Sunday, February 01, 2015

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 46 (Happy. Birthday, Maddie!)

Dear Marge and Maddie,

First of all, a belated happy second birthday, Maddie!
Your mom, sister and I wish and hope that you enjoyed all that "Frozen" merchandise: "Frozen"cake, "Frozen" dolls, and other little "Frozen" stuff.
But anyway, more than the late birthday greeting, I'm writing to you about something else. Around last October, your mom and I took you guys to one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's called "El Nido." You, Maddie were only a year and eight months old at the time, while Big Sis Marge was a little over six.
We always get a lot of this whole "you-don't-bring-little-kids-out-on-vacations-and-out-of-town" thing. They always say it isn't worth it, since they say that you guys probably won't remember a thing about them. Science actually says that they're probably right. The chances of you remembering any of that trip to El Nido is extremely unlikely.

I've actually posted something like this not too long ago here.

But you see this picture here? This is a happy Maddie playing in the sea, frolicking in the sand, and having a generally wonderful time. Maybe they're right and you won't remember this. You won't remember what the corals look like. Well, mostly since you didn't exactly go underwater anyways. You probably won't remember how beautiful the beach was, or how sparkling to ocean was. You probably won't remember the boat rides. You probably won't remember much or probably anything at all. But...

Maybe your mind won't remember, but somehow I'm sure that no matter how old you will eventually get (and i hope you BOTH get to live to a reeeeeeeally ripe old age), somewhere in your heart, you will remember there was that happy time at the beach. And that though you don't or won't remember much detail, like what we ate, what you saw, or whatever, somehow I'm sure that in that happily hopping heart of yours, the laughter that you had in those days will go on and on, and those echoes will keep your heart healthy, and will help you learn to love life a little more.

So by the time you read this you probably won't remember any of that at all. Of course, there will always be the pictures. But your mother and I, and probably your big sister will surely remember how happy we were watching you have all that fun.

But most importantly we will all remember how happy we were that we were all together.

'Catch you later.

Love you,

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 45 (Happy. New Year, Ladies)

Dearest Marge and Maddie,

It was an exceptionally beautiful evening.

And the black velvet sky dusted with tiny crystal shards blanketed the world and sung soundless lullabies heard only with one's captivated eyes.

It was one such evening where your mother and i would sit around and discuss "this-and-thats." One such "this-and-that" was that another year was about to end and yet another beginning. I told her we would be hitting forty two in the coming year, and that i felt old. She said she didn't, and that age was merely a number.

Your mother then asked why i felt old. And i said i felt so, because i feel that i've been having a good run at life. Not because my body felt rusty or creaky and so on. Although i have had my spells of that. But because life has been immeasurably kind to me and us. In fact, i said i enjoyed feeling slightly old. For me, feeling old also meant i carry with me all the beautiful years i've lived. The colorful happy-crazy years i had growing up with my friends and even my brothers before youth ended, the challenging yet thoughtful years discovering myself, the beautiful years with your mother, the even more joyful years when you guys arrived, and many more coming along so far.

Yes, simply put, it has been a good life. A life i am thankful for. So sometimes when you guys catch me i saying i feel old then smile, that's actually me thanking God for what a wonderful life i've been blessed with.

Decades from now, i wish you too will feel old the way i do.
And yes, it's another year. Happy 2015, ladies. Let's all have a good one.
'Catch you later.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Letters to Maddie: Chapter 44 (Be Careful Out There!)

Dearest Maddie,

Last night, while on video call (a.k.a. Facetime) with you girls, i heard you cry out. I was told you hit your head (again) and now have a nasty bump beside your right eye.

Funnily, sadly, oddly... your mom, sister and i are not too surprised. We definitely weren't happy you got hurt, but you've been so restless, reckless and playful that getting physical injured seems to be a more regular occurrence to you than to other little girls. Happened a lot less with your sister.

By now, your mom and i have concluded that you are an adventurous little girl. Brave, always on the go, and seem a lot more fearless than most little girls your age. Okay, so we're sort of guessing and only have your demure big sister as our prime case for comparison.

