Monday, June 30, 2008

Afternoon delight.

We were sitting in the garden. The sun was bright but the wind was cold. My mother-in-law poured some hot tea and offered me bonbon chocolates. I said thank you and continued listening to my father-in-law. He looked happy but his face was haggard and he looked fragile. Suddenly it dawned to me, he is growing old.

I first met my father-in-law a few days before our wedding. He was waiting for us at the NAIA and was rather annoyed that we were almost 15 minutes late. The many stories I heard about him from my husband and his towering figure made me nervous. He was after all one of the best surgeons in Europe, and was then the head of the committee on Medical Ethics in the Netherlands. A self-made man driven by passion and ambition. Why wouldn´t I be worried? I know his kind!

I was formal when I gave him a handshake. I apologized for being late. Told him that I did not anticipate that there would be a traffic jam around that time of the day. He looked in my direction and scolded his son in Dutch.

That evening we went to Ilustrado restaurant for dinner. The moment we sat down, he started firing me with questions about Philippine history and culture. Fortunately, I am quite well-versed on the subject. After all, I used to teach Philippine Music history.

After the wedding, they went back home and the next time I saw him again was at Schiphol Airport in October 2001. Later on, I found out that he instructed all the family members to meet me at the airport. Which means that they all got up at 4 AM and arrived at airport before 6 AM! He was on time. I was embarrassed.

Christmas came, and my father-in-law offered to give me a brand new piano of my liking for my present. I didn´t know what to say. His children and wife were all watching me and waiting for my answer. I said that I could not possibly receive such a gift from him. He smiled and changed the subject.

My father-in-law also took me around and showed me the Dutch countryside. He said it was important that I know my new home. He took me to several music stores as well, and asked me to play for him. He likes Bach and Chopin.

A week before my first birthday here, he took me again to a music store. He was almost begging when he told me again that he would like to buy me a piano. He said that people with my talent should never be denied of a musical instrument. And so, a piano was delivered at my doorstep 2 days before my birthday.

He also accompanied me to my first job interview at Leiden International School. He patiently and anxiously waited outside while the school director talked to me. When I came out of the conference room where the interview was held, my father-in-law handed me my coat and told me that I was over-qualified for the job. And he was right.

Also, when my own father passed away, my father-in-law asked me if there was a little space in my heart for him,.... if I could love him too like I loved my father. I was speechless. I didn´t know what to say. I barely know him. When I finally found the courage to say something, I told him that I just lost my father and that I don´t think there was a place in my heart for another father.

He held my hand, kissed me on the forehead, and told me that he perfectly understood.

A year later, two of my father´s sisters came to visit. After seeing the way my father-in-law was talking to me, Mama Bing and Tita Ching were both moved to tears. They said that whereever my father was, that he would be happy to see that there´s another father who treats me like his own child.

While I was busy daydreaming about the past; the love, kindness, and the goodness of my father-in-law, I didn´t realize that a tear had fell on my cheek already. It was a good thing I was wearing sunglasses. Nobody could see I was crying.

I was still staring at my father-in-law. This man loves me, and he is growing old. I´m afraid to lose him. I wish I could come and live with them. Spend time with him. But I´m no longer a child and such behavior is unacceptable here.

On our way home, I told my husband that we are going to visit my inlaws more often. And with that thought, I drifted far away again.... This time, I was off to dreamland where I often see and talk to departed loved ones.


++retno said...

that's so touching, maris. it's nice to have nice people around you, they make the living far from home easier.

Droomvla said...

benar. :)

maricel said...

Hi zuster!!! The article has touched me so much!! It made me also shed a tear. A very wholesome article...

Mica Kerkdijk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.