Deep Behind His Smile Is
Photo taken on Saturday, March 5, 2005, at El Patio Spanish Restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Grandfather with my Tita Mely and her daughter, my 23-year-old cousin Jinky
More than because of the gifts he received on his birthday, Papa was very happy because all his children living in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada), and in California, USA, and their respective families were able to attend his surprise 90th-birthday celebration. However, staring at Grandfather's face on this picture pricks my heart because I knew that deep behind that smile is sadness, for he knew well that two days after the occasion the visitors would be returning to where they came from.
Moreover, Grandfather kept on telling me weeks before his birthday that it would be the last, to which my plain reply was, "Oh, no, Pa, you'd reach a century." Of course, I was half-lying. Grandfather's getting weaker and weaker by the day. His angina pectoris is becoming more frequent, the reason his regular medical checkup has become every three weeks.
Dr. Rebeyka, Grandfather's physician, has long ruled out a surgical intervention—the only definitive treatment—for Papa's aortic aneurysm because Papa cannot longer endure it. All we can do is help control Grandfather's blood pressure. This does not treat the disease, but tight blood pressure control with prevention of hypertension may decrease the rate of expansion of the aneurysm. Grandfather's heart has become a time bomb: An elevation of the blood pressure will certainly cause the aortic aneurysm to rupture, causing massive internal hemorrhage, which would most likely result in a quick death.
Therefore, less tension and negative emotions for Grandfather as much as possible; and this entails more patience and sacrifices (and creativity in providing diversionary activities) from the people surrounding him, especially from me – his companion virtually twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.