But hey, by the time you read this, i assume you're at an age of excellent reading comprehension. So here goes: BE CAREFUL. If my prognosis of you is right, you are going to be a brave, always on the go, and fearless young lady. We love you to bits and pieces. And when the time comes and we can no longer watch over you or just dab ice to make the pain go away, our greatest fear is always your safety.

Now i might be getting of myself here. But hey, parents are by nature paranoid, and this is paranoia borne of love.

We love you running around and all. But please, be careful wherever you are and no matter how big you might get.



Sunday, May 04, 2014

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 43 (Eulogy for Stolich)

Dear Marge and Maddie,

The label on this latest post could be misleading, because the bulk of it will not be addressed to you guys per se. But this is a letter to Stolich, arguably our family's longest-staying dog and four-legged family member, who left us last April 9, 2014.

And yes, it sucks to have to have two straight posts about deceased dogs. But read on, and let me share with you a few stories and beautiful memories of someone we'll never forget.

Uhm, i must warn you... This might get a little long.

* * * * * * * *

Dear Stolich,

You were always in family photos
Hey, buddy... I'm writing this now in the hopes that with you trotting around somewhere out there across the Rainbow Bridge, you can finally understand the written word. Although everyone who ever met you knows you always seemed to understand what people mean anyways. You always were a smart dog.

So before anything else, here's a confession: you weren't the first "Stolich."

The first "Stolich" was also a poodle, but was owned solely by Malou, a.k.a. your mom, a.k.a. the wifey. Stolich "Sr." as we used to call him eventually, was a rather restless pure black toy poodle. He was fiercely loyal to Malou, acted like a brat to anyone else save her, and seemed eternally uncomfortable whenever his mistress wasn't around. So one day, while we visited Baguio at your grandmother's house, some stupid carpenter left the gate open, and Stolich "Sr." ran out and was run over to his death.

We always took you around
Malou was despondent with grief. Stolich "Sr." then was only three years old, i think. So your grandmother gave me money and told me to find a replacement poodle. And i found you, Balthazar. Yup, your registration papers said "Balthazar." You were born in September of 1998. You were a black poodle, with nice gold frills and a nice golden underbelly. A most handsome chap you were. And in a moment totally lacking in imagination, we named you "Stolich." Not "Stolich Jr." Just "Stolich."

You were promptly introduced to your companion, the beautiful golden apricot colored toy poodle, Soda, who Stolich Sr. stupidly ignored. He was probably gay. Anyways, you did what any guy would do when matched up with a babe. You made babies. You made the babies which filled our then childless household with the joy of a veritable rainbow of happy, playful (and most of all, very intelligent) poodles. Different colors, too! But more on then some other time.

You guys couldn't stop making babies. So two litters and one undersized singleton later, instead of neutering you, which we didn't want to do, we separated you and Soda. Malou and I werent married yet, so all the others remained with her, while you went home with me.
The lady to the left is Sahara showing you
like everyone else does.

A mere couple or so weeks later, i came home to be told that you ran off and got lost.

Guy to the left is Teddy, he's your
grandson from a daughter of yours
we called "Mikey" who was adopted
by my aunt.
Malou was a mixture of sorrow, anger and pure pissed-off-ness when i informed her. While i was absolutely spaced out with sadness, worry and self-blame. We were about to be married in a month at that time, and even months after that, i never heard the end of it from Malou about how you got lost while in my care.

Almost three years later, I received a phone call from my father saying that the driver of one of my uncles who held office in the compound where we lived spotted and picked up a dog that suspiciously looked like the dog i lost. Yes, the dog looked like you.

