Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Turning 86

My Tita Lyding turned 86 last week. She suffers from arthritis and can barely walk, her hearing is impaired so we all have to raise our voices so she can hear us, but her mind is still sharp.

I first met her when I came to Manila in 1993. I was 13 then, a young lad from the province, a probinsyano, just about to enter high school. I knew little about life in the big city. Tita Lyding, or Tita Deng as I often call her, was not a blood relative but she took care of me just like her own son.

Since she rarely has the chance to go out, I decided to fetch her from Antipolo and take her out for a night in town.

"O, did you take a bath ba?" I asked her after she got in the car.

"Yes, of course! Three times!" she answered.

"Paamoy nga," I said and embraced her. Her perfume smells of lilac, and old roses, just like I remembered. "So are you ready? Baka mapuyat ka."

"I'm prepared to go home by 6:00 a.m.!" she told us.

"Naku! LAX na ito! Did you bring your dancing shoes Tita Deng?" my close friend Georgie said.

"I brought my third leg," she replied, brandishing her cane, laughing.

That's what I love about my Tita. Her humor and zest for life hasn't faded. She refuses to become an old grumpy lady who complains about everything in her life. Never mind that walking is painful. Never mind that she can't hear the world as much as she used to. I would sometimes catch her pretending to have heard something just to spare her the embarassment of having to repeat "Ano yun?" again and again.

"I'm always happy to see you Kane," she told me.

"I'm happy too Tita. Happy 86th birthday my love," I said.

I brought her to my favorite Filipino restaurant, Bistro Filipino, and we had drinks afterwards with my friends.

What do people want when they're 86, I wondered?

"So, Tita Deng, what is your birthday wish?" I asked her as she sipped her mango margarita.

She was quiet for a moment.

"One more year," she said, smiling at me. "And I want another dinner like this next year ha!"

One more year, I thought to myself. So this is how it ends. When you're younger, you dream of wealth, travel, love, a great job, a great man, great sex and a lifetime to enjoy them all. And at 86, all you ask is for one more year.

I suddenly realized the vast distance of almost six decades that separates my Tita and I. She looked at me and at that moment, we both knew she knew she was approaching the end of her life. How does she feel, I wonder? And when that time comes, how would I feel?

Our finiteness being human is what ultimately gives our lives meaning, I think. It is because we know things do not last forever that we value them. It is the time we spend with our loved ones knowing death comes, the joy of watching children grow up knowing they will not be children forever, the struggles of today knowing there is a promise of a better tomorrow.

The years fly by.

As the poet Andrew Marvell put it in his poem, “To His Coy Mistress” – “And at my back I always hear, / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”

Maybe one day I will be 86 and someone will ask me what is my wish. I would remember my Tita Deng, and smiling I'll say, "One more year".


iurico said...

Masterfully written, Kane. I can already feel the depth of the thoughts poured into writing this.

Anonymous said...

yah...i live in neverland so good luck when your 86 lol---E

Lance said...

Happy Birthday to your Tita Lyding, Kane. I admire her continued zest for living inspite all the inconvenience that old age brings and I love how she seems to have lived a life without regrets. She is the embodiment of the phrase: aging gracefully :-)

Your sentiment about "finiteness" made me recall the poem below. I had to do a quick search to find the complete text. If only we could live each day as if it were our last, each day would be lived with so much love, purpose and hope.

And Yet Life was a Triumph
Sharon M. Carr

I had to love Today because you couldn’t promise me Tomorrow
and my wealth is in the glimpse of the beyond
that escapes the indifferent eye,
flashing, twinkling
in the tease of sunlight
or the gray dewshine of raindrops…

I had to hold tightly to purpose,
because you might not give me time for carelessness,
and lifeblood is too precious to spill on selfish whim;

I had to cherish hope, because you couldn’t guarantee light amid despair and I was tired of hurting-
I am sustained by what I cannot see, and reassured by a comforting grasp that is all in all, ever powerful, ever good.

Because I was forced to live life boldly, thankfully, lovingly and joyfully, death is tender, and life was a triumph.

Guyrony said...

As we near the end of existence, all we really request is to give us another chance on how we appreciate people who have been there for us.

Anonymous said...

ive always wanted to die or just disappear and not be remembered by anyone like i never existed..
this has always been my wish on my birthday..


Who, though by the malignant stars,
Forcèd to live in storms and wars,
Yet dying, leaves a perfume here,
And music within every ear ;

by Andrew Marvell

nimmy said...

happy people live longer! happy birthday to your tita :)

rudeboy said...

Had we but world and time...

Your tita looks beautiful, Kane. We should all be so lucky to exude such radiance if and when we live to see our 80s.

Anonymous said...

a woman of wit and wisdom.

a happy birthday to your tita, kane.


Désolé Boy said...

it sends chill on me..your tita's answer: one more year...

a lesson to us youngsters..take one step at a time..very cliche but still true and mostly forgotten..


Alterjon said...

with age comes wisdom and beauty.

simply admirable. ;)

Elias Jayson said...

I am reading Through a Glass, Darkly by Jostein Gaarder today. your post reminds me of a line from Cecil's grandmother: Perhaps we're sad when something's beautiful because we know that it won't last for ever. Then we start to laugh when something's ugly because we understand that it is only a joke.'

And at the end of the day, I always have one prayer. For one more day.

This is beautifully written. Send my bloggy happy birthday to her.

gillboard said...

your tita does not look like she's 86. ganun talaga siguro pag laging happy.

caloy said...

happy 86th to your tita then. :)

Tristan Tan said...

I love this piece. Bravo.

Kiks said...

She is beautiful and your tribute impeccable.

Your most-deserved friends would definitely want things written about them by you.

As for Tita Lyding, she has led a full life but still wanting to enjoy that dinner at Bistro Filipino with you.

Odiba, she knows how to party like her prubinsyanong nephew!

dabo (or david) said...

love her humour! happy birthday kamo!!

Mu[g]en said...

Happy Birthday to your Tita! :)

Nico said...

touching post. :) your tita is inspiring. :)

Kevin Musgrove said...

A very nice post, thanks for sharing the occasion.

SOLTERO said...

she looks so young at 86! happy bday to her!

"one more year" - dyan ako napalunok.
another lovely post!

Hunie said...

I'll take care of you when you get old and raggedy. But I won't let you pee on your pants,, so hello nursing home haha. Just kidding love. It was nice to see Tita's photo. Feeling ko kasama din ako.

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Peter said...

Cerebral but heart-rending. Happy birthday to you both.

Anonymous said...

It's human nature lang to ask (whom? God?) for more time on earth
but it's better by far to remember
each day to thank Him for the gift
given to us .... and every day IS a gift to us from God.