Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Year After "Life Begins"

This morning seemed to be a very normal one. Nothing special so to speak. She woke me up at 6:50AM, just like she does everyday. But if not for my mobile phone's calendar alarm, so bad I had almost forgotten. Darn, today is my wife's birthday, her 14th since we were together..! I almost lost the courage to approach and kiss her. But she smiled back and said "thank you", anyway. I knew she noticed me of my forgetfulness, and must have just pretended and let it pass. So shameful for me. How could I be so insensitive. It was disgraceful, indeed.

A year after her life began, she seem to have not aged at all; still the same cheerful wife to her ever demanding husband (or so she said, but would not complain), and the more caring mother to her three wonderful daughters. Would not expect anything in return, but just shall never get tired loving us unconditionally.

The morning coffee that she prepares me each day would always tops Starbucks, because it has her love's calories. Every food she cooks for the family would overwhelm Itallianis because her heart is always in it. The way she still finds time to chat with our kids before bed time. The way she gives me a massage every single chance there is. It would be a gaffed world not having her around.

I remember when there was just the two of us. The dreams we shared. How we started with a very humble beginning. Surviving with just enough above poverty line, I can't imagine how we managed life's challenges. So tonight I shall tell her, "Honey, looks like we did it somehow".

This early it can be told that it was worthy walking with you all along, or hike with you even farther until our hairs turn gray. That if by chance I shall go through this life again, I guess I will try hardest to find you - for sole simple reason that life shall never be any easier if not with you. Those humps and bumps we had bested may not even bother us anymore. With you, every single trial in any form shall be peanuts...

Pretty sure our three lovely children will say the same. With the way you take care of them, they may never want another mother but you. Whatever they have become reflects your warm devotion. We feel great about you, Mama. And with your remarkable smiles, we are sure you feel the same about us too.

Once again, from me and the kids... Happy birthday, Mama..! Of course you know this already, but we just want to reassure you; we will love you always, even beyond life no less..!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My Friend's First Time

What would be the most recent stupid thing you have ever done? Of course you ain’t proud of it. Who would be. Silly! But you can always laugh about it, right? And most of the times one would even need a "friend" to conduit the story.

I still remember one Swedish colleague, Matti, who said; "When it’s about stupid things, it must be a friend". You would want to share some nutty stuffs, but would have second thoughts because you don’t want other people to find out how stupid you are. Self-undress? No way, Jose! But then, you are pretty sure that your story would make them laugh to death, big time! So you would say; "You know I have a friend…"

So okay here we go. This is all about me. But I’ll course it through an extremely careless stupid "friend".

My friend have had four cars since his first, all second-hand. He is not into brand new cars, duh! Actually he doesn’t have anything against having one. He just never had the financial capability. Tops! No further details.

His first car was 1989 Mitsubishi lancer, and was actually a ‘corporate’. It was practically owned by all of them three siblings. The money came from collective death benefits of their late father. So the car was well taken cared of. Just imagine, there were three owners. One… two… three. Need explain? Good!

They would use the car for long drives from Manila to their hometown in Claveria, Cagayan. 12-hours driving and the car would not complain. It conveyed them without any quandaries. Must be a great car. You bet.

But then it was my friend who broke it. It was involved in a three-way collision. But it was him who got hit twice; once from the rear, and another from the front passenger seat. His car wasn’t Knight Rider. It was crumpled like a bottle cap. But this was not his story. So let’s leave it at that.

Left without anything to use, and got used of having a car, he virtually bought his first personal car, his second if we count the first, yes, the broken car. It was basically the same model and make, though since it was already his very own, he spent some bucks to fix everything. Wow, it was almost perfect, except that it’s plate number would speak that it is indeed an old car. So he used it for two years and six months, and no any major concerns. He treated it well as the first-buy car served him well too. But of course he would not want to keep it long. Before it deteriorates, and before its re-sale value dips, he sold it and bought another Mitsubishi Lancer, this time an EL 1996 model.

