Showing posts with label the daddy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the daddy. Show all posts

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Daddy's Loving Support

Several photos in our family albums show baby or toddler me perched on a big log or rock at the beach as the Daddy held me securely up there. But, you can only see the Daddy's legs and a bit of his torso in those photos. One of my favorite photos is of him crouched behind a three-year-old me on the shore, with his feet and hands visible. In that photo, he seemed to be keeping fidgety me still for the camera. It's not until I'm 21 years old that you can find a photo of the Daddy and me together. And, that, too is one of my favorite photos.

I have wonderful memories of the Daddy. Playing out in the tomato fields while he irrigated them. . . being taken to my first day of school. . .riding in the back of his pick-up. . .seeing him in the back of the room at all my important presentations. . .watching TV with him. . .holding poles and boards as he hammered them in place. . .being taught how to drive a stick shift. . .traveling to the Philippines with him. . .going mushroom hunting in the hills. . . frying biscuit doughnuts for him for an evening snack. . .noticing a candy bar inch up on my pillow when I was sick. . . walking to the liquor store in San Francisco for a celebratory pint of whisky. . .overhearing him talk to his goats about the Mama. . . .

I remember the advise he gave me, some of which still cracks me up today, such as "Don't go fucking around (on the day of the prom)." "Don't go to any other church while I'm alive." "Don't be a hippie." "Don't trust anyone. Not even Filipinos."  "Be nice (when he knew I was going to turn down a chump who was courting his and Mama's hands for a chance at me)." Some I heeded. Some I did not.

The first white butterfly I see on any day, I think of the Daddy saying hello to me.

I miss seeing him in person.

This was taken at Daddy's 70th birthday party.
Sitting beside us is my Ninong (Godfather) Danny.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

From the Archives -- The Daddy and Religion. Kinda

Today's archived post is from my second blog, This and That, Here and There, Now, Sometimes Then.
What Daddy Told Me
(originally published May 7, 2010) 

My dad didn't advise me much when I was growing up. When he did, they were humdingers, and usually they were one-liners.  For instance, on the day of my senior prom, he told me rather placidly, and unexpectedly, "Don't go f***ing around." The idea hadn't even entered my mind.  And, when I was attending community college, Daddy pronounced suddenly in his usual unruffled way to me, "Don't be a hippie." Nothing more.

Probably the most profound guidance Daddy gave me was when, as a teenager, I decided to check out different churches. Not because I was looking for a church to join but because I was curious about how different churches worshiped. I didn't know that Daddy had noticed what I was doing. Even if he had, I didn't think he would've cared since we were not avid churchgoers. But before I went on my fourth Sunday outing, Daddy said, calmly, as always, "I don't want you going to any other church as long as I'm alive."

Huh? Daddy only went to church (Catholic Church) on Christmas and Easter, with an unspoken sigh and a quiet damn each time he had to rise from his seat or bend down on the kneeler. Still, I honored his wishes, being the good daughter that I was. Years later, I figured Daddy was hedging his bets in case the priests were right about heaven and hell. He wanted to make sure that all his ducks were in a row, and one of those ducks was seeing that his daughter didn't stray into other religions. At least until he was dead.

How I miss my dad!

By the way, if you'd like to know what I meant by the "quiet damn," check out this post, Going to Church with the Daddy. Be forewarned, the Daddy did cuss in church. 


Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for Vegetable Garden

My earliest memory of the Daddy's vegetable garden was floating a pea pod in the water rushing down one of the narrow vegetable ditches. I was about four years old. I remember the garden being tall, green, and wild-like.

Every year, the Daddy put up a vegetable garden for the family, growing many Filipino vegetables that we couldn't buy in the grocery store. We ate a lot of long beans, bitter melon, Japanese eggplants, tabongaw (a type of gourd), Kabocha squash, saloyat (okra leaves), parda (a hairy, bigger, and thicker pea), and kabatiti (a kind of squash with ridges) during the summers. Also into the winters, after the parents bought a big freezer.

When the Daddy came home from a long day of irrigating vegetable fields, he went straight to the garden to see what needed tending. The Mama went into the garden to harvest vegetables for the evening's meal.  The Daddy was always getting after the Mama for picking the bitter melon leaves from the top rather than the bottom. Guess who tells me not to pick the bitter melon leaves from the top?

The Mama continued growing vegetables after the Daddy died. It was tough, as she was still working. I suppose being in the garden helped her deal with being a widow.

Today, as some of you know, the Mama works a few hours hours nearly every day in her vegetable garden. Along with the Filipino vegetables, the Mama plants green beans, peppers, tomatoes, chives, and Filipino green onions.  Her garden doesn't yield as much as it used to, which is fine with me. There's only so much bitter melon I can eat. The Husband won't eat it and the Mama eats only a bit of it.

