A few hours after Kathy was born at Makati Medical Center, a fire broke out at the next-door building. I was at the hospital wing closest to the burning building, and seeing the red orange flames being reflected on the walls made me really worried about my and my baby’s safety. With the intravenous tube strapped to my arm, and the doctors’ orders not for me to stand up yet, I could not help but feel helpless. My baby, born prematurely at 8 months, was in the nursery, even more helpless with IV needles and cables from monitoring machines stuck on her tiny head and arm. I called the nursery and the nurse in charge assured me that all the babies were safe. However, that was not reassuring enough for me and I could only think of calling John, if not to rescue us, then at least to assess the situation. It was the middle of the night, actually early morning, when I suddenly arouse John from sleep. There is a Tagalog word “naalimpungatan” for this state of not being quite awake, and of not being rational because sleep was rudely interrupted and that was John’s condition as I pleaded with him on the phone to come. He argued – “But I can’t sleep there,” “I don’t like hospitals” and I don’t remember what else, but there must have been fear in my voice, and caring in his heart that goes deeper than being “naalimpungatan,” and he came.
He looked out the window, saw the big flames and decided to wheel me out of the room. He saw that the hospital staff was doing the same thing to the other patients. As he pushed my bed along the now crowded corridor, he asked the man next to him, while pointing to the hospital bed that the man was pushing– “Do you have a license to drive that car?” Even in emergency situations such as this, John’s sense of humor floats to the top. The tension in the other man’s face eased and he smiled at John. We were taken to the far end of the hospital, where we waited for the fire to be put out. Before morning came, we were returned to our rooms, with the assurance that everything was back to normal.
Fast-forward 32 years later. I was under tremendous stress because of a vehicular accident involving our car and driver (I wasn’t in the car when it happened). Since John was out of town on one of his advocacies, I had to attend to the problem. When he came home a week later, he heard that my blood pressure had shot up and insisted that I checked into a hospital where my medical condition could be monitored.
He attended to all the details of my confinement, calling our favorite doctor (Dr. Antonio Oposa, who is actually a surgeon) to arrange my hospital stay. He also brought in dinner from outside – I’m not too enthusiastic about hospital food – and ate with me. Expecting many boring hours, he brought his computer and his Wi-fi, and when he was done with posting on Facebook, and assessing the bedding situation – one pillow each, a blanket from home for me, and nothing else to put on the narrow and short couch, he turned to assure me that he loved me and that he was spending the night with me at the hospital. Wow, that is certainly new, I felt really touched not only by his declaration of love for me – which comes fairly often especially now that the children are all grown up – but more so by his presence at the hospital.
Although John could talk about photography or his advocacy for hours, he is also known for taking under of two minutes to finish dinner, and spending no time at all for after dinner conversations. But tonight, we chatted for a long while, telling stories of recent events, as well as assessing our lives. We laughed as we asked each other if this is how being old changes us. He tucked me in, combed my hair with his fingers, kissed my forehead, and ordered me to rest. Then, with nary a complaint, he laid down on the narrow couch, with his street clothes (his trademark Columbia outfit) still on, to sleep in the hospital with me. I felt loved.