There were many things about my life that weren’t supposed to happen at all, if you looked at the world through conventional lenses. I wasn’t supposed to have existed, first and foremost, because my mother was a single, high-flying flight attendant who enjoyed living large and hopping unencumbered from place to place. She had met my biological father, a British engineer, while on a trip, and somehow love blossomed and there was planted the seeds for li’l old me.
Their relationship didn’t survive my arrival, so my mom decided that I should be born in the Philippines, and she went back home to my grandparents. But even that had a hitch because I had decided to come out at seven months, and the doctors said that I had a slim chance of surviving.
My grandfather thought otherwise. A big, imposing man who had served in the US Air Force during World War, he would come to visit newborn, incubated me in the hospital and watch over my tiny, three-pound body.
One day, as the story goes, I turned my head to look at my Lolo, and I smiled.
“She will live,” my Lolo declared. And I did.
That statement defined my relationship with my grandfather, and my years growing up with him were filled with mutual admiration and devotion.
I remember days spent snuggled up next to him as he read National Geographic and Reader’s Digest. My grandfather loved words, and I, too, fell in love with them through the sound of his deep, baritone voice and the clackety-clack of his typewriter. Thanks to his example, I learned to read by the time I was three, and I saved up enough money to buy a portable typewriter by the time I was nine.
My Lolo loved to sing Eidelweiss to me, and when he did I would imagine that he was Captain von Trapp and I, his daughter Leisl.
Lolo was a big family man, and some of my fondest childhood memories were of Sunday lunches enjoying his “secret recipe” chicken barbecue, or of biking across BF Homes (sometimes alone, sometimes without permission) to visit him.
I could go on and on with many more stories about my grandfather, but the bottomline is that my Lolo was my hero. I clung to his words, his ideas, and his dreams, and even after his death in 1993 he continued to visit me and speak to me in my dreams.
* * *
Today marks my Lolo’s 95th birth anniversary, and although he is no longer with us, his memory and his words continue to live in me, as he had once believed in my own right and capacity to live.
As my tattoo goes, “Lo que mas me importa… es vivir.” (“What matters most to me… is to live.”)
I love and miss you, Lolo! ‘Till we meet again!