Growing vegetables is a fun challenge for the Mama. Her satisfaction comes from seeing other people eat the fruits of her labor.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Nighttime Snack

"Let's have a snack," said the Daddy. He sat in his Lazy-boy recliner, while my teenage self stretched out on the couch beside him. It was a summer night, with the doors and windows still wide open for the breeze. A rerun show played on the TV, at which I looked up now and then from the book I read.

Without doubt, that scene took place around nine o'clock, the usual time the Daddy called for a snack when he was in the mood. The Daddy's favorite nighttime snack were the doughnuts without the hole that I made from canned biscuits. They were quick and easy to make, about 10 minutes, if I recall correctly.

As the oil heated in the iron skillet, I opened the cardboard can of biscuits, the best part of making the doughnuts. Pow! A satisfying blow against the edge of the corner. Pop! The eight (or was it 10) small, soft, slices of dough smiled between the cardboard.

Carefully, I dropped the round slices into the heated oil in the skillet. Sizzle. Sizzle. Sizzle. I quickly stirred cinnamon and sugar on a plate.  When the doughnuts were a golden brown, I transferred them to the plate and tossed them in the sweet topping. Voila! Cinnamon doughnuts.

The Daddy already sat at the table, ready to dig into his nighttime snack.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

F is for Foul, Fowl!

The Daddy bought several live chickens at a time from a local chicken farmer, and he and the Mama would slaughter them in the backyard.  I was 11 or 12 when the parents decided it was time for me to help with the slaughtering. Like I really wanted the experience. I suppose they figured a day would come when I would need to slaughter a chicken for survival. Yes, it would definitely be an asset if I were to be chosen for Survivor, the reality show. But, that's if I didn't get kicked off before my team won a challenge that rewarded us with chickens. I digress.

My part in the slaughter was simple.  I only needed to hold a chicken firmly down on a block of wood while the Daddy slit its neck. On the day of my rite of passage, I watched the parents do the process a couple of times. Then it was my turn. I kneeled behind the wood, and the Daddy put a chicken beneath my hands, face towards him. He did not let go of the chicken until he was sure the bird could not get away from me.

"Ready," said the Daddy.

"Okay," I said, leaning forward a little more to maintain a better grip on the bird.

The Daddy did his thing quickly. The chicken squawked and fidgeted madly under my hands, but I kept it steady so its blood drained into the pot beneath it. Then, it happened.


The chicken performed it last (to put it politely) bathroom act.  All over my face, arms, and body!  Yeah, go Eeewwwwwww because I'm sure I did.

I was good helper though. I held that chicken until its spirit completely left it. The Mama took the chicken and I ran into the house to clean up.  The parents were good. They waited until I was in the house before they broke into laughter.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

B is for Turning Blood into Pudding

I bet that title caught your attention. Maybe you shivered and thought I must be a vampire. Of course not!  Or, maybe you went, "Ewwwwwwww!" Well, turning blood, pork blood, to be precise, into pudding is definitely not for the squeamish.

I was ten years old when the Daddy gave me the task of turning pork blood into pudding. (If I could, I'd put in a sound effect like Dum da da dummmm!) Okay, let me give you some context. Back then, every now and then, the Daddy and his friends would purchase a pig from a local pig farmer, bring it back to our house, and slaughter it in the backyard. We lived in a small neighborhood two miles out of city limits so that was okay, and, as far as I know, the neighbors did not care.We lived in a rural area after all.

This usually happened on a Saturday morning. The men would be out in the backyard partying it up with a bottle of whiskey as they butchered the meat. The pig's blood would be brought into the house to turn into a thick-like pudding.

You beat the blood with an egg beater while someone poured vinegar into the pot. How much vinegar? I don't know. Whoever poured it always knew when was enough. You stood there and turned and turned the handle of that egg beater. Eventually the bright red blood changed into a foamy mixture and finally into a thick rich chocolate colored pudding.  It was like magic to watch it thicken.

By the way, if you ever go to a Filipino party and someone asks if you'd like to try the Chocolate Meat, know that is pork cooked in blood. I think it's tasty. But, then I'm a vampire. Bwah-ha-ha-ha. 

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Monday, April 21, 2014


If you were physically separated from your significant other, for whatever reason, would you still want to get back with him or her after a year? Five years? Thirty?

About a month after the Only and Older Bionic Brother was born, the Daddy, a naturalized U.S. citizen, returned to the United States. He realized that there would be more and better opportunities for his children in America than in the Philippines. This was in the late 1940s. He worked hard and within a year, he made enough money to book ship passage for the Mama and their son. The Mama did not want to leave her home and family. The Mama's mother told her that once she married, her life was with her husband's. She, the Mama, no longer belonged to the Grandmother. Thirteen months after the Daddy left, he and the Mama were reunited in their new home in California.

