26 March 2009

Of Being 50

Even before my birthday, I was already excited about it.
Thanks to my sweet boss, I had a pre-birthday lunch celebration with my colleagues at the Lake Club. The food was so delicious and the company was really great. It is nice to be able to interact with colleagues on a social level and find that apart from official matters, we have much in common.
When the lunch was over, one of my colleagues asked me what it meant to me to be 50. I was stumped for a couple of seconds. Although I did reply, something insignificant, almost immediately, his question did set me thinking a bit more about it.
So what does being 50 mean to me?
Physically: I think I look okay. Many have told me that I still look great. Okay, admittedly the body could be in better shape. However, I enjoy good health. I am not so out of my mind as to think I can pull off wearing a tight body hugging lycra outfit. I believe I dress sensibly and comfortably. I still look good in some outfits.
Emotionally: I’ve come a long way, for sure. I see life and love differently. I don’t take people or anything for granted. I enjoy living and I make the most out of it. I have learnt to be happy even when there is sadness around me. I believe that I am quite strong emotionally.
Intellectually: I realise that being 50 doesn’t mean I know everything. I don’t. I do know that there’s still so much more to learn. There’s a lesson in every meeting, every encounter and every situation. Anytime is a good time to be stimulated intellectually. Age is no barrier if the will is there.
Sexually: Hmmmm. Hmmmmm. Who said it’s the end of the road when you turn 50? Don’t you believe it?
Financially: To have been working since I was 19 has given me some sort of stability. I know it’s not what makes life count. However, it is an intangible “reward” to be able to look back with some pride, at having been able to fend for oneself.
In a nutshell, being 50 is no different from being 20 or 30 or 40. It’s just that, for me, I had looked forward to this day for a long time. Why? I don’t exactly know!
Maybe for me, it’s like a checkpoint. Somewhat like when I go to Singapore. We go through the Tuas Checkpoint to make sure everything is in order. So being 50 was my checkpoint. To see if I’ve done what I had set out to do in life. If not, to get back on track. It’s also to see if I’ve made my life count. Not really by anything global but by the thousands of little good deeds here and there and everywhere. Plus it’s a great time to check the relationships that need mending and tending. Being 50 is just as good a time as any to do that.
Over the last 50 years, I’ve been terribly sad but I’ve also been deliriously happy. What I remember most from those years is the good times. It’s the memories that keep me grounded. It’s the love and support of family and friends that keep me going. It’s the only reason to celebrate life and living.

25 March 2009

Once in a Lifetime?

Once in a lifetime, you find someone special,
Your lives intermingle and somehow you know
This is the beginning of all you have longed for.
A love you can build on, a love that will grow...

Once in a lifetime,
To those who are lucky,
A miracle happens
And dreams all come true...

I know it can happen,
It happened to me,
For I've found
My "once in a lifetime"
with you.

I bought a card with these words for DC in 1990, the year before he died. At that point in time, I would never have imagined that I had unconsciously imposed a kind of sentence on myself. That self-imposed unwitting notion was such a negative idea that I would never know another love.

However, I'm blessed because in my case, it's "twice in a lifetime". I've found a second miracle.

It is true!!! When God closes one door, He does open another.

Sometimes you don't even have to be looking! You can be found.

If you have been confused by some of the postings, wondering if I have lost touch with reality, then I hope this will set the record straight. I am happily and blissfully remarried.

I think some part of me, needed to put it all down and to let it go. I think that after this blogging, I'll really be able to move on with a clear conscience.

I've loved DC with all my heart and my soul. I have no regrets when I look back. We had a wonderful life together. We were friends, lovers, husband/wife and then parents. We had 18 years of which 7 were as a married couple. We've done almost everything except to grow old together.

Now when I look back, it's a distant memory. It's a warm feeling to have known that love and that life. I've come out of it so much better and richer and wiser. When I looked at the old photos, I realised that the old life is no more and it was time to move on. It was when I realised that I could start anew.