Damn it was so cute, me myself I can really say that! I guess he fell in love with her from the first glance. She looked so lovely. Definitely a head turner. He pampered her with all his time. Put up a boastful sound system on her. She treated him best, more than the past two cars. His two similarly lovely angels were so happy about it. So was his wife. But then they had another child. And so his most beloved car doesn’t fit them anymore. It was hard letting her go, but she had to depart. It’s not that he didn’t like her anymore. They just needed a greater space in a car.
So there he sold her and bought a 4-year old SUV. Now even his other relatives can hop in. Nice one, he would tap his own shoulder. He just realized, it is what they really needed eversince.For all those experiences of having second-hand cars, he never had any trouble, maintenance wise. Of course the consumables can not be get rid of. Tires would wear, and so are the shock absorbers. Same as the brake pads, brake shoes, and rubber suspensions too. The battery shall get used up, and bulbs would burn. The radiator may need overhaul, and the engine not to be drained at all. Those are supposed to be very normal to any car owner. And if one isn’t prepared to such things, probably he ain’t fit to own a car.

But last night was so extra-ordinary for my most lucid friend. On his fourth car, he must already know every ins and outs. Ten years of experience maintaining relatively old cars must not be strange to him anymore. But then again, there is always a first time.

And so out from office by 7:00 PM, bound to pick up his wife from work, running at 60-kph maybe, his car suddenly choked, then slowly crept until it fully stopped. It definitely was his first time. Of all supposed car troubles, and the dumbest thing ever to happen, yes indeed, hold your breath... he ran out of gas.

What..! A car without gas? Stupid!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lorenzo’s Journey

Eight months in his mother’s womb, probably could just have been counting a few more days and he would see the world. But something wasn’t meant to be. His father died barely a month before they could ever lay eyes onto each other. And so upon his birth, his mother named him after his lost father, Lorenzo. Loring to the articulates. Inso for the rest.

He was raised along the subsistence of farming in various forms. To him, a complete day would mean bringing the flock to the pasture of foggy greens on an early morning, whistling down the hills back home for a quick breakfast, school, quick lunch by noon, back to school for the afternoon session, proceed to the rice fields after class to fetch the flock, dinner, and maybe a few chats with childhood friends before bed.

It was a very simple childhood. Not so much inhibitions. In the suburbs of Mumulaan, Paoay, Ilocos Norte, there are not much of big dreams. The challenge was just a happy neighborhood. Along the umbrella of agriculture. Having a meal of pork or beef would be a feast, but having fresh vegetable and native poultries would be so normal.

But Loring wasn’t born to be a farmer for life. He had enough treating the farm as optimum king. He can’t plow anymore. He didn’t hate it, but he had other things in mind. After finishing intermediate school, he bade his village farewell… but not goodbye. No plans for that at all.

He submitted himself to his eldest brother, Bening, then a teacher stationed in a coastal town of Cagayan called Claveria. Being the youngest, and having a 16-years gap, it was so easy convincing his elder brother to help him send to high school. So for secondary he went to Claveria Institute. His love for music also helped him. He played the saxophone for the school band to augment his scholarship. Things went a little bit well.

And then he met Carolina. Carol to the articulates. Carling to the others.

The young boy from the farm suddenly fell in love with the lady by the sea. They were brought up differently, they grew up from different environments. But those things were never a factor. They had something in common from the start – certain feelings towards each other. The young boy was in love, and the lady was mad. But of course, they were just so young then, what would one expect. And so those feelings they had developed consistently – Lorenzo getting in love deeper and deeper, and Carol of extreme dislike. Anger must have been tolerable. But hatred? Wow…

But whatever turn of romance they had, no one would care much on the details. Why, because they ended up with each other, anyway. Three kids is what they had; two boys, and a beautiful girl in between. Going to church every Sunday was synchronous to either a picnic, or a costume party. He would wear the same textile of cloth as his siblings, and would eat out sometimes. Smiles are printed on the faces of those who see them wearing the same texture, happily being together. What a view. One helluva family. So much envied. By that frame, at least.

He would help out in the early wisdom of his kids. Being a teacher, he indoctrinated the utmost importance of education. He said that knowledge is only absorbed by those ignorant by chance, but never to those of by choice. How could he be wrong. He must know what he was saying.