The stories of my two ninangs (godmothers) were different from the Mama.  They waited much, much longer to reunite with their spouses. The story of the ninongs (godfathers) and the Daddy, were similar, and to put the godparents' separation in context, I'll tell you a bit of that history. In the 1920s, the Philippines was a U.S. territory, which probably made it easier for Filipinos to travel as U.S. nationals. Throughout that decade, many of the young Filipino men, from all over the country, decided to go to Hawaii and the United States for the many jobs and good pay they were promised by agricultural recruiters and bragged about by friends and relatives who were already abroad. Most of the young men planned to work for a few years then return home with plenty of money to marry and start a family, if they had not one already. The Great Depression foiled their plans.

Ninang Deling and Ninong Mariano

She was 21 years old and he was nearly 24 when they married in 1924.  A son was born two years later. In 1928, Ninong Mariano and his brother sailed for the United States where they worked the farms for meager wages. Said Ninong Mariano, "The first time I came here, the wages were 35 cents an hour. During Depression, fifteen cents an hour. That was the best I could get. Some places it was twelve-and-a-half cents an hour."

He sent money home when he could. Ninang Deling made money for the family by taking vegetables from the province where she lived and selling them in Manila, then before returning home, purchased products to sell back home. She also made a living for her and son by sewing clothes. She said, "I was a seamstress. I sold clothes when I could. Sometimes I make five dresses for someone to buy. They used to pay me three pesos."

Ninang Deling and Ninong Mariano reunited in 1950. She was 47 years old. She had no conflict about leaving her home when her husband told her to come. Her son and her brothers were already in the United States. Ninang Deling said, "This is where my family was, so I come here. . . I (have) a good feeling."

Ninang Maxima and Ninong Vicente

They married in 1925 when she was 19 years old and he was 27. They had two children before he took off for America in 1929.  Over the years, he found jobs as a farm laborer and house boy. For 10 years, he worked in a Navy yard in California. Ninong Vicente said, "I liked to go back to Philippines, but no money. So I stay here. If you go there, you need lots of money to spend for the plane."

With the money her husband sent and the earnings she made from her sari-sari store, Ninang Maxima  managed to make a living for her family and send her son and daughter to school. Ninang Maxima said, "I am homesick to see my husband. When wartime, about five years, he didn’t write us. (There was) no mail to the Philippines."

Ninang Maxima finally reunited with her husband in 1959. "I didn’t recognize him when I came here. I didn’t know his face because it’s different. When he came here, he was young yet. When we got together, he’s old. I (was) 53. He was 60."

I'll do the math for you: Ninang Deling and Ninong Mariano were separated for about 22 years, while Ninang Maxima and Ninong Vicente were apart for 30 years. Amazing, isn't it?
I'm participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month. To check out other participants, click here. See you tomorrow.   

Monday, April 14, 2014

Knowing the Language

Nearly 35 years ago, a college professor, who hailed from Australia, told me if it weren't for the awkwardness of my writing, I would've got a higher score on my paper. She forgave me for some of my usage and grammar because, according to her, "English is your second language."

For once, I kept my mouth closed rather than enlighten her on how wrong she was.

English is the only language I can read, write, speak, and understand fluently. Proficiently, too, except for the lapses in awkward writing and the proper use of grammar, word choice, and cliches. I'm especially good at forgetting articles (the, a, an, and so on) and getting prepositions mixed up, which, I think is because the Ilocano language has no articles and, as far as I can tell, one preposition.

As I was growing up the parents mostly spoke Ilocano to me while I spoke English to them. I still do that with the Mama, and the Husband finds it very strange. It's really not unusual with immigrant parents and their American-born children. Once, I tried talking to the parents in Ilocano, but they couldn't figure out what I was saying. "Your accent is funny," said the Mama, after she and the Daddy stopped laughing.

When I was a kid, many Filipinos who just immigrated to the U.S. thought I couldn't understand Ilocano. After all, I greeted them in English when they came to visit the Mama and the Daddy. It was inevitable when the parents weren't around that a visitor would say in front of me, but in Ilocano, "My, the daughter is fat!" Another visitor would respond, "She probably can eat a whole pig by herself." And, they would all snicker.

I pretended that I didn't understand, although when I became a teenager, it was very difficult not to put them in their place. But that was okay. I just waited for the moment when the Mama would ask me to serve refreshments. In Ilocano. Then, one of the visitors would ask awkwardly, "She can understand the language."

"Yes," the Mama would say. "She was born in the United States. Even though we speak to her in our language, she can only speak English."

The visitors always cringed and fidgeted.

As I write this I wonder if the Mama may have also overhead the visitors say rude things about me, and that was her way of getting back at them. After all, I rarely saw any visitors who talked "behind" my back come to the house again.
I'm participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month. To check out other participants, click here. See you tomorrow.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Zealous Army Volunteer

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The Daddy lived in Honolulu, Hawaii when World War II began. He was getting his hair cut the morning that Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. (I write about that here.) In April, 1942, he signed up for the U.S. Army.