We must not be afraid of starting over and loving again. To shut oneself away from life and love is a crime. I think what my brother said to me sums it all up. "Let the dead rest in peace, and the living go on living". Unconsciously, I did that.

I'm reminiscing because I've reached a great milestone in my life. I count my blessings. I have many, I admit. I'm truly grateful for each one.

But most of all, I thank God for Stephen and for Jared. They've loved me through and through.

24 March 2009

Birthday After Thoughts

I just love being 50. Doesn't it show?

Often, we let the chances to enjoy the love of family pass us by. Sometimes it is because time is unavailable and opportunities to do so are ignored.

However, there are occasions when time and opportunity meet and a beautiful moment can happen. It happened to me.

My day started with a visit to the Matriarch of the family. Giving her the due respect she deserves.

I had no grand illusions about celebrating my birthday. I just chose to visit my dad's eldest brother, Rufino Soliano and his effervescent wife, Shirley.

It was the first time that Jared would be meeting them and I just wanted to spend the day in the company of family and loved ones. However, the topic came to birthdays and when they enquired about mine, they were stunned that I had not mentioned it.

It wasn’t something planned but as it turned out, there was a cake! Their daughter, Jacinta brought it later in the evening as a surprise. It was really sweet of them to make it so memorable.

I think that, at any age, love is the best gift of all. But when you are 50, you begin to appreciate its value even more.

Being connected by the blood ties and surrounded by the strong feeling of loving and being loved on a day when you reach half a century is, for me, the only way to really enjoy the celebration of life and, of course, of love.

In my heart, I know that an ideal day would be with ALL loved ones, but when that cannot happen, then even a select group can make up for those absent or missing.

Stephen and me with Uncle Rufino and Aunt Shirley.

Jared with his Grand Uncle and Grand Aunt.

Jared having an impromptu lesson.

The celebration carried on to the next day at Jacinta's home. This time with music.

In the Soliano family, music runs in their veins.

Music and singing is second nature to the Solianos.

Jacinta prepared a lovely tea and dinner for us. Lovely not only being so delicious but prepared with love.

Rufino, now retired, is an icon in the music industry. He was with RTS and SBC as the Music Director and Composer for decades. He has been involved with music since his mid-teens. He is a walking encyclopedia of everything there is to know of old school music.

In the two days that we spent there, I think Jared had the best time of his life. Getting to know more of his roots and also to get first-hand advice from the grand master. Watching them interact, with only the language of music and love, was the best present for my 50th birthday.

Special thanks Uncle Rufi, Aunt Shirley to Jacinta, Aunty Corrine, Clarissa, Naomi, Timothy and Tipper for their wishes and their love.

21 March 2009

50 years! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm 50 today. How I've waited for this day? Some women are afraid of reaching half a century. Not me! I've been so anxious for this day to arrive.

I reckon it's like celebrating the 21st birthday. Everyone waits for it, to get the so-called key to freedom.

Celebrating my 50th birthday is such a milestone for me. It's a privilege. Some don't get the chance to reach it.

I'm just deliriously happy. I'm with my loving family. What more could I ask for?

Today is the beginning of a new chapter for me.

Note: some birthday photos will be posted soon.

16 March 2009

The Light at the End of the Tunnel - Part 4

The strange thing about widowhood for me was I did not know how to fit in. In short, I felt like a misfit.

Some people pitied me. Some envied me. Yes, you heard it right! The miserably married ones felt I had been given a chance to start anew. Some sympathised with me. Some ignored me. Some “hit” on me. Well, I was only 32 years old then! Some just stood by me.

My life had been so simple. I didn’t know about the real world. My world revolved around the home, the husband and the 2 kids. Alone, without the protection of a spouse, I discovered the innuendos of human relationships. In short, I had a crash course in “life”, without the rose-tinted glasses.

I made some blunders and had to learn some of life’s lessons the hard way. However, at the end of it all, I think I’ve come out of it relatively unscathed. I chalk each one of those episodes to experience. What else can we do but learn from our mistakes?!

