My dad passed away a little over a year ago. It was unexpected, and difficult to deal with, since I was on the other side of the world during his fast and furious battle with cancer. I wrote about it here, and I miss him just as much now as I did when I wrote that post. His presence has been with us though, in the form of a blue SUV affectionately named “Bob”.
A while after my dad passed, my oldest sister (yeah, the responsible one), told me that there was some money for each of us girls from him. Not a fortune, but a nice unexpected gift nonetheless. Shortly before this all happened, we agreed to buy this car from a foreigner who was leaving the country. However, while we were waiting for him to leave, another vehicle, a Toyota Tamaraw, became available. It was also a super deal, and was much sturdier for adventures across the rough island roads. But, did we really need two cars? In a society where most familes don’t have a car at all, but instead get around town by jeepneys, taxis, and motorbikes, two cars felt a bit luxurious, almost gluttonous. The day the Tamaraw became available was the same day my sister let me know that she had sent us money from my dad’s estate. We saw that as more than coincidence, and thought maybe God had a plan. We went ahead and bought the Tamaraw, not exactly knowing why.
That night, we took it to the carwash, and bought a new air freshener for it. Samantha picked one out with the cryptic name “Black Ice”, and swore it smelled wonderful. “Black Ice” to me is on par with other fragrance names like “Mountain Spring” or “Fields of Wonderfulness”. You just don’t know what you’re gonna get. But, I trusted her, and when we opened the wrapper and exposed the little pine tree, I smiled. It smelled like men’s cologne (that’s a good thing, not the cheap gift pack you buy at Walmart on Christmas Eve for the obscure uncle you forgot was going to be at the family dinner). It smelled almost exactly like my dad always did. As the fragrance filled the car, Andrew said, “Hey It smells like grandpa in here”! And that’s when the tears started again. Growing up, our family had this goofy tradition of naming our cars. There was no question that the newest addition to our fleet had to be named “Bob”, after my dad.
When Typhoon Pablo hit Mindanao last December, Dan, along with many other missionaries, sprung into action, making numerous trips to the decimated coastline to help rescue, recover, and rebuild. It’s a grueling trip, especially early on when the roads were in less than ideal shape. Several of our teammates did not have adequate transportation, and that’s when Bob sprang into action. He’s not a 4X4, but don’t tell him that. He’s made several trips on roads that should have been impassible, and with the exception of minor repairs here and there, has done awesome. We joke that he is “one of the team”. In a way, it’s like having Dad be a part of the team. I was telling my sister the story of all Bob’s done, and she laughed and said, “can you imagine Dad doing any of that?! It’s probably a good thing he isn’t there to see any of this, he wouldn’t be happy with you!”. Out of context, these may seem like harsh words, but I understand it completely. My dad was never 100% OK with us moving here, or anywhere, that was far away and out of his control. Not unlike any parent I suppose, but he was a chronic worrier, with touches of agoraphobia and anxiety. The thought of anyone in the family going to the disaster zone would have put him on edge, and I hate to admit it, but my sister is right. He would not have been happy. All out of love, of course! So, it’s a bit comical, and ironic, that his “namesake” has played such a huge role is this ongoing project. I really wonder if his spirit doesn’t come along for the ride, and can see what he helped make possible.
As a team, we have hundreds, probably thousands, of pictures of the relief trips from over the past several months. I have looked through them countless times, and one day I began to realize how many pictures had Bob in the background. He is most definitely part of the team.