Loring was never a single rounded father. He was also a friend to his kids. He wrote the first love letter of his eldest son. He would put his only daughter to sleep. He would make toys for his youngest little boy. Everyday is another exciting day. And by the way, he was a good husband to his wife too. So little complains. So much to thank for.

He ventured all possible work-arounds of optimized fatherhood. He would do carpentries during weekends for extra income. He would even skip teaching to play sax on funerals for a greater and immediate fee. He never let any chance slip away. He always wanted to provide more for his family.

Until an opportunity came by that was hard to let go. He knew he had to save for his kids’ college education. The only way was to go OCW (now called OFW). Saudi Arabia was then the answer to all prayers during that time. It was the goose that lay the golden eggs. The only trade-off was the distance from his family. But that should be bearable, he said. He claimed that what is unacceptable is having the means and ways to work on for the future of his kids, and would ignore that chance and do nothing. So far away he went. It was 1980.

Every 12 months Loring would come home. All family is waiting. Vivid was the proof that all homecomings are spelled by extreme gratification’s vocabulary. But bliss is never permanent, as it is indeed true – some good things never last. After 45 days he would be away again. But just another 12 months and he would be home again. And the second homecoming was doubly healthier than the first. He built a five bedroom house for his family. It was the first trophy he can be proud of. It was the bargain of leaving.

But bad luck sometimes is as swift as a blink. The third homecoming was marred by his apprehension. He was caught in a situation where he had nothing to do. The only mistake he did was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He swore he never had any wrong doing. His family believed him. So did his friends and his folks. And his fellow teachers. And his kids too. But being a victim of a domino effect does not require any justification. Three months of detention appeared to be an extension of his last 12 months. He got paid, yes, being employed in a government entity. But the longing of his family was never compensated.

Understandably in life, even when you do no harm to others, or even when you only do good things to your fellows, someone just have to hate somebody, rationale notwithstanding. That is how life's balance is meant to be. That’s reality.

So, bad talks of having his fingers cut due to a supposed ‘crime committed’ were all proven wrong upon his arrival. He came home perfectly the same as when he left, with complete appendages. And truly all ‘lasts’ are the most memorable. His third and last homecoming was the happiest of them all. Not that it was grandeur. It was simply more meaningful. He is back to where he belonged. Back in his family's arms.

After a brief self check, he went back to old flame - teaching. But by then his kids were already away from their sights. His eldest son and the only daughter already in college, and the youngest son in Philippine Science High School in Quezon City, being a scholar.

For eleven years, Loring and Carol lived together just by themselves, fending for their kids’ schooling through their creeping paychecks being public educators, and would only see them again during summertime. He built a five-bedroom house, okay. But during those times when the family is complete, they would sleep altogether in the living room. He would treat their kids as if they were as young as when he could still carry each child over his shoulders. He would maximize each day of their vacation up to the day they would go back to the city for their studies again. It became routinary for the length of those 11 years. They became used to it too, somehow. For a consolation, his two boys became engineers, and his favorite daughter, a nurse. He must have been successful in raising his kids, in reference to his own barometer.

Yultide season of 1997, Loring asked Carol for them to go to Manila and spend Christmas and New Year eves with all their children – all already residing in the city. The first two kids being employed, and the youngest graduating from college. He was sensing something of his health condition and he also planned to have his medical check-up during his visit.

The get-together was all fun. He played with his two grand-daughters; one by his eldest son, then aged 2, and another by his daughter, then just 2 months old. At night he would have a few round of beer with his two sons, and his son-in-law. And great side foods too. Mah-jong would be another way for the great stories. Laughters all smoking.

The couple went back to the province a day before the first day of resumption of classes. It is a thirteen hour trip back to Cagayan, anyway. Their students are already waiting for their happy stories. They must be happy to share too.

But the breeze of "next life" kept touching his soul. He said he is already fulfilled, thus not much mission to carry out. He knew it was a pretense behind the failing health, but for sure he wanted to stay longer. Great plans about his grand-kids are overflowing. He was in denial.

