I love my birthday. I love that there is one day in the whole year that is all mine – a day on which I wear a brand-new shirt, wake up everyone in the house by singing happy birthday to me, and go to work feeling invincible because it’s my day. On my day, the world is mine to conquer, and along the way, I redeem tons of freebies just for being born (and signing up for potential spam mail). August 17 is usually a very good day.
But a part of me was dreading my birthday this year, for this was my first birthday without Lolo (“grandpa” in Tagalog), and I didn’t know how well I’d bear up.
See, I’m afraid of running out of firsts.
When he left, I could barely think of living in a world without my grandpa in it, but these past few months are still “new”, so I haven’t completely felt the anguish that his passing has caused. Lolo died without having suffered for very long, so none of my family had enough time to get used to the idea of him being gone. He fell ill at the end of October, went into hospital in mid-November, and passed away the day before his 87th birthday. It was poetic; it was peaceful; it was poignant. But though we were lucky enough to have had two weeks to say goodbye to him, the truth of the matter is … no matter how much time we might have been given to prepare ourselves, it wouldn’t have ever been enough. We would’ve pled for more.
Just until Christmas … Just until his birthday … Just until I get off work …
Well, we had our first Christmas without him, and it was pretty tearful. Every year, for as long as I can remember, we celebrated Christmas Eve at our house and New Year’s Eve at Lolo and Lola’s place. We didn’t put up a tree or have any decorations in the house this year; in fact, we didn’t want to be anywhere near the house this Christmas. We rang in the New Year away from home, too, and for the first time ever, no one jumped at midnight. For the first time ever, Lolo wasn’t in his kitchen, stirring a pot of cocoa for us to drink with our media noche. We went to bed early.
I had been dreading my birthday for the past few months because I could see it coming: we were running out of firsts. And as the day approached, I caught myself subconsciously ticking off the firsts that had passed and those that still remain.
- First family dinner without him … check.
- First family birthday (Lola’s) without him … check.
- First Easter without him and Lola hunting for the eggs I’ve hidden … check.
- Their first anniversary without him … check.
When Lolo’s first birthday without him rolled around, I was in the midst of planning the wake and funeral, so I celebrated him with friends and family who came to visit. But I didn’t feel the loss then. I was busy making sure that we sent him off in style – with all the love and care that he raised us with. When this November rolls around, I’m terrified of what it’ll feel like. But mostly, I’m sad because I know that our year of firsts will be at an end, and it will feel like we’ve lost him all over again.
This isn’t my first encounter with losing someone. But it’s the first time I’ve lost someone who’s ever held a grip on my heart. Lolo was the best of all of us. So much of the good stuff about me comes from the standards he set and the words he spoke and the lessons he taught. It’s incredible the impact a person can have on your life, isn’t it?
I know how lucky I am that I had Lolo for three decades, and that the world had him for 87 years – there are many who don’t get nearly as much time with people who matter half as much as he does to me. But then I think, if 87, why not 88? Why not 90? Why not 100?
I’m sure I will continue to love my birthday as I have for all my life, but I’ll always be sad that last year’s birthday was the last I had with Lolo.
I really miss him.