(Below is what’s I wrote in our holiday greetings/newsletter that we gave out for this year.)
When we go on road trips, we often take notice of those numbered markers at the side of the road. These are mile markers or milestones telling us how far we’ve come. In our life’s journey there are also milestone events.
Some milestones are simple, yet joyous. Like when your kids graduated from diapers and are fully toilet trained. We are way, way past that milestone, yet we cherish those moments for children are small only for a short time.
Some milestones are bittersweet. Like when your firstborn leave home for college. We are past that too, as our daughter has been in college for a few years now. In fact she will be graduating next year, which will be another milestone.
Some milestones are just sad. Like when you become empty nesters. We’re not there yet, as our son still lives with us, but not for long. He will be a senior in high school this coming school year, and will be off to college in another blink.
There are some milestones you don’t want to broadcast. Like when you hit 50, and realize that you’re old. Both my wife and I are past that too but we did not have much fanfare about it.
But there are some milestones you’re simply proud of. And that’s the kind of milestone we are having this year. My wife and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I know further adventure awaits us and we are looking to more milestones on this journey.
There are events though that are more than just milestones. They are earth shattering and have altered the course of history. Like when Jesus came to this earth to save us from our sins. It changed the destiny of us all. We celebrate His birth on this Holiday season.
May we all experience a Blessed Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
Few days ago, my son and I carried out our old couch to the end of our driveway for waste management to pick-up. Would it be recycled into a new form or would it rest in a land fill? I don’t know. This is not the first time though, that I have dealt with a couch on a curb.
About two and a half decades ago, I came to United States on a training visa to start my medical residency. I had one suitcase in hand which was all my belongings plus a few dollars in my wallet. Leaving our home in the Philippines, I arrived in Morristown, New Jersey and stayed with another Filipino medical resident whom I just met. I crashed at his apartment for I have no place of my own.
One day we saw a couch left at the street curb to be picked up by the garbage collector. Seeing that the couch still has some life left on it, I thought it could be of use to me. My friend and I scooped up the sofa before the garbage truck could pick it up. Of course we inspected it first and it passed our visual and smell test.
A month later after I received my first paycheck, I was able to move to my own apartment. My friend and I transported the couch from his residence to mine which was 1 kilometer away. No, we did not load it on a truck for we had no truck. We carried it through that distance. Even though it was not that big, it seemed that it got heavier and heavier as we went further along. Especially considering that we were two scrawny and muscularly-challenged guys.
Good thing was, midway, somebody saw us struggling with our load. She flagged us down and asked how far we were going. We were actually already sitting (and panting) on the couch taking a break at the side of the road. The lady lent us a furniture dolley so we can roll the sofa instead of lifting it, and she said to just bring it back when we’re done. That was nice of her. That was one of my first impression of that place – that people were nice and trustful of their neighbors.
The lady even asked if it was some kind of a special “oriental” couch that we were transporting. Perhaps she was wondering if it was that valuable that we would go through all that trouble. If only she knew that we just picked it up from the street curb.
Several months later, my wife got her visa and came to America to join me. We used that salvaged couch for a couple of years. When we moved to New York, we did not bring it along anymore. We left it at a street curb for the garbage collector or perhaps somebody else to pick up. Did it find another owner? I don’t know.
We moved several more times since then and in fact, we had 10 different address changes until we finally moved to our current address. It seemed like we were in a witness-protection program that we kept on moving, roughly every year. However, we are living in our present home for 14 years now and counting.
Regarding this couch that my son and I just placed at the curb, we bought it when we were still in Florida after we moved out of California. We got it on a clearance sale. We really did not care about its blue color, but my wife thought she could make a cover for it. Her family’s business when they were growing up in Pampanga was making drapes and seat covers. After she made a phone call to her brother and asked for some tips, she sewed a white fabric cover for our couch. It turned out pretty good actually.
We hauled this sofa along when we eventually moved here in Iowa. We have sat on it, lounged on it, spilled food on it, my kids barfed on it and I spent many lazy days sleeping (and drooling) on it. Over the years of use the covers that my wife made got torn and for a long time now we were just tossing a white blanket over it. It has seen better days and now it is time for it to have another life apart from us.
