March 2 isn’t just my Dad’s birthday…

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My dad turned 58 the other day. We visited him at home and was surprised that we weren’t the only ones who wanted to wish him well – they estimated 1500 people, maybe more. People started coming around lunch time, and some were still arriving when we left around 9pm.  It actually wasn’t a surprise anymore to see other people in our compound during his birthday but the crowd  this year was exceptionally big! We actually ran out of food to serve because my parents weren’t expecting that number. Thankfully, a lot of family friends also sent food and chipped in to buy more food. Amazing, eh?

But this post isn’t totally about Dad. As the title suggests, Dad isn’t the only one who is close to me that celebrates birthdays every second day of March. There’s Tanya, a high school friend and Miss Tina, my mentor. If you have been reading my blog, Miss Tina was my high school Biology teacher and later club moderator for Project EARTH. She passed away in January this year after being in coma for more than a month. She was just 42. 

I haven’t written anything to honor this great person, so I figured this is the best time. I guess if she’s watching over me from her heaven (Yes, I just finished reading the book Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold), she’d smile and say “That’s my girl!”.

Only a few of my classmates probably know how close I got to Miss Tina. My friendship with her spanned almost fifteen years. We kept in touch during those years after I graduated from HS. We’d greet each other during Christmas and New Year, and on our Birthdays. We’re both Pisceans, so I guess that explains why we understood each other. We’d text and call each other, out of the blue and just because. She never made it to my wedding or Klaire’s baptism but I knew in my heart that she meant to be there, only she couldn’t.

When we met in 1996, I was still the young, naive, shy and insecure girl from the province. I don’t know what it was about her that I was drawn to her. Maybe it was her laugh. Or her smiling face with the mole. Or her soft heart. All I know is that I knew I can talk to her about my worries (about school and personal stuff) and that she would not judge me. I slowly warmed up to her and found myself literally clinging to her even after my sophomore year ended. I was her ward, like a puppy wanting attention from her human. And she did not disappoint. We would spend time together talking about stuff over pizza and soda. She’d lecture me about life. She’d give me tips about boys. Yes! She encouraged me to have a boyfriend in HS so I would have an idea how it would feel and at the same time she guided me so I would not do anything that will ruin my future, KWIM? And most of all, beyond the classroom, she taught me to come out of my shell, find my potentials and overcome my insecurities. Honestly, I was a new and better person after HS, mostly because of her. I was more secured emotionally and was less sad.

On one of our conversations during my early twenties, I was catching my breath, telling her stories. She was suddenly quiet, then came the laugh – in that distinct high-toned laugh that was a Miss Tina trademark.  She exclaimed that hearing my stories and how I reasoned things out, she realized that I have truly grown up. That was a feat, she said.

She was mighty proud when she heard I was going to settle down, telling me that I have matured enough to marry. And she was shouting for joy when I finally got pregnant and had Klaire. She shared my triumphs and joys even if she only heard it on the phone or read it from my text messages. That’s what I miss most about her. That even though we were physically far from each other, we were spiritually together.

I don’t know why no one informed me of her ordeal early on. She was in the hospital since early November. This is why I also say only a few people knew how deep my relationship was with her. But I am putting all that behind now. She probably thought she’d get better anyway and will tell me all about it when she’s over the illness. She never made it.

Pagsanjan Laguna is too far a place to go. But I knew I had to pay my last respects even if it meant I had to leave Klaire behind for the entire day. I went to her funeral and I regret that I viewed her in the coffin. Her face changed, pain was apparent. And I would have wanted to remember her smiling forever instead. But to me she was still beautiful within, as we celebrated life well-lived albeit short. Her brother said in the speech: seeing all those nuns, co-teachers, administrators and current & past students in his sister’s wake & funeral only meant one thing: that she was a good person. Indeed, she was.

I miss you, Miss Tina. I will forever be grateful for the gift of friendship. Rest in peace.


Jhari said...

RIP Ms Tina. Touch naman ako dito sa post mo te Kaje. I've seen Lovely Bones too, movie. Iyak ako ng iyak :(

kaje said...

Thanks Jhari. Super devastating when she passed away, eh. Penge naman link ng movie :)