I went home and found that... Yes, it WAS you! And i happily brought you home to Malou to our tiny apartment in San Juan. Since Malou and I were married, and there was no way to separate you and Soda, we did the unthinkable. We had you neutered. But not before Soda trembled in both fear and excitement upon seeing you again after so long. It was strange. I should have taken a video. Oh well...
Fun under the sun while mommy
washes the cars

The most striking difference in your return was that you remembered the brief time you were under my care, and came back to us as not just our dog, but MY dog. Unlike the others, you stuck to me, followed me, and were only comforted by me. I treasured that newfound bond and proudly held you as mine, along with Bambi, the Labrador Retriever who i raised from a pup til she left for the bridge at twelve years old.

You hanging out with Baby Marge
and Mindy the Chihuahua
You were treated differently from everyone by Malou and me, and deservingly so. Especially by me. Sometimes, i even brought you to work. I never brought any of the others to work with me. You followed me loyally and held your head high like the regal prince you were. Life was good. Eventually, we had Marge the baby. But you to me were always my son. My furry, four-legged son who leapt down from bed in the evenings to stand on hind legs and tap my lap with his paw so i could cradle you while i worked. We had many special, wordless moments, my dear son.

Fast forward into the future... Malou and I were working on having who would become Maddie. You were over thirteen years old and blindness was setting in. Your eyes starting clouding up, and no amount of medication could delay what age was ravaging faster and faster. You started getting slower and more pensive, probably because of the blindness. And early last year, your legs were starting to buckle, but you could still leap up to the bed. You also started wheezing then.

Just hanging
We had started building the house across the street. The one we're living in when you went away. Pretty soon, you were almost totally blind, and had to give that endearingly demanding yelp/bark that you do whenever you needed to be brought to the bathroom for your thing, as well as a drink. Or if you knew i was in the room, and wanted to get picked up and cuddled like a puppy.

But you still had a pretty decent appetite. In fact, you still had a decent appetite (although you had to be fed very patiently) all the way until the day we were told you absolutely refused to eat for the entire day. Malou said you had a little fever, and brought you to the hospital for a check up and had you confined. I was in Baguio then, and wasn't due to return for another day. But my gut was telling me that the time was coming, so i asked to go home and see you. I knew i had to.

Your last New Year's photo
with mom and dad.
We went to see you in the morning, and brought you back home after we heard the doctor's prognosis. On the way home in car, you gave me a loud dose of that yelp/bark while i cradled you. As though you were saying goodbye. I held you tighter and told you "it's okay," that you deserved your rest, and that i love you. That quiet afternoon, in our home, you asked to be stood up for a pee one last time, and quietly gave your last breath.

You were going be 16 years old this September.

Although this entry is about to end, I won't stop thinking about you. And Malou and I will still talk about you until we grow old, and whenever we talk about the wonderful four-legged children we've been blessed with over time.

Send our regards to the others over there at the Rainbow Bridge. To Soda, Marge the Poodle, Joey, JM, Jonie, Lucky, Jennifer, Bambi, Fluke, Jumbo, Tiny, and of course, Happy.
Please tell them we miss them all.

Now go on out there and play again like the carefree little puppy you hadn't been for the past year and a half. The little puppy you will always be in my heart. Thank you for the children and the time you shared with us.

Goodbye, Stolich. Goodbye, my son.



Saturday, February 01, 2014

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 42 (Happy Memories)

Hello there girls.

I'm here to tell you about Happy.
Not the dwarf, not the feeling, but the dog who happens to be... well... both dwarfish and happy for that matter.

Happy was the first dog that we adopted when we found we were pregnant with Big Sister Margaret. On one part, we couldn't resist adopting another red poodle, while on the other part, we were hoping that if Happy and Margaret grew up together they'd be best friends.

When Happy came, there was a resident favorite. Her name has Jennifer. also a poodle. And while Jennifer reigned queen and Stolich the Patriarch stood as king of the pack (although they weren't exactly mates), Happy was just running around being cute. Simply because he was. he really was.

Over three years, And a couple of dead poodles, one poisoned Pomeranian, and one poisoned labrador retriever later, Happy started acting up (in a good way). He knew as big as the pack was, he knew what he had to do.