As we placed our couch at the curb, I sat there for a few moments, reminisced, and watched as the season (and our life’s season) turns. There are so many things to be thankful for. Including old couches.
I am taking a break from studying. I took two re-certification exams from American Board of Internal Medicine for different subspecialties this year. One in May and another this November. Next up is for another subspecialty, but it’s not until September next year. So I’ll chill out for now.
Because of the preparation I did for the boards, I have spent a lot of time reading and studying. I chose to review in my daughter’s room. Since my daughter is in college now and her room was empty, I took residence there and used her study table which is near the window. It was nice and quiet there plus it has a great view of the outside.
I also downloaded my favorite music for studying in Spotify and had it playing while I was reviewing. My go-to music when I’m studying is Jim Chappell’s. I discovered him back in the early 1990’s when I was preparing for my Philippine Medical Boards. His music is calming and perfect for quiet reflection. It puts me in a right mood too, I guess.
As I was studying in my daughter’s room, I was surrounded by her articles and effects – the stuff toys she had in one corner, the favorite books she read in the book case, the medals and trophies in the shelf, and other sort of things. Lots of memories tied to all of these items.
Then I noticed that some of the electric outlets in her room still has the plastic plug covers. We child-proofed our home and placed these outlet plugs when we moved into this house years ago. She was still a little girl at that time. Obviously we place those covers to protect her from being electrocuted in case she stuck her little fingers on those electric outlets.
But time has passed so quickly it seems that she has grown up and we have not noticed that she don’t need those outlet plug covers anymore. She probably left some outlets covered as she did not need them anyway. The wallpaper in her room may also require some updating as it was from the original owner of the house. But my daughter said she liked them, so we let it be.
I took out the plastic outlet plugs now for there were no use for them anymore. Besides I have to plug my laptop, my phone, and my portable speaker near her study table.
My daughter will be finishing college this year with a degree in Music. In fact, a few nights ago we attended her cello solo recital at the university. In a few months she’ll be performing in her final senior piano recital which will be a bigger event, since piano is her major.
It seems not too long ago that she was sticking her fingers in the peanut butter jar, playing dirt and picking dandelions in our yard. Today, those beloved beautiful fingers are electrifying musical instruments. We are glad we protected them from harm, including injury from electric outlets.
Below is a photo of my daughter during her recent cello recital. She was accompanied by her piano professor.
It is kind of funny that even the simplest of things like an outlet plug cover will evoke such precious memories. Or maybe it was the music that I was listening to that made me.
Alright, I’ll blame it all on the music.
Here’s Jim Chappell’s song, “Precious Memories.” (video from Youtube)
Yes, we have this modern technology of all the world being connected and wired through broadband networks, internet, Wi-Fi, and all platforms of social media, and yet the proportion of the population suffering from loneliness and depression is on the rise at a rate that we have never seen before.
A couple of weeks ago, a man suffering from Parkinson’s disease presented to the hospital for progressive weakness and failure to thrive. He needed to be placed on a non-invasive ventilator (BiPAP) for respiratory failure. He was admitted to the ICU by my partner the night before.
I went to see the patient the next morning. Before going in to the patient’s room the nurse at the station made a comment to me, “I think he just has no more will to live.”
I examined the patient and I spoke to him. Despite him on the BiPAP mask, he was still able to communicate. After learning more about him, he expressed to me that he wanted to be DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), meaning, to let him go peacefully if his heart stops.
I learned from the patient too that his wife passed away recently. He also had a son that lives in the area but he did not want him contacted. His next of kin that he put on record was his church pastor.
I tried to get him off the non-invasive ventilator but his oxygen saturation dropped so we had to place him back on it. But I told him that we could take him off the BiPAP mask briefly to let him eat, however he said that he had no appetite.
After our initial work-up, his condition was still a conundrum. He was not in congestive heart failure. He had no apparent pneumonia. He had no viral or bacterial infection. He was just unwell.
I think the nurse’s assessment was spot on. The patient simply gave up on living.