The light at the end of the tunnel is the realisation that I didn’t need to be part of a whole. I found that I could function as a single entity. I became confident of myself. I developed the wits needed to survive in today’s world. I grew tougher emotionally. I became stronger spiritually. My entire outlook towards everything evolved.

Would I be who I am today if I had not lost DC? In all honesty, I doubt it. Being pushed to the edge of insanity and finding my way back, had taken a toll on the “old” me. I am sure that DC would not know or recognise the “new” me. I don’t even know if we would be compatible. I am almost the opposite of what I used to be. Not by choice really but more because of conditioning.

Where I was once shy and quiet, I am now bold and outspoken. Where I was innocent and gullible, I am now guilty of being a cynic. Where I used to be soft, I am now harder.

The light at the end of the tunnel was, always, a beacon of hope that I, inadvertently, moved toward to become who I am today.

13 March 2009

The Day After – Part 3

The sun will rise even when you think that life is gloomy and the future looks bleak. The sun shines in such a bleak contrast to how you feel inside. It’s an anomaly.

Family members are rousing from sleep. All over the floor, there are mattresses and pillows strewn about. I didn’t even notice that the night before. Everyone is rushing to get ready. No one really talks to me. They don’t know what to say. They are afraid I will break down and cry. I look for my black skirt and black blouse. It’s going to be a long day. Everyone is tiptoeing around me. I feel a loneliness that pervades into my bones. My pride keeps me from showing anything.

At the wake, so many people are already there. I get the feeling that people don’t want to make eye contact with me. I understand. I’m glad for it. I can’t engage in any emotional dialogue, not now anyway. People are whispering. I can see them huddled together. I look around at the family and friends and strangers. In this huge crowd, I feel so alone. Some smile at me. Some just stand by. It’s never ending. The steady streams of people are here to say a final goodbye to DC.

The church was filled to capacity, with people standing outside. I had not anticipated such a turnout.

I notice the couples. It hits me that I am no longer part of a couple. I see the old couples. I know they think it will be their time soon. I see the young couples. I know they think it could have happened to them.

The young ones feel for me. They cannot imagine what it would be like to be in my shoes.

In a strange way, I felt that the untimely death of one so young made a great impact on many of those who were there. This death touched them in a very personal way. DC was only 33 years old. If anybody took life for granted, then this was an instant wake-up call.

You know, I’d like to believe that DCs death made a difference in the lives of many people that day. Couples got a preview of what it meant to lose a loved one. If only one person walked away that day with a renewed sense of loving and living and giving, then DC did not die in vain. This thought gave me strength and comfort. His life or his death had a purpose. Did I welcome this? No, of course I didn’t. But did it change me? Yes, for sure it did.

The only explanation I can give about how I made it through those very difficult moments is my faith in God. I really did feel Him hold me in the palm of His Hands. It’s something I know is real because I lived it.

People judged me for smiling and for moving on. One day, I asked Soo, a dear friend of mine if she thought it odd that I seemed to be okay. She gave me the best reply I could ever hope to have. She said that this was how she preferred me to be because the other alternative would be too hard for her to bear. This is the true hallmark of a great friend. I have been blessed by so many. I thank my God for all those who helped me along the way.

My ability to wake up each day and carry on was probably just a stage of my grief. Three months after DC died, I was in church one evening. I’m sitting in front. I’m alone. I feel a wave of pain. I begin to cry. Uncontrollably. Unexplainably. Nothing triggered the tears. It just happened.

More to come.....

12 March 2009

The Night Before - Part 2

Life is great. Simple. Easy. Peaceful. DC is getting ready to go to work. The kids are asleep. I’m doing something. I can’t remember what I was doing.

It was the time of the Gulf War. DC was doing spot checks on his men who were supposedly protecting the American embassy and residences. He was doing double duty as his boss had gone for a course. So there was no rest. Each night without fail, he drove around to see that the patrols were where they should be.

That night, he got ready to leave. We kissed! I went back to what I was doing. While walking away, he said, “I’ll send you to work tomorrow”. I say “OK”. He turns back, looks at me through the gate and says “I love you”. I look up and say “I love you too”. He smiles and goes off. That would be the last conversation we would have.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How important is it to always part with loving words or actions? I hope you will remember this always.