After Jennifer finally succumbed to renal failure caused by a batch of contaminated dog food (which also claimed her other siblings and mother), Stolich was obviously not just a favorite but also simply respected as somebody who stood revered partly because he was unusually old and partly also because, well he gave us over a dozen new puppies we treated and loved like children before you guys came along. Surprisingly (and happily), at over fifteen years old, he's still here. Healthy appetite, healthy attitude, bad to no eyesight, poor hearing, but I think a pretty decent sense of smell that can sniff me out whenever i'm back home with you guys.

But more on Stolich in another post.

What made Happy particularly special the past year and a half was that while us humans tend to pick favorites among our pets, he wasn't exactly chosen. He actually made himself the favorite by fighting to stand out and making sure that he was closest to us to your mother closer than anybody was. Happy wiggled through door cracks just to find and be with your mom, he would follow your mom like red furry shadow wherever she went around the house. 

Man was he devoted. He loved your mom, and your mom loved him so much. And even more and more each passing day.

Funny enough for a tiny little dog, Happy had one giant sized ego. One day, this ego got itself into a fight with Loopy the big playful beagle, who normally doesn't hurt other dogs. Heaven only knows what really happened, but next thing we knew, Loopy did a number on Happy and no amount of prayers can help stitch together a handsome toy poodle with a fractured skull.

It happened on the actual day when Baby Sister Maddie hit her first birthday. Your mother and I were devastated.

After losing so many dogs... well, more like four-legged children, to a batch of contaminated dog food (read above about Jennifer. Or read here.), we thought Happy was safe from that after all, and would hang around for a long long time. Probably until you guys grew up. But life always has a funny way of surprising us sometimes. although sometimes it just isn't funny.

It's been a little less than a week when we got news that he really couldn't hang on. I'm still grieving. So is your mother. Happy is worth grieving for and remembering. When i get home, i will head to the vet and pick up Happy's cremated remains. I plan to sprinkle a pinch of his ashes in the garden as tribute.

I'm writing this entry so you girls will remember Happy.
I know your mother and I always will.
Hey, Happy. We miss you terribly. Please say hello to the other kids up there for us, okay?

'catch you later.



Sunday, December 01, 2013

Letters to Maddie: Chapter 41 (Lucky Girl)

 Dearest Maddie,

you guys know who's who
in this pic, right?
Your mother and i have been waiting for you for probably around two years. But someone else has been waiting for you all her life. Although she probably only knew it when she was three. You might know this person. Her name is Margaret. "Marge" to most, "Achie" to you.

As i write this, you are all of ten months old. Your achie is five and a half. Your mother and i are to meet at a neighborhood mall to exchange a piece of merchandise we bought a couple of nights ago, and have a quick dinner in the process.

I'm coming from the office, while your mother is coming from the house. She was supposed to drag
Marge with her so she and i can spend some time together before i ride up tonight. You couldn't come because you were still nursing a cold.

Your sister didn't want to come because she'd rather stay home with you.

Back when she was all by her lonesome she'd object to not being brought along virtually anywhere. And whenever your mother and i are about to walk out through any door, she'd say "me sama," and proceed to tail us.

All that changed when you arrived, and while we sometimes miss having your Achie around when your mother and i go out, we could not be happier about this devotion we see on her part.

Some day in the future, you and your sister will squabble over big and little things. Sometimes, she'll piss you off or make you mad or whatever. Like how sometimes she wont lend you her toys, or when she'll borrow your favorite shoes without asking, or you aren't happy because she has a bigger house than you, or whatever. Sometimes, she won't see things the way you do, even if sometimes you could be right. And when those times happen (and believe me, they will), keep it in your heart and mind that none of them matter because before anything at all, the love between you is pure and began the moment your Achie was told you were already quietly growing in your mother's belly.

Always remember how when you could barely crawl, you had a guardian angel to whom you were the world. Someone whose greatest joy shifted from following me and your mom everywhere to staying behind to watch over you. And she was only all of five and half years old then.

You're a really lucky girl to have such a sister. Never forget that.
And yes, she knows how lucky she is to have you, too.



