Happy 100++ birth anniversary, lolo!
Join me in welcoming him in my blog again, my dear dead grandfather the charmer. Who the hell calls anyone the “Helen of my years”?!?! So cheesy, yet so old world romantic.
If he has his jewelry box of memory treasures, I have one, too: Every single day, whenever I get home from school in the afternoon, I’d find him in the “sun room” (I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s the sunny, airy part of the house), in his favorite worn out chair, feet up on the matching worn out ottoman, doing crossword puzzles with a pen. He’s most likely the reason why I love doing crossword puzzles. I like to pretend that I am as smart as he was so I use a pen, too. There are times, of course, when I find myself heavily writing over a wrong word or two…
Oh well, anyway, here he is again…
Hi! New Millennium – September 26 1999
– by Cornelio dela Rosa Sr.
The happiest heart that ever beat
Was in some quiet breast
That found the common daylight sweet
And left to Heaven the rest
(from Day Light, Day Bright)
Today, that heart beats in my breast. Can I wish for a happier, sweeter day? Joining me in a prayer leaving the rest to Heaven are my three sexagenarian sons and four daughters (ages privileged information), seven jewels gifted to me in the ecstasy of love by Quiting, the Helen of my years, and my cherished darling bride for fifty six long exciting years. Also praying is the hybrid conglomeration of nineteen grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
Confident and hopeful, I await the New Century and the New Millennium.
Exactly ninety one years ago, the “comadrona” gingerly held me up in the air upside down and slapped my behind and out came a squeak of the voice you still hear and will hear for some more years, God-willing.
This is my natural birthday a la Adam and Eve. Jewish tradition has it that a celebration after its fifteenth year of observance becomes a Jubilee. Today, thanks to Cor’s friendly and kind neighbor Rabbis, I rejoice on my forty-first Jubilee Birthday. A good many people religiously believe that each year over sixty in a man’s life-time can come only as a special grant’ a bonus from above, and so, also today, I start basking in the golden sunlight of my thirty-first Bonus Birthday!
Guess what else makes this day so special?
I have memories. It has been said that a memory is a treasure that survives.
Mind you, I keep a big, strong jewel box of memory treasures.
Today, from this box, I shall randomly pick cameos, and like Edna’s favorite Ongpin jeweler, dangle them before your eyes and dazzle you.
That’s how my playmates twitted and made fun of me. The naughty kids, may their souls rest in peace! They did not know that when they twitted me thus they actually complimented and wished me well.
Do not many people around me believe that I owe my staying power to my XL ears?
Even when in the States, I never miss my daily early morning walks.
In Chicago, I walk to the Chapel of the Felician Sisters Provincialate Convent and Noviciate, a distance four times longer than form home to church here in San Juan. How can I tell this? Simple. When I do my brisk walking, I pray the rosary. Here in San Juan, it takes only one mystery to reach the church. But it requires four mysteries to reach the Chapel.
Inside the Chapel, I sit myself in either ends of the last pew. Almost every time, I am the only male in the select congregation of Mothers, Sisters, Novices, and a handful of elderly lay ladies.
I am much embarrassed but also flattered when during the Peace Offering, some Sisters up front would come to me and shake hands and this compensates for longer walk.
Many times, I wanted to accost the officiating priest and ask him, “Father, do you ever notice that almost always, I am the only sinner in your congregation?” I wonder how he would react.
Going back to Cora’s house, I always pass by a small grocery store run by a Korean family. I patronize the store because of the big, black plastic bags they dispense with your purchases. I though they would make good trash bags at home.
So, when I go to this store and check out my purchases, I would request the comely 12-year lass at the counter to please put them in two bags.
I would show her my skinny arms and say, “see, I am old. I cannot carry them with one hand.” And she would comply.
But one day, perhaps she got on to my repeated OAs. She took a good look at me and laughingly said in her broken English, “Oh no! You are strong, you are good, you are… beautiful.”
And she put my purchases in two bags and also gave me an extra bag.
I wish that High School classmates who said I had a “cara de pocos amigos” could have heard her.
Way back in 1938, I was in charge of the construction of a marginal wharf in Barrio Culasi, Capiz Town, now Roxas City.
Because of our limited communication facilities, payroll transmittals from Manila to the job site were often delayed.
One of the cardinal policies of our company was to always pay our work force on time although, at that time our laborers were not as uncooperative and demanding as they are now.
To keep implementing this policy, the company gave me a power of attorney authorizing me to collect in cash whatever progress payments are due our contract.
The provincial treasurer and the provincial auditor refused to honor my power of attorney.
I went to the Governor in his office and appealed my case.
Without much ado, he called the provincial treasurer and the provincial auditor to his office. As the two entered, the Governor turned to me jokingly chided me, “The trouble with you De la Rosa, is you do not give these gentlemen cigars.”
A few seconds later, my problem was solved. P.S. I did not give the two gentlemen cigars.
Comparisons are odious but I cannot resist making one.
Suppose the same situation would crop up now, how do you think the officials involved would act?
Could it be this: How much? … OK. Bring it in a carton box.
Doing my job turned out to be almost a complete tour of the country, from Appari up north to the Visayas and to General Santos in Mindanao.
I traveled by land, by sea, and by air.
In all those trips, I always took my wife with me, not as an MP as wise-cracking friends enjoyed quipping, but to keep me company, and according to a Chinese contractor friend, be my Guardian Angel.
Once returning from Tacloban, a friend gave us a pair of lovebirds placed in a paper bag. They were delivered late as we were already about to board our plane. It takes a permit to transport them. I took off my jacket to cover the bag with the birds.
I heaved a sigh of relief when I got through the doors and Quiting and I were snugly seated.
After all the take-off amenities were done with, a pretty stewardess came to our seats. Pointing to the bag under my seat, she asked “are they your birds?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“What kind of birds are they?” She asked further.
Before replying, I put my arms around Quiting and said, “lovebirds like us.”
“Oh, how sweet!” she said and started to move away.
But before she could take a step, Quiting motioned her back and pointing to me, whispered to her “he is too old for loving.”
A Guardian Angel indeed, if ever there was one!
“Ang bango ni Sir.”
Can any man get a more potent ego-booster and a sweeter Good Morning aperitif uttered in semi-whispers as he passes by the office female staff as he goes to his table to begin the day’s grind?
I like to think that this endearing compliment meant I had rapport with my coworkers.
Thirteen years after retirement, I still feel retiring was such sweet sorrow.
Once, I was browsing in a St. Paul’s bookstore in Tacloban going from one shelf to the next, idly flipping the pages of a book or magazine I pick.
A comely young Sister came to me and timidly addressed me, “Father, where is your parish?”
I was about to burst out laughing but squelched this when I saw how serious the shy Sister looked.
Instead, I put my hand on her head and softly said, “no Sister, I am not a priest.”
At this point, I shall sew up the patchwork Divertimento (shades of my Mozart).
But before this, my apologies.
If in this narration, you, my dear readers heard a vain brat and a rooster crowing, I beg your indulgence.
You did not hear a brat and a rooster.
Whom you heard was one nonagenarian proclaiming his Joy to the World and singing Alleluia.