As I turned the corner my eyes fixed on the old man. “Good morning Pa.” I spoke. The old man just smiled slightly and bowed his head. I walked to the kitchen searching for that breakfast to start the day. Before I opened the fridge, I looked on top and there stood cereal boxes crammed together each one already opened. Then I looked in the fridge, the dinner from last night was still there, the common fish everyone in the house loved. “Nicole,” that grumpy choking voice called out, “I cook eggs, go… on the stove, just microwave the rice, go now eat.” I yawned widely,” ok Pa." So I took a plate from the high cabinet reaching up on my tippy-toes, walked over to the lower cabinet on the other side of the kitchen, slid open the drawer to grab a fork and headed to the rice cooker. I scooped the rice out of the cooking machine and placed it onto the plate, opened up the microwave and set the timer for one minute. In that one minute I looked at the old man. He sure looked old. His body slouched lazily, shoulders hunched slightly. He sat in one of those chairs that would rock back and forth but not go anywhere. It never made a sound, not even the whooshing sound. It used to be owned by someone else; she mostly sat in an upright position in it. Time had passed by and the old man took it over. The wrinkled hands criss-crossed rested on the belly that did not work out for quite some time.
Suddenly the sound of the microwave went off beeping over five times just to keep reminding you, “your food is done come get it!” I took the plate of rice over to the stove and topped it with scrambled eggs. I loved the way he cooked eggs, I always had. They were not completely scrambled, but had some whiteness and softness to them also just covered with the right amount of salt and pepper. I went to the table sat down on the not so comfy, but doable chair and prayed for my food while thanking for everything else. On the table lay red and white roses on top of old newspapers. You could tell they were washed; they looked very crisp. The old man gathered roses once every month from the garden to go see her. I started eating my food and while I was eating I rose up my head and stared at that old man again.
The skin was wrinkly, cracked in places where the lotion never hit. His head covered with silver and few black strands of hair, yet it wasn’t enough to hide all of it. The hair also covered the inside of his ear cave where he took in your words every time you spoke to him although sometimes he would just respond, “eh?” His eyes, slightly yellow, drooped with sadness to them, yet still focused sharply upon the sports on the black screen with the help of rusty glasses to see everything in twenty-twenty vision. I looked at his eyes, they looked so sad, so worried, but I could not figure it out. Those eyes that watched over me, the eyes that yelled at me, the eyes that cheered me, the eyes that never left my mind, why were they looking so gloomy? Come to think of it, I have never seen those eyes cry, maybe once, just before he took over that chair.
Pa’s hands were old. They were covered with hard work over the years. When you looked at those old wrinkly hands with their nails yellow and chipped, you could see the scars of the metal gun he held tightly in World War 2 to keep our freedom, even the old wooden tool that worked to keep the rice fields in check. You saw the way those hands guided children into succeeding in an education. Seeing those hands you envisioned the grip on the paddle, sandal or belt that whipped your a** if something you did was out of line. The hands that taught me how to take care of plants; the hands that taught me to help someone up, the hands that guided me to achieve higher in all I do. That hand that held my hand when the strangers came to pull on my cheeks, the hands that held me so I would not fall.
“Pa?” I said with a soft voice. The old man was focused on the tennis court projecting from the black screen. “Pa!!” I called once again. He jumped slightly, “eh? Aiyaah, hmm what is it?” I giggled a bit, “Pa, can you teach me Ilocano?” Ilocano is our native tongue. “Eh,” he murmured. He turned his body towards me struggling lazily because I took him away from the projector “Ya, why, why you want to learn?” He sniffed hard. I spoke, “Because I want to learn my native tongue, mom doesn’t know it as well as you, also Pa I wanna go the Philippines.” He sniffed hard again, but this time the sound went down to his throat and from his throat he breathed out hardly as if something was stuck in it and then spat out a thick, yellowish saliva into a red plastic cup. “So, Pa… will you teach me please?” I begged “Ya, ya ok I teach you later” he replied turning his old body back towards the projection. I knew the old man would say those words intentionally. Smiling back to myself I continued eating and staring.
That old man sure knew how to dress back when I remember. He wore the nice looking suites that were in the upstairs closet wrapped around with plastic to keep the dust away from their cleanliness. Such sharp suits they were, he could pull off a gray suit like no other man, especially on church days. Even casual wear was good. The old man had nice pants, not jean material, but the casual gabardine pants. He also wore a nice looking t-shirt, not colorful but the neutral colors: black, brown, white, blue and sometimes gray. After daydreaming a little, I looked at Pa again...”Wow,” I thought “how on earth did it come to think he would dress like that?” Ever since the chair was taken over, dressing was not flashy anymore; the gray suit hardly came out of the closet. The old man was wearing a red knitted sweater, chewed bits and pieces by the moths or rats. Those nice casual gabardine pants were no longer considered nice, but torn up at the bottom, stained by the food and juice eating near it and the brown dust from perhaps kneeling on the dirt outside. I knew under that hideous red sweater he wore a white t-shirt covered with filthy colored stains that never came off in the wash. I looked down and I saw faded black socks ripped open at the heel revealing its old crackly whiteness.
I finished eating my food, went to the sink, washed my dishes in lukewarm water and as I did it I looked at that old man again. Ever since he took over that chair, he has been different. That old scraped up chair just made a huge difference. I have to admit, it is a comfy chair. Ever since that day, he still sleeps downstairs on the old futon, he still grows roses constantly, he still gives life to the plants, and he still sits in that chair. “Pa, are you ready to go?” I asked. He sighed, stood up from the old chair, walked slowly to the table and wrapped the flowers in a cone shape with the newspaper. “Let’s go now, we go.” He said.
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