ONE OF THE basic things you learn as you wallow into middle-age hood is that if it ever was before, it’s no longer about you, not even half the time or a quarter of the time now. The unpaid debts of yesterday have returned with a vengeance, aches and pains have magnified twofold, and things you neglected to take care of have not withered or died away, but are still there to haunt you. And yet, you cannot dwell on these small discomforts, because if I may repeat, it’s no longer about you. If it was at all.
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I was a bit sad when I came home to an empty house in Cainta, half-expecting beyond logic that Ganda and Bunso would be there to welcome me, when they had just migrated to NZ two months ago, maybe for good. I knew this as personal knowledge because I was/am a temporary resident there also, having found against all odds a decent job there, obtaining a job offer and trying to merit permanent resident status someday. But leave credits had accumulated and I was past due to meet esposa hermosa‘s parents, so there was no reason not to go home and incidentally attend our 30th high school anniversary reunion. Thus did I find myself in front of the old homestead on the foothills of Antipolo (just romanticizing the place, it’s highly urbanized already).
Are you a fan, or at least a watcher of The Walking Dead, which jumped from the pages of its best selling comic books into the HD near-reality of TV? The abandoned rooms of my former family home resembled the rooms of abandoned homes in that TV series, personal effects strewn about, newspapers unread, books unfinished, there was even a small bag of chichirya untouched, its contents no doubt nearly expired. I felt of a chill of loneliness navigate up and down my spine, because I knew that after my brief stay here, no one would inhabit this abode for at least another year.
Pricking me deeper were artifacts of their childhood, things they had kept from years back when I was still living with them. Pictures from primary (elementary) and secondary (high) school when friendships were more profound and intimate, remnants of toys and houseclothes intended to be given away but for which they had no time; even class schedules from schoolyears past still stuck to bedroom walls. I found myself poring over the most trivial things. Costume jewelry first worn by Ganda, hair gel used on Panganay‘s voluminous mane, flyers for student council campaigns run by Bunso. I marveled at the stories told by these artifacts, and I could not help but smile to myself. What a trio of remarkable children I was lucky enough to be father of.
They had grown up in two cases a majority of their early adulthood and in one case a majority of teen years without me, save for sporadic letters, emails and chats, and certainly did well in spite of me, and not because of. I contributed little but genes and the accident of doting grandparents and a grand aunt who in adverse situations made the best of everything by chipping in the lion’s share of their educational costs. By default and by choice, I had become an almost-bystander in their lives.
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Hopefully that has changed a bit now, but the bits and pieces of the lives they left behind, hurrying to take advantage of still-lenient family policies in NZ, need I use the cliche, brought back a flood of memories for me, when I was a relatively younger father for them.
Strangely enough, in an empty house, that waits out the next few years in slumber for its former and future masters, whomever they might be.
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