That night, a little past midnight, my phone rang. It was one of the ICU nurse telling me that our patient went bradycardic (low heart rate) and then went into PEA (pulseless electrical activity). The nurse commented, “He checked out.” He gave up the ghost and died.
The saddest part as I learned later, was that there were no friends nor family that visited him. There was nobody around, except for our hospital staff, when he died.
I don’t really know what was the story behind this patient. What I know is that he was lonely and that he did not care to live anymore. What if somebody was there for him? Could it have made a difference?
Please take time to show people, specially our loved ones that we care.
(Nais ko po muling balikan ang isang akda na aking isinulat walong taon na ang nakalipas, inilathala Oktubre 7, 2011.)
Lumalamig na naman ang simoy ng hangin dito sa amin. Tumitingkad na rin ang mga kulay ng mga dahon at nagiging ginintuan at pula. Unti-unti rin silang nalalagas, nalalaglag at kumakalat sa lupa. Dahan-dahang namang kumukupas ang mga luntiang kulay ng damo sa aming paligid.
Lipas na naman ang tag-araw. Hindi magtatagal ay tagginaw na naman. Lilipad na naman at babalut sa kapaligiran ang puting niyebe.
Nakaupo at nakahalukipkip sa isang sulok ng aming tahanan ang aking nanay. Siya ay dumadalaw sa amin dito sa Amerika, at mahigit dalawang buwan na rin siyang namalagi dito. Ito ay pangatlong pagkakataon niyang makarating dito sa aming lugar. Ang unang dalaw niya dito, mga ilang taon na ang nakalilipas, ay sa kalagitnaan ng tag-lamig, dahil gusto raw niyang masaksihan ang niyebe. Ngunit dahil sa sumusuot sa butong ginaw ng tag-lamig dito, ay ayaw na niyang manatili at maranasang muli ang tagginaw.
Dahil na rin siguro sa kanyang edad, ay hindi na siya mahilig mag-lalabas at mamasyal. Pinipili pa niyang umupo sa isang tabi at maiwan na lamang sa loob ng aming bahay. Masaya na siya sa panonood sa kanyang mga apo, o dumungaw sa bintana at magmasid sa kapaligirang mundo na patuloy sa pag-ikot. Maaring maligaya na siya na magbalik tanaw na lamang sa mga kasaysayan ng kanyang buhay.
Lahat ay nagbabago. Walang sinisino.
Malaki na rin ang ipinagbago ng aking ina mula ng ako’y unang tumulak parito sa Amerika. Hukot na ang kanyang tindig. Mahina na ang kanyang mga kamay: mga kamay na minsang panahon ay malalakas sa pag-aaruga sa aking kabataan. Malabo na rin ang kanyang mga mata: mga matang minsa’y kay linaw sa pagbabantay noon sa aking kalikutan. Purol na rin ang kanyang pandinig: mga tengang dati-rati ay matalas na dumidinig ng aking mga iyak at tawag. Mabagal na rin ang kanyang mga hakbang: mga hakbang na noon ay mabibilis sa paghabol sa aking kamusmusan, para ako’y malayo sa panganib.
Pana-panahon lamang ang lahat, ika nga nila. Ang oras ay tumatakbo, hindi naghihintay kaninuman.
Ilang araw pa ay tutulak na muling pabalik sa Pilipinas ang aking nanay, parang ibong manglalakbay na lumilipad patungong timog upang tumakas sa nagbabadyang masungit na taglamig.
Hindi ko alam kung ilang pag-kikita at ilang pag-papaalam pa ang nalalabi sa amin. Panahon lamang ang makapagsasabi. Sana ay nakapagdulot ako ng kasiyahaan bilang isang anak sa aking ina. Ito lamang ang pinaka-matamis na ala-alang maipapabaon ko sa kanya.
Hindi magtatagal ay mauubos at mahuhulog na rin ang lahat ng dahon sa mga puno, at matitira na lamang ay mga hubad na sanga at tangkay nito. Mananatili itong pawang tigang at patay…… hanggang sa panahon ng tag-sibol at muling magsisimula ang panibagong buhay.
(*Post note: Ang aking ina ay tuluyan nang namaalam tatlong taon matapos kong isulat ang akdang ito.)
