchild suck from her mother’s breast. I gave some of your blouses that have opening at the front for her to use while nursing her child. She’s the one who followed you, having married a church worker. Apparently, she’s the one chosen by God to continue in His service.”
For Tiyo Paco: “I learned from Tiya Ruth that you were in the Death March. I regret that I was not able to get full account of the details from you. But I am proud of you and once I get to Ormoc, I’ll first visit your grave.”
And for Rey: “I know you took a hard path and fought a good fight. But it’s time to let down your guard you’re in safe hands now. Take time to rest, dear soldier take time to rest. Your life’s battle is done.”