Sixty

We're not big on birthdays, our family. But my father celebrating his 60th year on earth—now that's extra-special. Weeks ago I planned on writing Tatay a letter, scribbled with my own handwriting, to be sent via post. But I forgot all about the surprise until this morning, when I looked at my phone and realized it's too late for big gestures. Today is that time of the year, October 26. My father's birthday.

When you're 60, people aren't hesitant to call you old because you are just that: an old man, but wiser, more sensible, more enlightened than the oily-faced teenager on the street.

There's something about being 60, the sealing age for old-ness, that makes it worth celebrating. Turning 60 is like finishing the mid-section of a novel and entering the last chapters to usher the end of the story. You don't throw the book away just because you've reached the climax; you keep on reading because you know something more exciting can happen, even in the last few pages.

And we will celebrate my father's birthday because this is a special man we're taking about, the one whose haploid set of chromosomes was partly responsible for my present genetic make-up, whose encouragement has kept me going through all these years, whose example has led me closer to the Lord.



I called him up after class, eagerly waiting for him to answer his phone, which he always leaves in the house when he goes to his afternoon gym session. (Months ago he availed of membership in a local fitness center at a cheap fee, basically because he's friends with the owner, if I'm not mistaken.)

“Happy birthday, Tay!” I said.

“Thank you, Bon. You're munching on something,” he said.

I was eating biscuits while holding the phone. “Would you like to try some, Tay?” I asked.

He laughed in the other line, one of the best sounds on earth, and so infectious, too, it can blow my sorrows away in an instant.



“I just finished my cardio program today,” he told me. Since he was diagnosed with hypertension—I was appalled to hear about his elevated blood pressure, 120/90—he started getting serious on his work-outs. He goes biking every morning, when he doesn't do work at the farm. One time he reached Davao City, a four-hour drive from Koronadal, with his biking buddies. He hardly ever absents from his gym class, going to it more religiously than I ever do in my classes in med school. He certainly didn't pass on the athletic gene to me, if there's such a thing that exists.



“So what are your plans for tonight?” I asked.

He told me he was treating some churchmates with snacks after their 6 pm weekly prayer meeting. My mother was away for a conference, and my brother Sean was out, ordering the roasted chicken he requested.

My father's a simple man with simple joys. He goes to the mall in his pambahay t-shirt and slippers. Hardly buys anything for himself, except for shoes which he splurges upon, once every ten years. Likes watching films with lots of action-packed scenes and less of the read-between-the-lines kind of conversations which inevitably bore him to sleep.



Before I hung up, I told him how I praise the Lord for giving me the best father in the world. “What more can I ask for?” I said.

I heard a pause that lasted seconds, and then a deep breath, which ushered in a trembling, hushed voice, “And you're the best son in the world. Thank you, Bon.”

“Really? I'm the best? Manong and Sean would get jealous of me,” I said.

“You're all the best,” he said.

“You're getting older every year, Tay.”

He said, “It's all by God's grace.”

“Not everyone gets to be 60. That's really something,” I said.

“And if they do,” he added, “many of them already had strokes and are paralyzed. But God has been so good. Despite my sins, He has remained faithful. Amazing, amazing grace, indeed.”

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