Sweet Sorrow for My Stepfather

I was an adult when I gained my Jewish stepdad, Bob. I called him Bob TC (the suffix short for “The Chosen”), the nickname he gave himself  after I told him that Jews are God’s chosen people.mom bob to la

When I would arrive at the Amtrak Station on Kettner Blvd, he and Mom were usually holding hands and waving to me with big smiles until he could declare up close, “Welcome to Sunny San Diego!”

When we got to the house, he almost always had new sheet music ready for us to try, he on piano, I on vocals. And we would go on with the music until bedtime while Mom happily listened.  We went from Broadway to Simon and Garfunkel to Paul Simon to American Idol tunes. Our common favorites were Les Miserables, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Perhaps Love.

When my boys came, Bob took mom and all of us on picnics, to the rodeo, the lake, the boardwalk, parks; he taught my two boys how to  wash the car, water the garden, inflate the air mattress, play cards, some piano, and guitar.  The boys both went on to play guitar for their school band and got the Colours Awards for Contribution to Music before they graduated from High School.

Grandpa Bob really talked to them about their interests, joked with them, spent time with them and affirmed that he was proud of them.  He also briefed them on how to take a girl out with cheese and wine on a picnic.san diego insider tour w grandpa bob at cabrillo park

When one of my boys inadvertently clogged the toilet which Grandpa Bob ended up cleaning, he didn’t get mad and my son didn’t forget.  I hope they don’t forget either how kindly and lovingly he treated their grandma.

When Mom had her stroke over a decade ago, Bob took care of preparing her medicines, sharing in the housework even when he was working full time as an accountant.  Even this last year when a four-year old cancer weakened him, he still took her dancing. No longer twice a week like they used to but they still went.

Seventeen years ago when I found out my mother was going to remarry, I was filled with resentment on behalf of my beloved good [biological] father. I didn’t know that in God’s goodness, He used my mother’s remarriage to rebuild my relationship with her as it should have been from the day she conceived me. After Bob came into my mom’s life constantly pouring love, she overflowed and blossomed as a more caring, loving, and thoughtful mother and grandmother. God also gave me another good father here on earth…one that was everything I could have ever hoped for.  I was an adult in number of years by the time I gained my stepdad but he helped the child within to grow up.

When he felt I was not treated right, he stood up for me by writing a letter to a person who could do something about it. Not many people have done that for me. Prior nor since. Father God always fights for me but I don’t recall many human beings fight for me very much.  Bob, who saw me as his child, took it upon himself to go out of his way in an effort to protect me.

In one of his last emails to me, he said,  “You’ve probably heard this numerous times, but you are truly one-in-a-million!” He didn’t know that he was the one in a million who told me that.

Before I opened my restaurant and started cooking lunches and dinners, I used to be able to visit him and Mom more often. Since then, every time I went to San Diego, I could only come for the day as I had to rush my way back to Manila.

I thank the Lord for the beloved’s grace to let me visit this past weekend Mom on her birthday and Bob for the last time as Hospice took over his care and his days were numbered.   I played on the piano the favorite tunes he used to play for me. Mom said that from his bed, he lip-synched a few of those songs. When I checked back on him in his room, I asked him which songs did he know from what I played. He smiled and said, “I know all of ’em.”

As I read to Bob the appreciation notes of the kids, Matt of the rodeo and Kyle for not getting angry over the clogged toilet, from his bed to which he had been constrained for some weeks with eyes closed but mouth breaking out in a smile with a slow, gentle voice he whispered, “That was a long time ago.”

“You remember?” I asked. And he nodded his head.

Likewise, God knows all the good things Bob has done and I pray He repay Bob for his kindness. The things he did will be remembered and appreciated even if they happened a long time ago.

Mom barely left his side. Not long after she would get to the kitchen or bathroom, the caregiver would come to announce, “He’s asking for you.”

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On my departure day, I stood at the foot of his bed and told him, typical of our usual banter, “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go. The [Uber] taxi’s waiting outside your door.”  Recognizing his favorite singer’s lyrics, he smiled and said, “That was too quick.” As were the years of his life. He passed on while I was somewhere up in the clouds after my flight took off from Los Angeles, barely 24 hours since I said goodbye. I had woken up mid-flight to cry and pray for him yet again but I didn’t know that was it.

From four years ago when Bob was diagnosed with cancer, I had been praying for the healing of his body, mind, and spirit. Last weekend since I arrived, I prayed for him at his bedside. I was disappointed and deeply saddened that I didn’t see a miracle take place until the Lord reminded me of the graces He had given Bob:

Psalm 90:10 says Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

From the usual life span of seventy years, Bob received six more. From the time his cancer was diagnosed, he received four more.  With or without cancer, all of our days have always been numbered since Day 1, none of us guaranteed another hour or day but each minute that we do receive is already a gift.  How could these along with the gift of Bob’s life not be the miracle?

From the duration of my short visit, his skin was pink and he didn’t need any more morphine for extreme pain.  For someone with lung and brain cancer, he was able to dance earlier this year and his memory was sharp up to 24 hours before he passed on. His was a full life being a blessing to many. I pray that God gave Bob a vision of Himself and gave him the assurance of salvation I so wish for him.

This week as I bid goodbye to the physical Bob as I saw him with my eyes—- his love and spirit remain in my heart where I will always see him with gratitude, respect, and love. Thank you, Bob TC, the best stepfather in the world.

Thank you for loving my Mamacita. I am praying for a whole family reunion in heaven.

Numbers 6:24“‘The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

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