It was a Sunday afternoon. The Daddy was hanging out with a friend in Ala Moana Park. 

"Compadre, let's join the army," his friend said, seeing the army recruiting truck parked nearby. "I'm going now."

“You go yourself,” the Daddy answered, thinking about how good the wages had become. He was making a dollar an hour. "I'm working tonight."

“I’m going” his friend said.

“Go ahead.” 

His friend ran to the truck and jumped on. The Daddy watched as more men jumped onto the truck. Soon, another truck stopped and parked. More men ran and jumped onto that truck. Before he realized it, the Daddy ran and jumped on the second truck, too. 

Said the Daddy:  
They took us to the camp. They gave us clothes. After they fed us, they had us exercise in the park.
Every morning, exercise. After a week of exercising, we went to the doctor. 
Then, there was an order from the mayor. All the men from the (sugar cane) plantations had to go back. They took us all to the headquarters. They said, “Everything that we had given you, all clothes and equipment, goes back to  Supply.” We returned everything.
As the Daddy and the other men filed out the door, an army official said, "Wait! Let me call and find out if everyone has to leave." The official soon came back and informed the men that only those living on the plantations had to leave. The residents of Honolulu were required to stay.

Pronounced the Daddy:
 I said to myself when it became hard, “I should’ve run.” The training was hard. Tiring.
The Daddy is sitting in the middle row. He's the third soldier from the left.

Friday, April 26, 2013


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December 7, 1941
Honolulu, Hawaii

Clip. Clip. Clip.

The Daddy's cousin was cutting Daddy's hair in their kitchen. They talked about this and that when suddenly they heard  in the near distance Boom! Boom! Boom!

"Hurry up," said the Daddy. "Something is happening at the harbor. Let's go see what's wrong."

December 8, 1941
Baguio, Philippines

At the same moment, thousands of miles to the east, the Japanese Navy Air pilots were bombarding the U.S. bases in the Philippines,  a U.S. territory. The Mama was staying in Baguio, a mountain town, where the John Hay Air Base was located. The town was immediately evacuated.

The Mama said it took her and her family about a month to walk their way down the mountain to their home in Pangasinan, a province in Central Luzon.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Love Story

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I never heard the parents address each other by their names.  They also didn't refer to each other by name when they talked about the other. The Mama would just say lakai which was old man in Ilocano, while the Daddy would say baket for old lady.

For many years, I wondered if they even loved each other. When I became curious about how they met, they said they had an arranged marriage.

The Daddy said, "Your grandmother said she liked the daughter who lived next door for me. 'Okay,' I told her."

The Mama said, "My mother said to marry your daddy. 'He's a good man. You're old. This may be your last chance to marry.'"

Both the Mama and the Daddy lost their fathers at a young age. So, it was their mothers who met and discussed the terms of the dowry. Several weeks later, the Mama and the Daddy were married.

It was not until I went to the Philippines with the Daddy in the early 1970s that I heard the love story.

In 1947, the Daddy, who became a U.S. citizen after serving the U.S. Army, decided to visit the Philippines. It had been 19 years since he left.  He thought about marrying the girlfriend he left behind if she was still single. She was not.

A few days after the Daddy had been home, he went down to the well that bordered his mother's property and that of the Mama's mother's.  It was late in the afternoon. As he approached the well, he saw a young woman.

"It was like a lightening bolt," said the uncle who told me the story. The Daddy was in love with the Mama instantly.

The Daddy went to his mother and said, "I met the neighbor's daughter.  I want to marry her."

Years later, the Mama told me how she had received marriage proposals before the Daddy asked her. Although her mother liked the men, she did not. "They could not make me," the Mama said. One proposal was from the Mayor's son. The Mama did not like his mother. "She would have treated me like a servant."

The Mama's and the Daddy's wedding was a big-to-do. Both of them came from a large family, including siblings, uncles, aunties, cousins, and more cousins. 

"Everyone danced all night," said the Mama about the reception. "The party went on for three days."

I can just imagine. The Daddy loved a good party. So does the Mama, once she's there.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


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A few months after the Daddy died, the Mama needed me to uncover the septic tanks in the back yard so that the service guys could come and clear them out. So, one weekend I drove down from San Francisco, where I lived at the time, to do her bidding. The Older and Only Brother lived a few minutes away from her, but she rarely bothered him with such tasks. "He's busy. He has to work on Saturdays. He has a family." 

The day of digging was the same day that the Mama went to Reno with the local Filipino club. Her friends had convinced her to go. It would be a good change for her, they told her. I was very relieved that she would not be home. Back then we were always on tense terms. And, if I was doing physical work, it was best to leave me alone.

There were two septic tanks in the Mama's backyard. I had no idea. I thought there was only one and I knew where it was. I dug out the tank just like that. 

The Mama had a hazy idea of where the second tank was. "Someplace by the bittermelon."

