[ I know Dad’s birthday was just around the corner, because I’d been dreaming of him. Here’s a report below. ]
AT FIRST, I thought I was Dad’s favorite because I resembled him, but through the years, I realized that almost all of us 5 brothers reminded people of different parts of his physical and non-physical whole. Then I thought it might be because I was the most charming, sociable or personable, positive traits that he liked to think he owned. After a while again, I realized my 4 siblings and I more or less possessed the same interpersonal qualities. Finally I guessed that, like him, I showed great potential to be smart, successful or attractive, which time and again was proven to be plain wishful thinking given the sharper minds, successful careers and solid relationships, in perspective, that my brothers have enjoyed.
No, I concluded. A more accurate self-revelation I think, a veritable epiphany I’ve had regarding why Dad and I have bonded so well, is that I have always been enraptured by his every word and deed, and that he has always owned alpha-male status to me. Not that my other bros haven’t admired him, but in many ways he has always seemed larger than life to me, and many times I didn’t bother to hide such admiration.
One of the defining values of Dad that I came to fully appreciate only recently (that of giving priority to fitness) came in the form of a dream, which I thought was due anyway since his birthday was less than two weeks away. A few nights ago, I dreamt he was trying to wake me by alternately sprinkling fistfuls of water in my face, and tickling the soles of my smelly feet. He was doing so, expectedly, because he wanted me to go jogging with him Sunday morning.
A backgrounder if I may. During the fitness craze of the 1980s that was spiked by Dustin Hoffman‘s Marathon Man and the blossoming of various fun runs and half-marathons year-round (no seasonal constraints in humid Manila), jogging to Roxas Blvd from our house in Paco began as a family affair.
Before long though, both First and Second Brothers got preoccupied by university, Mom progressed to aerobics, and only the last three sons were Dad’s faithful seconds from Grandstand to Cultural Center. Finally, there was Dad by his solitary self, hoping even one of his medium-sized brood would jog with him on bright Sunday mornings.
Atypically, he never gave up on indolent me, long after every one of us had given up on the regular weekend seaside route. It became an almost weekly routine for us, his waking at half-past five on Sunday, and spending at least 30 minutes trying to rouse me, before I myself surrendered and donned shorts and sneakers to jog behind his confident gait, if not astride him sometimes, from sunrise until it was too hot to run.
So along with jogging, these days I find myself more and more enjoying things my Dad did, and appreciating his passion. Just three of them, besides the Sunday jog, are never going through the hour before bedtime without a good book, starting the day with breakfast porridge, and seeking conversation (virtual or otherwise) with at least one of his children daily. As we age, we truly become our parents.
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But back to the dream. Dad was as usual waking me up, unmindful of the fact that I was bone-tired from either work or traveling home ( as far as I could remember, I just came from overseas diba? ), and insisting that I join him on one of his interminable runs. No amount of lame excuses, whining and sleep-pretending (which I thought I was good at) would dissuade him from appropriating my company on this trek. Sighing, I acceded to his request, asking only that in exchange, he answer a simple question from me : Dad, how do I age as gracefully as you have (he’s a juvenile 79 going on 39, the age of Youngest Brother) ?
“OK, but get your Nikes ready Son Numba Three. Predawn run is not a good time for question-and-answer.”
I dutifully complied.
“The answer to your question is divided into three parts :
“First, you can’t eat the way you ate 25 years ago. You are now as old as I was when I started to watch what I ate. There is no way around that. Ignore this at your own peril. You know what’s good, and what’s bad for you. Moreover, you should know what your limits are as to the quantity of your food intake. Just do that, and you can’t go wrong.”
Wow, great advice. Watch what and how much you eat. That is so enlightening. What’s next?
“Don’t rush me. Sleep is underrated, but is key to great health. Get the right amount of sleep, and sleep at the right time : just when the cricket chirps, and greet the rising sun. DON”T sleep when the midmorning sun is everywhere, and DON’T sleep when you could be running, like now.”
I smirk at that segue, and concede that his pearls of wisdom come from experience. But what’s the last tip, Dad?
“The last is the most important, Numba Three : Stop harassing your wife for sex all the time, OK? Sex is as important as food and exercise, but too much of anything, even a good thing, can be counterproductive. And don’t ask how I know, because I know.”
I look at Dad incredulously, and again he reads my mind.
“Yes Noel, I know it’s a dream, but the advice is good. Take it, if you want to live.”
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Happy birthday Dad, love you always !