It’s autumn here in our part of the world and the leaves are changing colors. We see them everyday as we peek through our windows. In fact, we can watch the time go by through our windows and witness not just the changing of the leaves.
When our son was much younger, he would always tell us when we leave to wave goodbye at the window. So as our car would pull out of our driveway, he would be watching at the window and waving goodbye. He would feel bad if we would not wave back at him. It was his some sort of reassurance that everything would be alright. He would do this especially with his mom that it became their tender ritual. So when my wife would leave him even for a very short errand he would say, “Bye at the window, Mom.”
Children seems to have a hard time dealing with being left behind. Remember the first time we let them sleep alone in their bedroom? They would do all kind of delaying tactics so that we would not have to leave them in their room for the night.
Like, “Can you check for spiders on my bed?” “There’s none left, the monster under your bed ate them all.”
Or, “Can I have another drink of water?” “That’s your 5th glass of water, you will pee on the bed.”
I don’t know about you, but our kids did something similar. However we had to be firm in our actions so they would develop that sense of independence.
Maybe you remember when you dropped your kids on their first day of school in kindergarten. Perhaps some of them clung tightly at your skirt or perhaps they wrapped around your leg and would not let go. We have not really experienced dropping our kids in kindergarten since we homeschooled them, but I just wonder what kind of fiasco they could have done.
Our kids are grown up now. Our daughter has been gone for a few years and is almost done with college, while our son is a junior in high school. He still home schools, but he now attends some Advanced Placement classes in a community college nearby. He also drives now, and a couple of months ago his driver’s license was upgraded that he can drive all by himself but still has a restriction that he cannot drive alone after midnight or before five o’clock in the morning.
Few weeks ago, my son humorously told my wife (*in a deeper voice too*), “Bye at the window, Mom.” But this time it was he who was leaving, and my wife was the one waving goodbye at the window.
My wife said that it really felt weird and different this time. She felt so nostalgic as my son was pulling out of our driveway and she waved goodbye at the window for the longest time until the car made a turn at the street corner and disappeared from her sight.
There is definitely a twinge of sadness on these rites of passage. Yet, they must come to pass.
I think we had it wrong all along. It is not our kids, but it is us parents who have a hard time letting go.
Noong isang umaga, ako’y nagising sa dagundong ng kulog at kalaskas ng bumubuhos na ulan. Balak ko sanang tumakbo noong umagang iyon pero dahil sa malakas na ulan, ako’y nagbatu-batugan at nagbabad na lang sa higaan. Utak ko nama’y nagtampisaw sa mga alaala ng nakaraang mga tag-ulan – mga alaala na matagal nang nakasampay ngunit parang basa at sariwa pa rin sa isipan.
Nagliwaliw ang aking isip noong ako’y maliit na bata pa. Gaya ng maraming bata batuta, ako’y mahilig maglaro sa ulan lalo na kapag maalinsangan. Kahit pa sabihing baka raw sipunin, o magkapulmonya, o kaya’y mapasma, ay hindi namin alintana, dahil sa musmos naming isip, masarap maligo sa ulan. Kung hindi pipigilan ay lagi kaming susugod sa ulan.
Nagbabakasyon kami palabas ng Maynila tuwing buwan ng Mayo noon. Mga dalawang linggo rin kaming lumalagi sa Ilokos Norte, ang probinsiyang pinagmulan ng aking nanay.
Isang araw habang kami ay nagbabakasyon, ay umulan nang todo-todo. Kami, kasama ko ang aking mga pinsan, ay pinayagang maligo sa ulan. Masaya kaming naghabulan sa kalsadang graba, habang umaagos ang malalaking kanal na ang tubig ay malinaw, hindi gaya ng tubig kanal ng Maynila. Dahil mala-batis ang linis ng tubig sa kanal, sinasalok pa namin ito ng tabo, tapos itataob namin ang tabo na may lamang tubig sa aming ulo, habang kami’y sumasayaw at tumatalon-talon sa ulan. Akala ninyo palaka lang ang masaya kapag umuulan?