Had this last night gone differently, I would have had to live with it anyway. In my case, I can replay this over and over in my mind and feel glad that we had said loving words.

Will you say “I love you” the next time you say goodbye? I hope you do!

It’ll be the difference between torturing yourself with remorse and hugging the warmth of that last love exchange.

More to come.....

11 March 2009

Of a love lost (March 1991) Part I

I'm trying to sleep. I close my eyes and I imagine witches are flying around on their brooms, in the darkness, circling my home. Or was I dreaming! 

I don't really know when I fell asleep. I must have been, because the telephone rang and I awoke with a start. It's still dark outside! What time is it? I get up to answer the phone and say "hello". It's a guy and he's asking me if this is the home of DC. I answer that it is and this guy tells me that DC died in a car accident and that someone would have to identify his body. I say "ok" and he says "at UH". I say "ok" again. End of our conversation.

For a moment, I thought I was still asleep but I'm not. I take a deep breath and I sit in silence. Just for awhile. In that moment, I knew my life would never ever be the same again.

I call Justin. It’s an automatic response. DC told me to call him if I ever needed help. I calmly explained the telephone call. It’s not a prank call. He’s more in shock than I am. He would be over, soon, he promised. The fear began to creep in. I’d have to break this news to many others.

Then I called my grandfather, who lived in the street behind mine. I told him that I needed him to come over. I told him not to rush and that I would open the back gate for him so he only needed to push it. When he came, I told him that I wanted him to stay with the 2 boys and if they awoke, to send them to their baby sitter. Then I told him about the call and he gave a long, loud wail. Wasn’t that supposed to have been my reaction? 

His crying wakes my younger boy. My little boy, Eric, is curious to see his great grand-dad so early in the morning. I pick him up and hold him. He’s such a good baby. He doesn’t cry. He knows I’ll see to him. He drinks his milk and medicine and I send him to the baby sitter, just down the road. The cold morning air reflects the feeling inside my heart. I lie to the baby-sitter that I have an emergency and ask her to keep him till I settle it. She takes him from me, she hugs him close and I can see that she loves him as much as I do. It consoles me.

Back at home, I call my in-laws and I tell them that I have to go to UH and that I would meet them there. I know they have questions but I didn’t have any answers.

Justin arrives and he questions me in the car. I don’t know anything more than what I was told on the phone. I’m not sure if I am ready to face the day. I know I can’t wake up. I am awake. It’s not a dream.

We reach UH and Justin deals with all the bureaucracy. I follow him around. I collect DC’s wallet. I’m numb. In just minutes, we are at the mortuary. I see the gurney and there’s a person wrapped in black plastic. The hospital attendants want to open the plastic and Justin stops them. He gestures to ask if it was okay for me to look. They nod their heads. So they move the plastic sheet and I see him. His eyes are closed. He looks like he is sleeping. There’s a bit of blood. Justin identifies him. They all look at me. In that moment, I knew I had to cry. I knew it was expected of me. And I did. Just tears pricking my eyes and streaming down my face. I notice blood on the floor. I can’t look up at anyone. Justin holds my arm and leads me outside the mortuary. I see my in-laws and I know that they know. It’s a moment frozen in my mind.

I go back home and the furniture has been moved out of the hall. They expect the coffin to be brought home. I decide not. I don’t want my boys to have the memory of a coffin in their living room. I insist to have the wake in church.

Jared is not even 4 years old. He’s pleased with all the attention he’s getting. No one has told him yet. I pull him quietly aside and kneel down by his side. I tell him that his father died. He asked if he got shot. (DC was a police officer). I smile at his innocence and say “no”. Then he asked if his dad was old. I tell him “no” again. I say that he died in a car accident. He says “oh, okay”. He can’t understand death. Not at that age, anyway.

Death is so final. I am a widow. And I am alone. I’ve lost my best friend and I don’t know if I can carry on with the two boys by myself. 

More to come....