Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My father passed away last Saturday. I'd finally gotten home after a long, long day when my brother called and said to come over because our dad might be dead. That simply could not be, I thought. My brother hadn't checked him properly. How often had we joked how our dad was like Mr Burns, no matter how old and decrepit he became he was just too mean to ever die? He would keep going on forever. So I pulled on my coat and shoes and rushed out the door hanging onto that word might.

But at the house a fireman told me he was gone before I entered. Inside I found my brother leaning against the stove in total shock, a policeman gently questioning him, and my father on the floor covered with a blue blanket. I sat beside him trying to accept the fact that the familiar person lying in front of me was now just an empty shell. I wondered if his spirit was there somewhere coming to terms with the same thing. I hoped, prayed he'd gone in his sleep. But why was he on the floor then? Had he been trying to go for help? "Because he was an alcoholic, remember?" my brother later said, something the paramedics could tell, he informed me, without his having to saying a word.

Yes but...

I wanted to run my hand over his hair in apology for not getting there earlier when I could have actually spoken to him. And might have if only he'd looked a lot more asleep and a little less dead. He didn't have the peaceful look of someone who'd known it was his time. He looked like he'd accidentally vacated his body which only made me picture, again and again, what his last days and hours might have been like.
When my sister arrived we discussed what to do. Whether burial or cremation, a cemetery here or the Philippines, a funeral mass or a simple memorial service. I suggested we each speak and invite friends and family to do the same but my sister shook her head. "I know you feel guilty, Cheryl, but I don't think that's necessary." I resisted the urge to say that if any of us felt guilty it was her for not speaking to our father in over two years, for having been here since August yet failing to patch things up, for bringing three of his grandchildren over here yet never letting him see them even once. But what would be the point? Besides, our mother was in the next room. And I knew this was my sister's way of dealing with overwhelming feelings. Moreover, tired of being their go between, I'd stopped trying to make peace between them ages ago. I could have brought the girls over to see him myself, in spite of how my sister would have reacted, or at least told him she and the girls where here just blocks away from him...but I never did. So, a few hours later in a noisy all night diner, between sniffles and tears, I reminded her of all the funny stories everyone told at our grandfather's funeral and how nice it would be if dad had something similar. "Not everyone hated him," I added. "Okay," she sighed.

Monday, my mother and I made arrangements at the funeral home. Afterwards, she told me how, when they'd asked about him, and I'd talked about how he loved opera, fishing, fine art, fine food and travel and hoped I'd have a funny, touching enough story to tell at his memorial, she'd remembered the days when she was working two jobs and just before she was about to pay off a bill she found out my father had already used the money on something completely useless. When she'd confronted him about it, he'd replied, "So? Sue me!"

"Oh, so that's why you didn't say anything," I said. "I thought you were too sad to talk."

"No! It was because when she asked us that all I could think was the words, so sue me!"

It's been four days. His home is being cleared, his bills and accounts settled, obituary written (by me) and sent in to be printed, friends and family informed. Not the way I thought we'd be spending my sister's last week here before she and the girls returned to Fiji. She was right. I do feel a lot of regret. Out of the three of us I was the one who got along with him, who'd put the past behind us and found a way to let all the horrible things he sometimes said go in one ear and out the other. I've jokingly called him asshole dad here on my blog. But he was just my dad, I loved him and I regret not being there for him towards the end.

My sister and brother, on the other hand, have their own list of regrets. And my mother, who has known our father since high school, who hasn't slept in days, is going through her own grieving process.

His memorial service is this Saturday and I'm still not sure what to say. Then, sometime next year, I'll have to go to the Philippines for the first time in my life, along with my father's remains, so he can be placed beside his mother and twin brother. That, I'm guessing, will be a strange, emotional trip. More on that later.


  1. Cheryl... I'm so, so sorry for your loss...
    I truly hope you find some comfort in the days ahead...

  2. Thanks Lena, being surrounded by family, especially by my little nieces helps a lot, hugs back, Cheryl

  3. Cheryl, you are and will remain in my thoughts. I am so sorry for your loss. What a sad time it is--and I am glad you have your family around you to lean on. Sending you love.

  4. So sorry! When these things happen, whatever your relations may have been, good or not, there are always some feelings of regrets about things you didn't do, didn't say, when there was still time. This is normal, somehow you could always have done "better", but this goes mostly from both sides. Good, real relationships come automatically and if they are artificial, they have not at all the same value. In your case, I'm sure you have tried sufficiently to establish better relationship during the years; no reason to have any regrets. Take care!