So I dug a hole in the vegetable garden. Nothing.

I tried another spot and dug. Nothing.

Ninong Danny, one of the godfathers of mine, dropped by, as I started a third hole. I hoped he would pick up a shovel and help me. Or, at least pretend to dig. Nope. He laughed at all the holes in the yard, watched me dig for a bit, then left. I head him laughing all the way to the garage.

With dumb luck I found the second septic tank on the fourth digging. Did I say it was a hot summer day? 

I covered all the holes just before the Mama returned home that evening.

She had won $300 at the slot machines. "I think your daddy was guiding me," she said. She gave me $20 and set aside $30 for the Older and Only Brother.

"Why does he get more?" I asked.

"He's a boy." The Mama said.

"I dug holes all afternoon looking for that damn second tank. He didn't do a thing."

But I knew she was not giving me money for doing the work. She was sharing her winnings with her children. 

The Mama is of a generation and a culture in which females are short changed a lot. That day many years ago, as usual, I felt slapped in the face for being a girl rather than a boy. 

Has the Mama's attitude changed over the years? Some. Maybe.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Daddy, the Carpenter

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"My dad was a carpenter."

That phrase is frozen in my memory.  It was spoken by the Older and Only Brother. I don't recall what the event was or when it happened when I heard him say that.

The Brother's choice of memory about the Daddy surprised me, because I don't think of the Daddy as a carpenter. The Daddy did build things. He built the tool shed and the shelters for the chickens, pigeons, pigs, goats, and occasional cow or two that he raised and butchered for our food at the far end of the backyard. We lived in the county, a couple miles away from the city limits, so he could do that. 

But, the buildings that the Daddy constructed were not of the quality of ones built by professional carpenters.  I don't know if the Older and Only Brother ever helped him construct the buildings in the backyard. When we moved to that house, he was a teenager and always doing stuff for school or working part-time.

When the Daddy died, the Mama decided to tear down the chicken and pigeon coops as well as the goat and pig pens. So, that's what I did. Yanked out nails. Tugged at planks. Made noise and more noise. I enjoyed myself. It was a good way to get through the grieving.

Tearing down the Daddy's handiwork was not straightforward. In some places, it was like a crazy patchwork quilt. Boards were put up every which way. The Daddy used fresh lumber as well as old scrappy boards. In some places, he nailed boards over each other. And the nails. Oh, man. The Daddy hammered some nails in as far as he wanted, then bent them down. Whatever works seemed to be his motto. Why not?

As I write this, I realize now that even though the quality of the Daddy's handiwork may not be precise, neat, or organized, the structures he built were sturdy. They would have lasted many years. So, yeah, the Older and Only Brother was and is right. 

The Daddy was a carpenter.

The Daddy and the Older and Only Brother

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Aunties

 Today's post starts the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I'll be going through the alphabet during the month of April. No posts on Sundays though. 

The challenge was founded by Arlee Bird. Thank you, Arlee! You can check out  A to Z participants  by clicking here.

Now, on with the first post.... The Aunties.

"Iago?! Iago! Iago! It's Iago!"

The Daddy jumped out of the Filipino tricycle (a motorcycle cab) and strode up to the house, as the Aunties came tumbling out of it. The grey-haired women cried as they hugged the brother they had not seen in nearly 25 years. 

Then they saw me standing by the tricycle and they came running and pulled me into their arms. "Susie! Susie!"

They had never seen me before, but they knew it was me. I had never before felt so much unconditional love from strangers. Immediately, I understood what it meant to be part of an extended family. And, it turned out I was related to a lot of people in the barrio of my parents. 

The house that we stood in front of belonged to Auntie Masa, which was short for Tomasa. It was one of the more modern houses in the barrio, made of wood and hollow blocks. In 1974, many families still lived in the bamboo houses on stilts.

I don't know if it was just good fortune that two other sisters were visiting that day—Auntie Luciene, the oldest sister, and Auntie Pacia (short for Bonifacia)—or if they hung out together every day. Someone must've runned over to another sister's house to tell her that Iago was home because in a short while another Auntie stood in the living room, crying and shyly hugging the Daddy.

Everyone around me chattered in Ilocano. None of the Aunties spoke English. I understood Ilocano, but could not speak it. That's for another tale.

I'm sure some of my cousins and other people were there, but my memory of that afternoon was the interaction between the Daddy and the Aunties.

Then came the moment the Daddy opened the suitcase full of gifts. It mostly held dresses, blouses, and skirts that the Mama had packed for the Aunties.

The Aunties were young in glee as they held up one item after the other. The Brother who returned was quickly forgotten. The Aunties tugged and grabbed and argued over each piece of clothing.

The Daddy took only a few minutes of it. He grumbled, "I've only been here a short while and already you are all fighting." He slowly stood up and walked out the room.

Silenced, the Aunties looked at each other. "We made Manong (older brother) mad," said one Auntie. "You started it," said another.

