Notes On A Birthday

Dear batchmates, schoolmates, brods, officemates, fellow accidental (and intentional) migrants, kabayan and friends :

WE only have a few minutes between continuing the rituals of moving house, nursing a rayuma-stricken hand (the suspects are kimchi and more than a single glass of cheap red wine), and reviewing for a millers’ exam, but we need to express sincerest gratitude for all the Facebook and Yahoo!group greetings, felicitations, SMS texts and assorted well wishes on our 46th. 😉

We will not attempt anymore to wax poetic, draw philosophical or even derive newfound perspective on a natal day, just that quite recently we have had cause to realize that we have reached an inevitable and undeniable milestone of advanced middle age.

First, we need to say that we unintentionally observed such experience not from the birthday itself (although it was quite close to the date), primarily because people tend to mellow, get misty-eyed and avoid giving you snappy, sarcastic comments near your birthday, for sentimental, it’s-his-birthday-give-him-a-break reasons. (Then it’s right back to the barbed sarcasm the next day.)

The first concerned Bunso, who is starting his freshman year in Ateneo next month. Despite the strong and ill-disguised endorsements of his DLSU-dominated gaggle of uncles to sign up with the Green Archers, he was resolute in his desire to become a Blue Eagle, and in so many words gave his gung-ho dad a heads-up : Papa, gusto ko talaga mag-Ateneo. Sana galangin mo decision ko, pero alam ko suportado mo naman mga decision ko eh. Hihingi lang sana ako ng budget para sa mga requirements ko, and syempre kailangan ko ng onting dagdag sa baon starting June. Love you !

As usual, the flood of emotions threatened to overwhelm and and engulf us, but we managed to stay composed and almost simultaneously realized the following : almost the last 12 months running, Bunso, a 15-year old, had managed to organize and sort out his pre-graduation and graduation activities, take his college entrance exams, map out his choices regarding course and school, given of course, the preferred schools had accepted him, and lastly keep his finances in order (according to the sister, he was very much in the black), all on his own. Not only a tall order for someone his age, but something we would definitely not be able to do when we were his age. Second, his decision making was such that had he passed (as he did), he was clear-headed enough and had enough conviction to go with what he wanted, which was to go with Ateneo. No hemming and hawing for him. It was about then that we realized that the last year had truly been a milestone for Bunso.

** ** ** ** **

For Ganda, it was two weeks before our birthday, on her own birthday, when we had our teachable moment with her. We couldn’t give her anything more than a little angpao (gift money), but on a whim asked her what she wanted for her big day. Without missing a beat, she told us, again in so many words : Papa, ang gusto ko lang sa birthday ko healthy ka lagi, di ka lagi puyat sa night shift, di malamigan mga joints mo, kumain ka lagi nang maayos, and syempre makauwe kayo ng Christmas para masaya. Yun lang po.

Ows? We wanted to tell her, but the moment was too pure for some snide comment. Instead we brushed aside our tears and told her she deserved more than that, and made a mental note to send her as much as we could; she may or may not have meant that birthday wish (which she turned into an advanced birthday wish for us), but it shook us to our core just the same.

** ** ** ** **

The last pre-birthday anecdote concerns Panganay, who due to a bit of domestic issues had been spending more than a little time with us. Last night, out of boredom or his itch to find a challenge, he embraced the daunting challenge of troubleshooting a virus-addled laptop that everyone in our circle of friends had given up on. He confidently said that all it would take to fix the device was to restore the factory settings, reformat all the data inside, and the computer be almost as good as new. Famous last words.

 As most best-laid plans go, the reality was something slightly different. Only 90 minutes later, he was still transfixed in front of the computer, using another computer (his own) for reference and tutorials, and seemingly lost in what he originally thought would be a routine job. Eyebrows were being raised, and Mahal mumbled, at least we were still able to use it before. We tapped Panganay on the shoulder and told him, take a break anak, before that darned thing stresses you out. You’ll be too burned out for anything else…

Even before we finished our sentence, Panganay absentmindedly but firmly waved us away, telling us, not now Papa. Kaya ko ‘to. I just need a little more time. He just looked at us for little more than a half-second but his message was clear. Let me do this, my pride is at stake now. ( He is an IT grad, by the way.)

These moments don’t come often, but when they do you realize them for what they are, almost instantaneously : Your children have become smarter than you, and you may have missed the exact moment in time, but they have passed from child to adult, and to be honest, it is a moment to behold and savor forever.

** ** ** ** **

Did we tell you that an hour plus later, the computer was running like it was out of the box, complete with restored software? We didn’t even acknowledge the smug smile on Panganay‘s face, we knew it was there.

Thank you very much for all the greetings across the miles, across the years, and across all the emotions. It is quite humbling. I’m sad to say that we won’t have internet access the next two weeks because of the move, but somehow somewhere, I will thank each and everyone of you for your heartfelt greeting! Maraming salamat po, daghang salamat, xiexie nin, to sya, muchas gracias, and thanks mate !

Thanks for reading !


7 thoughts on “Notes On A Birthday

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