  5. So sorry to hear about your Dad. Its been along time since us cousins saw each other, but I will always have those special memories when the Cruz, Capiendos and the Deguzmans would travel between So. & No. Cali and have so much fun hanging out. I will always remember your Dad as the fun loving funny, life of the party. So similar to my Dad. but just like you, my brother, mom and I had the disfunctional relationship with my alcoholic father and I also became the go between at the end. It's definitely hard when the "what if's" or the "I should've" start coming up. If you ever need to talk about it, send me an email or call me. Love to you, richie, cherry, your mom and the kids. Your cousin, arlene

  6. Oh, sweet friend, I am so profoundly sorry. I can't believe it. And I am sure you can't either. You are in my thoughts . My most sincere condolences to you, your family and all who were touched by your father's life.
    Much love,

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  8. Dear Cheryl,
    I am so sorry to hear about your father passing on.
    I remember how hard you worked to find peace with him during his lifetime, and I am sure he was grateful for that. May you find peace in the knowledge that he is at peace now and would nothing more than you are too.

  9. karen dizon-pangan12/6/10, 5:05 AM

    Hi Cheryl

    I'm Karen your cousin here in the Philippines daughter of Nelia (Tito Raul's sister)

    For the past year we have constant communication with him. We are blessed with his generosity and continuous support to his father and siblings.

    My fondest memory of Tito Raul is whenever he calls us. He would always tell us how much he love and misses us. He always say he really like to come home for a visit. It's just unfortunate that he would come home this way.

    Please do let us know if you need anything so we can make arrangements here in Manila.

    Please extend our condolences to you and your family.

  10. Hi Cheryl,
    I am so very sorry to hear about your father...
    My name is Crystal and we have never actually spoken but I worked with you father for the past ten years, so I feel like I know you. And as mean as your father could be he was my friend. I could only imagine what it was like growing up with him. But I know he loved you all and he was incredible proud of all of you. He spoke of all of you often and he told us all what a talented artist you are, which is how I knew how to find you when I heard. As much as he spoke of you all. I don't know if I have ever known someone so in love with his grandchildren. Everytime he got a new picture he would call me over and we would go through each one. And then decide which one would be his new screen saver (he could never remember how to do it himself).

    I truely enjoyed working with Raul on his good days and the bad. Every morning he would walk in and I would smile and say "Good Morning, Mr Cruz." Only to get the same reply, "What's good about the morning?" I would tell him, "I get to see you." He would roll his eyes and I would laugh. I will deeply miss him.

    Please let me know the details of the memorial service.


  11. Hi Cheryl,

    My name is Paula and I worked with your father Raul for almost 2 yrs. He will be deeply missed, He was a very well known person at work. As Crystal said saying good morning to him was a funny routine reply "What's so good about the morning" or You asshole! I will miss his laugh, the most adorable devious laugh I've ever heard. He did always speak great things of you and was a very proud father as well as loving his grandchildren. He's in a better place traveling all over heaven...

    I'm sorry I won't be able to make the services, as I'm moving out of state and my family and I are leaving Friday morning. I wish I could be there, but I will say a prayer for him.

  12. Hi Cheryl and to all the Cruz family,

    My name is Jerry Mahler and I have worked with Raul for the past 21 years. I just found out today Raul had passed and as Cheryl said when she first heard the news, I could not believe it was true either. I understand there many difficult situations with your family but Raul loved all of his children very very much. He would talk about the three of you all the time and was so proud of all of you. His face would glow when he talked about his children it is sad that he did not tell you that to your face but he felt it with all of his heart. Raul was a very wise man and he taught me a great deal about our industry and life in general over the years. He would always speak his mind and he did not care who he offended but I admired him for that. As terrible as the family life might have been at times Raul had a huge heart. He would always donate money for my children for their fund raisers and would sign his name Raul the Great or Raul the Magnificent. Raul had issues he kept buried deep inside but he was a truly great man behind the mask. I will miss Raul very much, I had great respect for him as a father, a grandfather and a friend. I will keep a piece of Raul inside me forever and I ask all of you to look inside of yourself and do the same.


  13. Hi cheryl, this is nennette, your cousin here in the Philippines. Still can't believe that he's gone coz we just talked to him about a few weeks ago. When i read your blog i felt more sad...i realized that behind the joy and laughter i heard as we spoke before is hidden sadness. Maybe that's the reason he often calls the Philippines this past few months. We never knew what kind of father or husband he was...but believe me, he loved all of you and his grandchildren so much. He was so proud of you and all his stories centered on you, Cherry and Richie. We will miss him so much.

