On a cold morning dew he walked to work, the usual silent him, full of ambition for his family.
He does not speak much, does not touch his kids that much nor hug them or play with them, but one thing is for sure; he is a good father.
“Gil! early for work again huh, I hope all our employees are like you. You are one of the best”.
It was an early morning treat from his manager, never was he short to appreciate employees.
Gil is a cook in one of the most busiest Chinese restaurants in the city. Every meal is cooked in a flaming wok, in succession so fast, cooks seem to be numb to high flames.
He was a high school graduate, learned the skill of cooking by experience. In his younger years, he started as a waiter, doing an all around job in catering. From setting up, serving food, disassembling everything and loading every chair, table and bolsters onto the truck again. 12 hours of work was a mainstream. Until he was noticed for having talent making food.
He learned while washing the dishes, memorizing every step. Observing chefs cut ingredients while carrying piles of chairs behind his back. He learned and volunteer for the job. Now he is one of the most coveted chefs, a crowd favorite.
He was married to Margareth and had 4 loving children. All he dreamed was to give a good life to his family, that his kids will never experience the hardships he had gone through. He will do what it takes to make it happen.
As his family grew, he persevered more. Poured longer hours of work, wanting to be better every passing day. Time passes by and his body started to get tired of his triathlon way of working. He can now feel his shoulder shouting in pain. After work was the worst, rest makes his muscle feel everything. Resting felt more painful than working. Pain relievers was a short term answer. At first, he can still tolerate it, but he worked differently; slower and lesser. Until, his fingers grew stiffer, heavier, every passing day. He can feel his shoulder blades slowly giving up.
“Not now,” he said.”We are almost there.”
His youngest daughter was almost through college while his youngest son is still starting. Diana, the 3rd born was few semesters away from graduation. Robert the youngest was planning to pursue culinary arts. Mac and Silvia already have stable jobs. Gil and Margareth both agreed that their older children do no have any responsibility in sending their younger siblings to college.
” Save your wages for your future, build your dreams with it, we can make it through,”said Margareth in her old husky angelic voice.Whenever the first born hands them some money.
In the middle of the shift, Gil was doomed by the site of him at home. Unable to work and a burden to his family.
“I need to do my job,” he said to himself.
And by that he means his job as a father, a husband, and a cook. Until he figured. If he drank pain relievers prior to going to work and sleeping. He’ll be fine. Numb by aches, he can do it. The typical silent he is, he never told Margareth.
” She will just worry herself too much, she might get sick too.”
He never told his boss, fearful that he will give him lesser hours of work. Days pass by. Everything was fine, he continued his normal life with only one add-on; pain relievers. Days went on to months. Diana graduated in flying colors. Months pass by and Margareth seemed to notice. He asked him about it, but he will just always answer
“I am good hon, these are just the typical muscle strain. I will just rest and these will be gone in the morning.”
He locked his pain meds in his locker at work, always brought just enough after work. All in his pockets. Take all of it after dinner inside the bathroom. He even buy it from 5 different drugstores and 5 convenient stores, buying almost every other day.
Years pass by and Robert was able to graduate, with a 3-year contract in cruise line waiting for him. And his oldest is planning to marry at the finest hotel in their city. Everything in his life seems to work well. Until,
” Hon are you getting fat?” Margareth said, noticing Gil’s bigger arms and belly.
“Probably, you were always a better cook than I am and besides we are so blessed. From now on I’ll watch what I eat” he said.
One night, ” Is that edema on your feet?” the wife said.
“Maybe, probably cause of too many hours of standing,” he said
Until one day…. he fainted. When he woke up, he is on a hospital bed.
“Hon, glad you were awake, I was so worried about you,” said Margareth sobbing.
“You fainted while we are doing our weekly grocery, I was so afraid.”
“I am sorry, I never wanted to make you feel that way, no worries. I am all OK now, we can go home. I’ll ask the doctor. I feel great already, we can go home.”
“No, we can not go home” her sobs finally broke down into tears, long pouring a stream of sadness.
“The doctor said, your kidneys are failing, you have to undergo dialysis” she finally said.
“Dialysis?! But wasn’t it expensive. Our saving is just enough for our children, it was not even enough. I was planning to work until our youngest finish school to save for our retirement. No, I won’t do dialysis”
” Listen to me Gil, your gonna die if we do not do it”
A bucket of ice cold water seems to pour over his head.
Die? Die? Die? Die or make them suffer for the rest of their lives. My children will sacrifice their dreams to make me live. My children will still end up like me; at the end of the ladder. Scorching to make meet ends. Work for long hours, be it weekdays, holidays or weekend. Die or make them suffer?
” I’d rather die,” he said.
” No dialysis will be done, it is my final decision. Respect it, I am still the head of the home”
Margareth went out, bothered, worried, afraid and anxious. A mix of emotions, all unwanted.
“He developed the disease, for years of using over the counter pain medications. It damaged his liver and greatly his kidneys. It can no longer filter his blood, poison is now accumulating in his body. In the time it will reach his head, making him restless and disoriented. By the time that happened many complications might have developed, and the only way we can save him is to filter his blood through a dialysis machine. And to that few times a week to maintain an optimum level of functioning. ”
“I’d rather die.”