Reminiscences: Glimpses On My 90th Birthday

Meet my first guest blogger, my grandfather Cornelio de la Rosa Sr. He’s dead, by the way.

I remember my maternal grandfather because I dreamed of him again last night. I was giving him food and tisane (I’ve been watching Poirot again, that’s why). Maybe it was because it was his birthday yesterday, or maybe because I’ve just finished reading “Water for Elephants” by Sarah Gruen and the ninety-something narrator reminded me of him, his mind still very lucid even if he was already in his nineties.

If he were alive, he’d be 104 years old now. He died in February 2003. I do not know why I dream about frequently. Maybe I miss him still. To me he was the smartest, most charming, wittiest man. He knew so many things from science, politics, art, music, literature, and he got some cool fashion sense, too. He wore those polo and flannel shirts and Reeboks like a teenager. He used to charm my friends. One former co-worker even referred to him as the groovy granddad. He was a large influence on my choice of music. I remember when I was a child, every Sunday, he would play a lot of classical and broadway music using the gramophone and then the CD player in later years, for the whole house to hear. My interest in writing mostly likely was influenced by him as well.  He would have enjoyed blogging. He used to help me with my English homework.

I used to type his letters to his family and his short stories using the old, noisy typewriter (I think it was an Olivetti. I loved that typewriter!) for him because I was probably one of the few who could read his handwriting.  Anyway, this is one of his stories. More to be featured later on.

After fourteen years, I type these words for him again.

Glimpses on my 90th Birthday by Cornelio dela Rosa, September 26, 1998

Am I that young?

Sixty-three years ago, paraphrasing the conquering Julius Caesar, I came to Tacloban, I saw Tacloban, I… was conquered by a winsome lass of seventeen summers lovingly called Quiting.

On one sunny morning, my charming conqueror and I eloped (no ladder used like you see in the movies). We were married by the Justice of Peace of Tanauan, a town bordering Tolosa, the hometown of one woman we know. (Imelda Marcos)

That Tanauan romantic escapade launched our love boat on the marital seas which at times were storm-tossed, but during most of our lovers’ cruise, calm-reflecting the image of heaven above, even as on moonlit nights, we watched holding hands, “the waves lie still and gleaming and the lulled winds seem dreaming.” (Byron)

Out of Quiting’s amorous conquest and my complete surrender, we proudly presented to the challenging world four sons – unfortunately, the fourth died three days after birth – four daughters, nineteen grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

May our tribe increase and prosper!

The untimely loss of Quiting more than six years ago cut short our exciting marriage of fifty six years. In this span of more than half a century of cozy and intimate and … (censored) togetherness, we had renewed our marriage vows on six anniversaries in formal church ceremonies, complete with masses, sponsors, and other trimmings. This is a record of sorts for both our families. See, when it came to weddings, Quiting gave Elizabeth Taylor a run for her money.

Our Golden Wedding Anniversary turned out to be a very rare experience, idyllic, I might even say.  At that time, we were in Jersey City, New Jersey, visiting our daughter Cora who was then connected with an architectural firm based in Manhattan, New York.

A week before the anniversary, I went to the Parish office of the St. Aloysius Church. A very formal-looking middle-aged woman attended to me. I told her that we would like to renew our marriage vows on our golden wedding anniversary. Very business-like, she took out her log book and jotted down all the information I gave her. This done, she curtly said, “Okay and come on time” Our party was small. After we had made the last step to the church entrance, a priest already in his mass vestments waiting for us, came forward and asked me: “Are you Mr. dela Rosa?” Then he motioned Quiting and me aside and instructed us what to do during the mass.

And we marched to the altar.

At one point of the ceremony, I almost could not suppress a chuckle when the kindly priest mispronounced our names.

After the ritual renewing our marriage vows was over, the priest turned to those present and asked them to give us a big hand and celebrate with us. They responded heartily and some even cheered.

With the holy mass ended, I sent a female member of our party behind the altar to ask the officiating priest how much I owed him. She came back, all smiles. No charge. Everything is “Gratis et Amore.”

Could we have received a more memorable, endearing, and fitting Golden Wedding Anniversary than the 24-karat Golden Spiritual Chalice of all that is good and lovely exemplified by the celebrant priest we had never met before? What a golden nugget of an endearing church service!

On my last trip to Chicago, Cora and I went to Walgreens.

While she was busily shopping, I just browsed leisurely. I spotted an elderly Latin-American lady vainly trying to open the exit door while pulling her cart. I rushed to her assistance, held the door open and helped her with her cart.

She was very grateful and thanked me profusely, saying, “you are a perfect gentleman.”

Outside, we got talking. When she asked me how I was, she was truly amazed and exclaimed, “What do you eat to make you so fit? What is your secret?”

Casually, I replied, “Oh I eat everything. No diet to speak of. My secret is simple. I still dream and I believe in the beauty of my dreams.”

Do you know that today you are sharing with me the beauty of one of my dreams? This fiesta coming as it does in our Centennial year is indeed not only a beautiful but also a meaningful dream come true.

I wish I can offer you all garlands of fresh ilang-ilang in appreciation.

(Later, when Cora came out, she asked me, “kilala mo ba ang kausap mo?” Hindi.)

The story books tell us that my female namesake, Cornelia, had two jewels – her two sons. I am a thousandfold more fortunate – I have seven jewels; three sons and four daughters. Because of their loving care and filial devotion, I can proudly and very gratefully say, “I have grown old gracefully!” Cheers for my jewels. I salute them.

Often in our lives, we have paused, stood still, eyes heavenward in silent admiration of a beautiful rainbow. Has it ever crossed our mundane intellects that it takes both rain and sunshine to make a rainbow?

I like to think of the rainbow as a crystallization of the realities of life, in this Our Valley, not of tears, but of Rain and Sunshine, of Sampaguitas and Dama de Noches – and of Love.

Don’t our hearts now cry, now laugh?

Popular songs have been composed and colorful legends have been told about the rainbow and the good fortune one can find at the end of the rainbow. Some people have come to believe it a sort of an oracle. For them, making a wish with a rainbow over their shoulders is like wishing upon a falling star.

Thus, we have amongst us romantics forever chasing rainbows, and there are adventurous folks who wish to find at the end of the rainbow, a Pot of Gold.

My heart’s wish?

Simple: To find at the end of the rainbow, my darling bride of fifty-six years, waiting, arms outstretched in welcome and as our arms entwine, whispers:

“Did you miss me?”

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