I tried not to laugh. I had seen the Daddy's smile.

A very young Su-sieee! Mac with three of her Aunties.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Lively Spirit—The Daddy Was

The Daddy and I were both born in the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese zodiac. Sssssssssss. 2013 is the year of the Snake. May it be a great run around the sun for us all!

Today, I'm sharing an edited post that I published on February 25, 2011 on my former blog This and That. Here and There. Now, Sometimes Then. The post is about the day the Daddy died.  (That blog is still up if you're interested in reading other posts later.  Here's the link.)

The Daddy died from a heart attack. He was 76 years old.

Maybe he didn't pick how or where he died, but I think he was happy it wasn't at home where the Mama would've come home to find him after a long, tiring day at work. He was always protective of her.

That day the Daddy decided to go to lunch at the senior center with his good friend Danny, one of the godfathers of mine. The Daddy hadn't been there for quite a long while. He hadn't been feeling well, but those last three days, I was told, he'd been going strong, visiting, babysitting, doing so many of the things he liked to do.

So, there he was sitting at the lunch table. He was bending down for a spoon on the floor, I was told. He was there longer than he should have been.  "Hey, 'Pare (short for compadre), what you doing down there?" called a friend. Then, a scramble to get help for the Daddy. That was it.

While the Daddy was dying, I was sitting in a restaurant over 100 miles away with my new colleagues. It was a lunch to greet the new editors, another woman and myself. All of a sudden, I felt a shiver and a flush go through my body. A feeling of sadness, then relief, then joy. I figured at the time it was just the emotion of having finally been hired to my dream job. Nothing more. 

Back at the office, I was told by the company president that the Daddy had died. Later, when I thought back at that moment, I knew it was the Daddy floating by to say good-bye one last time.

Today, the husband and I bought a pot of gardenias for the Mama. She has been a widow for too many years. Flowers are nice for graves. They are so much nicer for the living. 

The spirit of Daddy, I am sure, is having himself a ball right now.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Love Story that (Thank Goodness!) was Not to Be

I am very fortunate that I have met not one, but two gentle men, both of whom I married. Of course, not at the same time. When I met the current husband,  I told him that I didn't date. I went on adventures, but not dates. I rarely dated before the first husband, so why begin then.

But, today is not a story of either husband. Instead, my ramble is about the man who would not be my husband. He was the first—and last—man that the Mama and the Daddy dared try to match me with. Yes, I know. So old country. At least, they did not attempt to do an arranged marriage for me. 

I was in my late 20s, an old age to still be unmarried, according to the old ways. I lived alone in San Francisco, over 100 miles from the parents, which were two other no-no's for young women.

The man in question had a name that some women would think romantic. I thought it was just sappy. Other women would've described him as very dreamy. I saw him as looking superficially slick. One who would have nothing to do with me in the old country, unless I happened to be rich. Yes, he was a young man from the old country. To protect the sappy, superficially slick man, I shall use a fictitious name to talk about him. Let's see. Hmmm, I shall call him Jacques Ash. (No, the parents did not immigrate from France.)

I first met Jacques Ash when I visited the parents on the Thanksgiving weekend. The Daddy was butchering a pig in the back yard, and Jacques Ash was there helping him. "Hello. Glad to meet you." That was the extent of our conversation.

A few weeks later, the parents, the brother and his wife, and Jacques Ash came up to San Francisco for a birthday party that a friend was giving me. Let's just say, I was very surprised. About Jacques Ash, that is. I also figured out what was going on. Gotta love the parents.

Because the brother wanted to wander around the science museum in Golden Gate Park, we all wandered with him. Jacques Ash walked beside me, but we barely spoke. I pretty much ignored him. He could work for my hand, if he really wanted it. He had already wooed the parents by painting the outside of their house for free.

At my birthday party, Jacques Ash sat silently. He didn't talk to my friends, unless they spoke to him. Then, it was time to go home. The parents decided to ride back to my apartment in the brother's car. I have to say the parents were so damn cute together. As, I started the car, Jacques Ash suddenly spoke. "Where is Sheila from? How long has she been married? What kind of work does she do? How long have you known her?"

Jacques Ash wanted to know everything about the friend who threw the party for me. What a Jacques Ash!

A few days later, Jacques Ash called me up for a date. Are you fucking kidding me?  I didn't say that. But, I did say something like this, "No, thank you. You can go find someone else for a green card."

"What?" I could tell he was taken aback.

"I know you're only interested in me so you can marry me and get a green card."

"I am not," he protested.

"Oh, yes, you are. We have nothing in common. You didn't even try to talk to me. You thought because I'm not pretty I would just accept you. Ha! The joke is on you."

"Your parents want us to get together," Jacques Ash said, quite forcefully. "I painted their house for you."

