An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

13 October 2008

The two October thirteens

Two men born on the same day but years apart. Two men who had both undergone heart bypass surgery by the same doctor. Two men from the same biological source, but had gone different ways. One became a lawyer, one became a farmer. One married late, one married early. One is boisterous and loud, one is silent and keeps to himself. One is dark-skinned, one is fair-skinned. One had a mustache, one had none. One is severely myopic, one is not. One has a full head of hair, one began to grow bald when he approached middle age. One is skinny, one is chubby. One is my own father, my "Da," and one is the symbolic father of our family, Papa Herbie.

One died and is now ashes in an urn, the other has continued living and now has hair that had turned completely white. The tragic news of the death travelled via cellphone and landline from the hospital in Albay to the aunts and the uncles and the cousins. And after the words, "Papa Herbie is gone," none ever followed except the sound of crying from both ends of the line. I myself got the news from my own father via cellphone as I was entering my apartment after having breakfast, and after that statement, we both cried and said nothing else. I held on to the edge of the table by the door and somehow was able to reach the bed, and there I stayed until mid-afternoon. The nine other children of my grandparents called each other not to say any words but just to hear each other cry, and that was how they coped on the first day.

I prepared a eulogy for Papa Herbie during his memorial before his cremation, and in his memory, I post it here.

Four years ago, I almost lost my own father. I was in Dumaguete at that time, and I didn't quite know how to handle it. My father is okay, but now a father figure has died, and although I am four years older, I still don't know how to handle it.

For how do we really move on after a pillar in the family has died? We will never be the same again.

Papa Herbie, to me, and I'm sure to all my 46 cousins, loomed so large in our lives that it is impossible to imagine this family without a Papa Herbie. He was our Santa Claus, our big fat teller of funny stories, the one who had fathered four of my best-loved cousins, the irascible uncle who got drunk one night and drove an owner-type jeep off a pier in Tigaon. The jeep lived a long and useful life after that incident, and fortunately, so had Papa Herbie.

I knew so little about him, just like the little that I know of my own father, these two men who share the same birthday. But I also know so little of Lolo Berting, but he has always lived in the family long after he passed away. It is a credit to our elders how we have all formed the habit of keeping him in our hearts.

My father called me just half an hour ago while I was outside and the choir was singing. He asked me who was singing, I told him it was thechoir. He asked me the name of the choir, I said I didn't know. Normal chitchat for us. He was crying when he called me Friday morning, just after Papa Herbie died, but now, he sounded okay.

We will be okay. How could we not be, after having lived most of our lives basking under Papa Herbie's reliability? And Papa Herbie, like Lolo Berting, will live on in our hearts with the power of legend, with the potency of myth, looming still ever-large in our hearts, just like always, never changing, never gone.

Ever since Papa Herbie died, whenever I or anyone from my family greets Da a Happy Birthday on October 13, there is always a short, very subtle pause afterwards, where we all feel our hearts stopping very briefly, and we all remember where we were and what we were doing when the call came to tell us that Papa Herbie had died. I don't think anyone will ever forget. Now, years after, every October 13, after greeting Da, we whisper another greeting into the air. And in this way, there will always be two October thirteens.


Blogger LIGHTWORKER said...

Strange or tinuyo daw? Papa Herbie is in red (or in rosy color) while all others are in bland blues and whites.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Wow! Iyo man nanggad. I never noticed that. That photo contains the complete ten children, plus Bita, taken just a couple of days after the burial of Lolo Berting.

Ginirabo man ako saimo. Hehe.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Marne L. Kilates said...

Maryanne, what a wonderful posting, and the one below about the unknown lady. Thank you for sharing--your love for your family is infectious, makes us remember our own families too, and yearn that we should love them, and write so beautifully about them, as much.


10:29 PM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Thanks, Marne. I'm just glad to spread some love around.

12:21 AM  
Blogger Joey Garalde said...

Hi! Love your blog site! Your Papa Herbie was my wedding sponsor! Or did I mention it to you before?
Keep on writing!

Joey G.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Joey Garalde said...

I love your blog site. Your Papa Herbie was one of my wedding sponsors! Or did I mention it to you before?

Keep on writing! God bless!

Joey G.

9:09 PM  

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