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My Weekend in Chicago

February 18, 2013

(NOTE:  I had ask my friend Ria from Houston to cover for me while I am on treatment, as you can see she “gladly” indulged my request.  Thanks, Ria)

Two weeks ago,I went to Chicago to say hello to my friend, Bobet (aka ‘Bo’ to most of his North American friends and colleagues) . For those who have never been, Chicago is a great metropolis by the beautiful Lake Michigan. In February, patches of ice adorn the streets and architectural arches while people, unmindful of the cold, leisurely skate in the park’s ice rink. It is beautiful. You must visit.

We met Bobet and his wife, Irish, for dinner in his favorite Thai restaurant. I am happy to see him – we greet each other with long lasting hugs to cover all those years of missing each other.  I am sad to see what the cancer has done to him. He moves slowly. He is a little thinner and his stomach a little swollen. The edges of his fingers are black (from the chemo, he says). He eats in nibbles. He speaks in short phrases, while Irish attends to him diligently with tender care.  She smiles beside him and serves the soup to us, then sneaks the extra shrimp into his bowl.  What love!

After dinner we hunt for coffee (it is his bucket list, he says). The first cup he has had in years. He savors the first sip. Ahhh!  This is good. Irish is worried. She tells him “it’s late”. He shakes his head – not yet. I’m enjoying myself, he says. I smile.

The next day Bobet and Irish pick us up and we drive to where the city meets the lake. Everything sparkles. It is breathtakingly cold and beautiful. Someone takes our picture – tourists, they think. Obviously. We pick up fried rice, eggs, and bangus (marinated milkfish) from Ruby’s Restaurant, a local Filipino restaurant that had been visited by Food Network’s Bizarre Foods fame. I see Andrew Zimmern’s, the host of the show, photo on the wall. I am a fan. I am thrilled.

We go to Bobet’s home and I meet his peeps (family). His mother-in-law – Nanay, his daughter – Talia, his other daughter – Abby, Maggie the beagle and his grandson Ethan.  Whew!  So many!  The table is set we take our seats in anticipation. Grace was said first – then pass the vinegar!  In between mouthfuls I look around. Ethan is happily shoving fried rice into his mouth. Talia and Abby tag-teaming Ethan. Nanay fetching things from the kitchen, Irish passing food around making sure Bobet is eating. Smiles and laughter all around. More troop in! A nephew and a son. They have come from the gym. Big strong boys. They live here too!

I look at the family that Bobet and Irish have built; an army protecting them. He is well guarded. In the tradition of a role-playing game we used to play in college, Dungeons and Dragons; Irish is the lead elf-vanguard of the army.  However, she is not a tall, cold Tolkien elf but more like an agile pixie. Even with her new spiky hair-do, Irish can whoosh under a five foot high limbo bar, without stooping. In the die roll for Love and Courage she rolled an 18. +3.  Also, she runs marathons so that she can run beside him. She will run beside him all the way, I know, and if possible not let go. He is in good hands.

Time for a last round of pictures at the door. He blows a kiss.

Don’t let this be good-bye, they said. Come back again!

I will.

Ria Locsin from Houston, TX

From left: Rene, Ria, me, Irish the Elf and Ethan

From left: Rene, Ria, me, Irish the Elf and Ethan

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