Pinupulot din namin ang mga nalalaglag na kamachile dahil sa lakas ng hangin. Hindi na namin kailangan pa itong sungkitin. Sana nga ang mga mangga sa puno ng aking lola ay magkandahulog din, pero kailangan yata ng ipo-ipo bago ito malaglag.
Sa bahay naman namin sa Maynila, konting ulan lang ay baha na kaagad ang mga kalye, kaya sanay akong lumusong sa baha. Hindi namin iniisip ang Leptospirosis, dahil hindi ko pa naman alam kung ano iyon at hindi ko pa rin alam ang spelling nito. Noong nasa medical school na ako kesa ko pa lang natutunan ito, at sa katunayan, may naging pasyente kaming namatay dahil sa Leptospirosis. Sangayon sa history niya, siya ay bumagtas sa baha.
Nang ako’y nasa kolehiyo na, masaya pa rin ako kapag malakas na ang ulan. Hindi sa ako’y sadista at gusto ko ng bagyo, pero dahil kalimitan ay nakakansela ang pasok sa UST kapag baha na, lalo na sa Espanya. Umaabot hanggang hita o hanggang bewang pa ang baha doon.
Minsan nang ako’y nasa medical school na, bumuhos ang malakas na ulan maghapon at hindi humumpay kaya bumaha ang buong ka-Maynilaan. Wala kaming masakyan pauwi, dahil mga pailan-ilang bus na lamang ang malakas ang loob na bumaybay sa malalim na baha. Walang rin namang pumapasadang bangka. Kaya lumusong na lang ako sa baha at naglakad mula sa UST hanggang sa amin sa may Balik-Balik. Sa awa ng Diyos nakarating naman ako nang ligtas sa aming bahay, at hindi napatianod o nalunod sa baha, at hindi rin nahulog sa mga nakabukas na imburnal. Wala naman din akong nahuling dalag.
Nang matapos ako sa Medisina, ako’y pansamantalang namasukan (moonlighting) sa isang maliit na ospital sa Plaridel Bulakan, upang makaipon nang konti habang ako’y nag re-review para sa medical licensing exam ng Amerika. Kung maipapasa ko iyon, magiging pasaporte ko siya upang makalabas ng bansa. Sa Plaridel na ako lumalagi ng mga ilang araw, at linguhan na lang akong lumuwas ng Maynila. Trabaho ako sa gabi, at konting tulog at puspusang review sa araw.
Isang okasyon, dinalaw ako ng aking nobya na galing Maynila sa aking trabaho doon sa Bulakan. Matindi ang ulan noong araw na iyon. Kahit na may dala pa siyang payong, ay basang basa siya nang dumating sa aming ospital sa Plaridel. Para siyang basang sisiw. Ako naman ay parang palakang kumakanta.
Habang siya ay nagpapatuyo, at habang kami ay nakaupo at nakadungaw sa bumubuhos na ulan, ay masaya naman kaming magkaulayaw kahit na maiksing sandali lamang ang sa ami’y inilaan. At para bagang awit ni Basil Valdez (may version din si Regine Velasquez), alam namin na kapag tumila na ang ulan ay lilisan na siya upang bumalik sa Maynila, at ako’y maiiwan na.
Pagmasdan ang ulan unti-unting tumitila, Ikaw ri’y magpapaalam na, Maaari bang minsan pa, Mahagkan ka’t maiduyan pa, Sa tubig at ulan lamang ang saksi, Minsan pa ulan bumuhos ka Huwag nang tumigil pa, Hatid mo ma’y bagyo Dalangin ito ng puso kong sumasamo, Pag-ibig ko’y umaapaw, Damdamin ko’y humihiyaw sa tuwa, Tuwing umuulan at kapiling ka.
Malakas pa rin ang buhos ng ulan at tumatabing pa rin ang maiitim na ulap sa bagong silang na umaga. Pero kailangan ko nang bumangon at kailangan nang pumasok sa trabaho. Hanggang sa muli na lang ulit ang aking pagtatampisaw sa mga alaala ng kahapon.