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 40 (Life is not a contest)

Dear girls,

Sometime many weeks ago, your dad had an interesting day. Early in the afternoon, your grandmother whisked everyone away to one of her beach houses (yes, on a Monday). After dinner, i hitched with your Uncle Pom back up the hill and proceeded to run off to the Manor at Camp John Hay for my usual Monday night jam with the Fusion Band. Was late. But better late than not there at all.
Guy on the right is Daryl,
smiling idiot on the left is your dad
Good thing i caught up. People from the lifestyle section of the Inquirer (a big, big newspaper in these times). They chatted up the band (the real members of the band. Namely: Vocalist Pia Santayana Trinidad, Saxman Joanie Abubo, Bassist Egai Buning, Pianist Teddy Liberato, and fellow Sting-fanatic multi-talented singer-guitarist Ric Maniquis. There are other guys in the band. But the ones i mentioned were present that night. Your dad just jams along like a ten-year old being allowed to shoot hoops in an NBA court from time to time), and discovered many of us only played music on the side. And right after i did a rendition of "Let Me In" by Mike Francis, one of the ladies hollered: "quit your day jobs! Compliments hardly get sweeter than that. :)

Speaking of jamming along, another guy who jammed along is a kid named Daryl Ladioray, who played tenor saxophone.

Daryl's a nice simple kid who was referred to me by my good friend and erstwhile bandmate Caloy dela Fuente. He chatted up Caloy through the Sax Society of the Philippines Facebook page, asking about how to make his sound "sexy" or "sweet" or some such. Finding out Daryl was from Baguio City, Caloy promptly hooked us up.

After hearing the kid blow, i correctly guessed he was a marching band player. So after a couple of unqualified so-called "lessons," i taught him to bend notes and make his sax not just sing, but "speak." Unqualified, because quite frankly, my technical proficiency in playing the saxophone was the rough equivalent of some loser who just because he could whip up scrambled eggs, then proceeds to call himself a chef.

Daryl sounds much much better now. But i honestly doubt i had that much to do with it. Especially when he sounds so much better than i do at this point.

So over a couple of vodka tonics, Daryl said that there are times when he feels inadequate when he finds himself listening to sax players his age who are playing much better than him. So i asked him with a smile: "can you imagine how i feel when i listen to how much better you are now than i ever was?"

Then i told him that i personally have no one else but myself to blame for that. And that i do feel left behind, yes. But i was okay with it. After all, he has spent many of his waking hours playing his horn and playing with other people. He did not have to worry about having to distribute his time between being a dad, being a husband, manning a store, managing an advertising office, designing stuff, and Heaven knows how many other crazy things i dabbled in. But i chose to do all those. And if the price for having experienced and tried all those things was still sucking at playing saxophone after twenty one whole years from when i started, then so be it.

I just have to reconcile myself with the thought that if i still want to become as good as i hope to be, then i either have to give up so many other things in my life or still keep at it, but it will definitely take longer than most. (As if twenty one years at this point still wasn't long enough. Heh heh... But who's counting, right?)

Most (or least) importantly, i was not competing with anyone. And, i told Daryl, i did not think he was either. Life is a journey, not a race. It's much too short to waste looking behind or ahead of you all the time. 

Life is too beautiful and too much fun to live it as a contest. So don't.

As you tread along the pathway of life, walk... Look around you and enjoy the sights, the sounds, the smell of the breeze and all those other Hallmark card thingies... Skip a bit, if there are puddles along the way. Run sometimes. But only for brief periods, if and when you have to catch a better view of a sunset or a fading rainbow. Trot, if you find yourself joyful. Dance, if you hear music.

Live. Don't compete, because it should be all about how you choose live your life. And not how your life compares with others.'

And no, all the above is not my excuse for being a mediocre horn player (at best). Although i still am. But i'll get better yet. Maybe i'll even play at your weddings, if you'll let me, right? :)

Daryl, however, sounds great now.

'catch you later.