  14. Cheryl,

    My condolences to you and your family. I pray for peace for Raul and comfort for your family.

    I also worked with Raul at TBCT for just 14 years.

    I am a Filipino - American born 3rd generation. Raul and I would talk about different foods and culture clashes. He truly was funny in a twisted "Raul" way. He was known in the industry as, "the Famous Raul". Many times I would meet someone, for the first itme, and when I told them I work at TBCT they would ask, "How is Raul?"

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories of your father. The pictures are precious.

    John Lopez

    P.S. You going to the Philippines will for sure be a "trip". I have only been three times and each time I learned something about my ethnicity that books or stories from relatives/friends won't give you.

  15. Cheryl,

    I am so sorry to heard about your fater. I am Capt. K, I worked directly with your fater last 5 years but knowing him almost 20 yeras since I frequently called his working place. I got this sad news just yesterday and no words can fully express my condolence. He was my staff but while off work hour he was my friend. Many things we talked but he always started family story first. I have never met you but he told me about you what you love what you do. He was always proud of you. I will keep his voice and laughter in my mind and I pray his soul may rest in peace

  16. Cheryl,
    So great it is, to read of how proud your dad seemed to be of you. I am very aware of the pain you have felt over not just your dad, but many family issues in general. I know how hard you worked to put it all behind you and not spend your life bitter over that which you could not change. Even though I know how much heartache you've experienced, I always did have a fondness for Raul. He was always very nice to me and I remember spending the night at your house many times and him making me laugh with his teeth and alcohol induced happy moods. I recall how I would be laughing and you would be yelling "Gross, DAD!". Those memories are bittersweet now that we are grown and know the serious outcomes. I just wanted to say that, I too, am proud of how you handled the challenge of your relationship with him. I am even prouder at your honesty, and the discussing in your blog of un-pretty things that most people would want to keep a buried secret. There are many lessons that even the best of people can learn about how we affect others. Thank you for giving everyone a vehicle to share their heartfelt thoughts through your sadness. Tom and I, and my parents, send our deepest condolences to you. I love you.

  17. Hey Cheryl - I'd been hoping you were o.k. I'm so sorry. I know it's such a bizzare and surreal situation. I don't know, but think it's normal to feel guilt when anyone we love dies. Did we do enough? Did we say enough? No matter the relationship, he is/was still your Dad and you loved him and you have good memories of him too. Big hug to you. I'm so sorry - hang in there. You are a good person and a really wonderful daughter.

  18. Dear Cheryl,

    I worked with your father 40 years ago when we were both starting out at Seatrain Lines. A couple of years ago I began working with your father again. I couldnt believe we were both still in the business.

    Your father was a very hard working, dedicated man.
    I am very proud to have known him, and call him a friend.
    I was very much looking forward to spending time with him on by visits to the bay area.

    The last couple of years when I would visit the bay area, I would often have lunch with Raul, and he always talked about all of his kids with much pride.

    We will all miss Raul.

    I also enjoyed the pictures. I will always remember Raul speeding into Seatrain with his souped up VW.

    All the best to you and your family.

    Ed Moss

  19. girl, i am so sorry. death is so difficult to deal with, no matter what the surrounding circumstances. i wish i could help in some way. hugs to you, and hang in there.

  20. Capt. Karanjit S. Aulakh12/10/10, 10:14 AM

    Hi Cheryl,

    I am Capt. Aulakh, I have known your dad for last 9 years. We have had a relationship like brothers. Out of 24 hours in a day we have spent almost 10 hours togather everyday. Mr. Raul was a very fine gentleman, hardworking professional, helpful person and a very kind soul.

    It came as shock to me when I heard about him not being around to talk about world history, cultures of different parts of the world.

    Mr. Raul will always be remembered for all what he has done for others.

    May God give you and the family enough courage to fill the gap of Mr. Raul's absence.

  21. My condolences to you and your family Cheryl. My own father passed away five or six years ago and was known in the family as Mr Grumpy because he could get into quite bad (and often selfish) moods. I don't know what I was expecting at the day of the funeral but I wasn't expecting a packed house and lots of stories from his work mates of a cheery, practical joker who was so proud of his family. Just shows that sometimes you don't always people, esp close family. All the best, love Phil x

  22. Shit, I'm so sorry, Cheryl, and I apologise for it taking this long for me to reply. I hope you're bearing up and getting through this.

    Best wishes, F


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