He prepared the house once again; painted the ceilings, and roofed the garage. It is rainy season once again, and the mourners can not be wet. Also, they must appreciate my accomplishments, so he said.

Morning of 27Jan'08, he woke up before 5:00 AM. He can not breath normally. He stepped out of the house, and flagged a tricycle. He asked the driver to bring him to the hospital.

Carol woke up a few minutes later. No sign of Loring. Went to the kitchen, he must be preparing breakfast now, she said. No sign still. Went outside to the street, rain showers fell on her head. Looked on all directions. Nothing.

Then the returning tricycle driver approached her, told he was already in the hospital.

Carol then was relived. At least she knew where her husband was. So she dressed for class, and went to see him after her last morning class. Went back to teach for the afternoon session, home after class to prepare food, then proceeded to the hospital.

Thay had petty chats about their three siblings. And then a question was thrown to the wife. "If I die, would you re-marry?". She answered in the negative. He smiled. Just smiled. Sort of contented. Sort of secured. The farm boy must have loved the coastal lady so much. He is nuts!

With that assurance, he called for dinner. He asked his wife to hold his hand for the prayer before meal. They held hands. Closed their eyes. Prayed together. "Amen..."

Loring is no longer breathing. He went ahead. No need for a last supper. He isn't Jesus.

Hundreds were saddened. He must have touched ten thousand lives. The whole town said he was a good man. But that was even an under-statement. In our hearts, Daddy was the best.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tiny and Jelai

Note: Jana (Tiny) was a Mini Pinscher, and Jelai was a Maltese Terrier. Too bad, both of them are gone now. Tiny was run over by our family driver, while Jelai was bitten by a snake while fighting it off to protect her litters.

Jana Cassandra first came to us summer of 2007. We have yearned for years having her. Countless moments of imaginations playing with her. Prayers too, maybe. But plenty of wishes, definitely.

And so suddenly, she came into our life. A very cute and tiny tanned little girl, thus her nickname, Tiny. And our three little angels were just so happy of her arrival, already wishing for the day when they could play together. But she was just too small. I guess we have to wait for a while.

Everyone had a handful of her antics. We saw her grow up to be a pretty young lady. Witty. Jolly. Hyper. Everywhere we go, she would come with us. We gave her the best she could ever deserve. Damn we love her so much. It was written all over our hearts. She is family.

But there was this something that my wife hated about her. She liked her, yes. But if she can have her way, she would not want to be near her. Ridiculous I would say, but we all learned to live with it. My wife would buy her food, cook, but would never serve. She would buy her special toiletries, but would never bathe. She loves Tiny, we all knew that. But she just can't be touching her. Never..!

Then came the time we have to isolate her. It was quite sad, but it must be. Afterall, she grows so fast too.

We may have bought her a new house, but we are still her family. Our home can't be anymore complete without her. It shall be flawed. She would still give us the same joy and laughter, but her isolation made it limitted somehow. But whenever she catches our attention, we don't see any shortages. She is always witty... jolly... and hyper. This pretty young lady really knows how to tickle us. She would embrace us with all her force, and sometimes my three flimsy angels would get hurt. But that's just what you get being a little physical sometimes. It's the same when playing any outdoor game. We can have some slight cuts, but still are happy and contented.

And so somehow her personality has made us realize that we want more of her, but is hard. Her agility, being perceived to be quite different, have disuaded us from her somehow. And my angels wanted someone else that is more friendly, more cuddly. Someone whom shall embrace with tender loving touch, not one full of passion. Someone who can be around and yet gives you some space. Everyone wants that to be her, but it can never be. Mini-pinschers are never like that. They are highly locomotive. And so we had a hard time deliberating whether we really want another family member. There were nay's. And aye's too. It was a tupsy-turvy journey.

Until came Jelai. A light complexioned, tamer specie. I hope my wife won't be aloof with her this time. She's just about 2-months old today, and they should have a long way to go.

(RIP to both of you, cuties. Your names and memories shall always linger in our hearts.)