"My parents know I do what I want to do. Be with someone I want to be with. So, go find someone else for a green card." Then I did a classic Mama, and slammed the phone receiver down.

A couple hours later, the Daddy called.

"Jacques Ash is going to call you," Daddy said. To warn me, I liked to think; but, most like the man cried to the Daddy and asked him to smooth things over with me.

"He already called," I said, and then I told the Daddy everything I said to him.

The Daddy laughed. When he could talk again, he said, "Just be nice."

"He's the one that's not nice."

Daddy chuckled. "Be good," he said, and hung up the phone.

I still like to think that the parents (with their newly painted house) were proud of me for turning down a so-called dreamy looking man with a romantic name. I may have been single, old, and living on my own, but far from desperate for love or marriage.

Happy Valentine's Day, dear gentle readers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Going to Church with the Daddy


One of the last times I went to church with the Daddy was to a Good Friday service. The Mama scored big that day as she not only got the Daddy to go with her, but me. I don't know how she did it. Maybe I didn't even sulk as I drove them to church. More than likely I did daydream through the service. That is, until the Daddy caught my attention.

It was a struggle for his old bones to do all the physical activity that takes place during a Catholic mass, especially at the longer Good Friday service. You stand, sit, and kneel a lot.  I don't think the Daddy realized he was protesting out loud. I still wonder if God and I were the only ones who heard him.



"God damn."

"Shit. Fuck. God damn."

The Husband loves this story. After all, what's not to like: An old man swears in church.

How I miss the Daddy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Personal Holiday

The other day I was doing research about Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the father of modern rocketry.  Interesting fellow that Dr. Goddard. Quite a visionary. A lot of people thought he was a crackpot. That all changed when the space program began. Ah, then the adulation and the awards came left and right for the man. Unfortunately, Dr. Goddard was dead by then. I hadn't planned on telling you that, but there it is.

What I did want to mention was that Dr. Goddard had a personal holiday that he called his anniversary day.  He celebrated the day he was a kid sitting in a tree and looked up into the sky and had an epiphany about rockets and space. Yes, I know. Pretty cool. Not to worry though. I'm not going to go into the technical stuff about rockets and space. Not like I could. The important part here is that I decided that I need a personal holiday.

When I was in my early 20s, I was influenced by the unbirthday idea and did that for a year or so. I chose July 15 because that was my dad's birthday. But, we always celebrated his birthday on the 25th. He even used July 25 as his official birth date. The reason was very simple.

As far as I know, Daddy had only one formal document to "prove" he was ever born and that was his baptismal record which was written in Spanish. Daddy—and probably many in his family—did not read Spanish. I can only speculate that Spanish was still the official language of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines when he was born in 1905. Anyway, his baptism was on July 25 which was the same day as the celebration of  Santiago Apostol (St. James), the patron saint of his hometown Santiago, Ilocos Sur. I have no idea if his parents decided to name him after the patron saint because that was the day of his baptism or if they waited for the feast day to baptize him. Either way, I wouldn't be surprised if they were hedging their bets for good fortune for their baby boy.

According to the Spanish baptismal record, the baby boy being baptized that day--July 25--was born 10 days ago. So, there you go. July 15. Daddy's birth date. My unbirthday. Now, my personal holiday.

Back to Dr. Goddard, please. On his Anniversary Day in 1913, he wrote in his diary a list of things he needed to do. Some of them were complete patent applications for his inventions, research meteors, study Darwin's theory about lunar motion, and "try a jet".  Thank goodness for Dr. Goddard.

I doubt that I will be as ambitious as Dr. G. on my personal holiday, which shall be this Sunday. Maybe I'll go read a book under a tree in the backyard. And, maybe I'll bring a notebook and pen in the event I get a revelation about something grand.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Remembering Daddy

In 1975, he worked part-time "to earn pocket money
and get a little bit of exercise".
When I was 19, I visited the Philippines with Daddy. I saw where both Daddy and Mama came from—the barrio of Bactad in the province of Pangasinan. I, who was born in the United States, did not feel like I finally found home.

Ten years later, I visited Hawaii for the first time. Immediately, I knew I was home. The smell. The feel. The taste.

Hawaii was where Daddy lived for a quarter of his century. His youth, his coming into middle-age, his single life. There, in Hawaii, in the sugarcane fields, the streets of Honolulu. There, he lived away from family, independent and free.

Daddy was one of the many young Filipino men who signed a three-year contract to work on Hawaiian plantations. His year to leave home was 1928. A young, handsome man of 23 years. What was it like for him? I cannot even begin to imagine.

His plan was to go back home after his contract was up. But he had made little money after three years. Also, he said, his girlfriend had married someone else. There was no use to go back home. Yet.

Thirty-five years after Daddy finally left Hawaii,  I took my first trip there. As I stood in the sugarcane fields on the Big Island, I thought of my father.  I could sense Daddy and his compadres bending low with their machetes, grabbing the sugarcane, and whacking away at their ends.  As I drove by houses with corrugated tin roofs, I realized where Daddy's choice of building materials came from. Not the Philippines, but Hawaii. Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui. Those are the only islands I heard him mention as I was growing up.