Aking pinagmasdan ang aking katabi. Mahimbing pa rin ang kanyang pagkakatulog. Pero alam kong kahit tumila pa ang ulan, kami ay magkapiling na at hindi na namin kailangang magpaalam pa.
Magdadalampu’t limang taon na palang bumubuhos ang ulan.
(Eksaktong limang taon ngayong araw na ito ang nakalipas nang aking ilathala ang artikulong Paglalakbay sa Alapaap. Isa lamang pong pagbabalik-tanaw……..)
Paglalakbay sa Alapaap
Iyan ang aking nakita, sa pagdungaw ko sa bintana. Muli akong nasa himpapawid. Lumilipad. Naglalakbay. Pabalik sa aking lupang sinilangan.
Isip ko ay lumilipad at naglalakbay din. Ngunit hindi tulad ng eroplanong aking sinasakyan na mapayapang tumatahak sa mga alapaap, ang biyahe ng aking isip ay maligalig at matagtag.
Mula nang ako’y lumisan ng ating bansa, dalampung taon na ang nakalilipas, ay maraming beses na rin naman akong nakapagbalik-bayan. At lagi sa aking pagbabalik ay may bitbit itong galak at pananabik. Galak na muli akong tatapak sa lupang tinubuan. At pananabik na makita muli ang iniwang pamilya’t mga kaibigan.
Kahit nang ako’y umuwi noong nakaraang Nobyembre bilang isang medical volunteer para tumulong sa mga nasalanta ni Yolanda, ang naramdaman ko’y hamon na may kahalo pa ring pananabik. Pananabik na makapagbigay ng lunas at ginhawa sa mga kababayang nasakuna ng bagyo.
Ngunit kaka-iba ang pagkakataong ito ng aking pagbabalik. Walang galak. Walang panananabik. Kundi pagkabahala sa kakaibang bagyo na aming sasagupain.
May katiyakan naman ang aking patutunguhan. May katiyakan rin ang oras ng aking pagdating at paglapag sa Maynila. Ngunit hindi ko tiyak kung ano ang aking daratnan. Hindi ko rin tiyak kung gaanong kaikling panahon pa ang sa amin ay inilaan.
Pero ganyan daw talaga ang buhay. Walang katiyakan.
Hindi ko sasabihing hindi ko batid na darating din ang pagkakataong kagaya nito. Ngunit katulad ninyo, ako’y nagnanais at umaasa na sana ay malayo pa ang takipsilim. Sana ay magtagal pa ang tag-araw. Sana ay hindi pa matapos ang awit. Sana ay mahaba pa ang sayaw. Sana……..
Subalit tanggapin man natin o hindi, ang lahat ay may hangganan at may katapusan.
Maraming bagyo na rin naman ang aming pinagdaanan. At kahit gaano kalupit ang hagupit ng unos, ito ay nakakaya ring bunuin. At kahit dumadapa sa dumadaang delubyo ay muli rin namang nakakabangon.
Hindi lang bagyong kagaya ni Ondoy o Yolanda ang aking tinutukoy.
Ngunit kahit gaano pa kaitim ang mga ulap na kumumubli sa liwanag, at kahit gaano kalakas ang sigwa na yumayanig sa pagod na nating katauhan, at kahit gaano pa kahaba ang gabi, ay ating tatandaan na lagi pa ring may bukang-liwayway sa kabila ng mga alapaap.
Atin na lang ding isipin na sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap ay palaging nakangiti ang araw. Sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap ay laging mapayapa. Sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap ay walang nang bagyo. Walang nang pagkakasakit. Walang nang paghihinagpis. Walang na ring pagtangis.
Malapit nang lumapag ang aking eroplanong linululanan. Malapit na rin akong humalik muli sa inang-lupa na aking sinilangan. Muli rin akong hahalik sa mukha ng aking ina na sa akin ay nagsilang.
Sana ay magkita pa kami. Sana ay abutan ko pa siya………..bago siya maglakbay sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap.
Post Note: Nagpang-abot pa kami ng aking ina. Ngunit iyon na ang aming huling pagkikita, sapagka’t dalawang buwan matapos nito, siya ay nagbiyaheng langit at pumailanglang na.