Daddy told me a story about one early morning in December of 1941. His cousin was cutting his hair in their kitchen. In the quiet of the morning, he heard the far away sound of airplanes growing louder. Then  Boom! Boom! Boom! Daddy urged his cousin to finish up quickly so they could go see what all the noise was near the harbor.

A few months later, Daddy told me, he was hanging out with a friend in a park. "Bye and bye," he said, "many Filipino men were running towards some trucks and jumping on. They were all joining the army. My friend sad, 'Hurry, Hurry." So, Daddy ran and jumped into the U.S. Army.

His cousin, the one who cut his hair that December 7th, had no idea whether Daddy was dead or alive.  Twenty-five years later, Daddy reunited with his cousin during our visit to the Philippines. His cousin said ,as he wiped away his tears, "Why didn't you write?"

After Daddy got out of the army, now a U.S. citizen, he had saved enough money to go to the mainland and live with his younger brother, Uncle Frank, in Hollister. Daddy was homesick for family. About a year later, Daddy decided to go to the Philippines. I don't know whether it was just to visit or to return permanently. A few days into his stay, he met and fell instantly in love with Mama. They married. A year later, they had a son. Daddy realized before the baby was born that he had to return to the United States. Opportunities in the U.S. would be much better for his family  than in the Philippines. So, a few weeks after my brother was born, Daddy was on his way back to United States. It took him several months to earn passage for Mama and Junior.

In all that he did, Daddy never looked back. At least, he made it seem that way.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Clip. Clip. Clip.

It happens.

A loved one gets too old to cut her (or his) toenails. That same elderly loved one who can still drag a nine-foot ladder across the backyard and prune a lemon tree, when no one is looking.

In my case, that is the Mama.

I could take the Mama down to a nail salon. But, the idea of a stranger touching one's toesies is creepy. And, you never know if the stranger-who-clips-toenails-for-money really changes her gloves after each customer. That protection is more for the stranger-who-clips-toenails-for-money than for the customers. Forget about trying to convince me otherwise. Then, there is the matter of the strong smell of chemicals. I've walked passed open doors of nail salons and been hit with a big wham of oppressive odors.  The stranger-who-clips-toenails-for-money also wears a face mask, which makes me wonder why customers don't wear them either. Heaven knows what breathing in the toxins for even one minute does to your health.

Of course, there is the Mama's reason. She'd rather buy a 50-pound bag of wild birdseed. I agree. More value for the money.

So, yes, I cut the Mama's toenails.

The first time was last summer. I happened to come across her sitting on the patio, with her foot up on a stool. Her various nail clipping tools spread out beside her. She was muttering frustrated curses at her toes.

I offered to cut her toenails.  At first, she resisted.

"It's no problem," I said, hovering over her.

"It's this big toe. The cuu-coo hurts at night," she said. Cuu-coo (I don't know how it's spelled) is the Ilocano word for toenail—and fingernail, for that matter. It's pronounced like cuckoo in cuckoo bird.

"I can do it," the Mama said, quite plaintively.

At that point, I could've left her alone and gone back upstairs to work. But,  my concentration would be interrupted by wondering how she was doing. The Mama has difficulty asking for help. My difficulty is gauging whether to leave her alone or ignore her and start pitching in. That afternoon, I pulled a chair in front of her and picked up a nail clipper.

"Just the big cuu-coo," she said, with what sounded like relief in her voice. Of course, I ignored her. I trimmed them all.

"I can cut your toenails for you," the Mama said, as I clipped slowly away at a particular thick cuu-coo.

"That's okay," I said. Clip. Clip. Clip.

"I used to cut your father's cuu-coo all the time."

The Daddy had a cataract in one eye and during his last several years, he no longer drove after dusk.  It should not have surprised me that the Mama trimmed his nails. But, it did. I wonder if the Daddy came up to her one day with the nail clippers and asked her. Or, like me, she happened upon him being frustrated at not seeing the fine details.

I also wonder if she chitchats about things, especially stuff that happened in the Philippines long ago, while she clipped the Daddy's cuuu-coo just as she chatters away while I clip hers today. The Mama isn't much of a talker, so her yakkity-yakking was quite surprising. But, then, I recall being 18 years old and one of my godfather's and his niece had just left after a long visit. The mama said to me, quite surprised, "I did not know you could talk a lot."

Every six weeks, more or less, the Mama asks me to trim her toenails. I can count on her saying, "Would you like me to do your cuu-coo? I used to cut your father's cuu-coo all the time." As I clip away, I can also be sure of her telling me stories about stuff that happened to her in the Philippines long ago.

I enjoy clipping the Mama's toenails. I think she does, too.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved.