Monday, April 2, 2007

CHILD OF A BIGGER GOD (a life on the fringes)

(Originally written a year ago, almost to the day)

Even my closest friends are sometimes surprised to know I had a brother.

I didn't flaunt him around.

He's our eldest, our Junior, our only brother.


My Kuya Boy. A special child.

We grew up being told he had cerebral palsy. But when I was old enough to ask around and read up on palsy, it didn't seem to jibe with how he looked and behaved. Up to now, I don't know exactly what afflicted him. All I know is that he had the innocence and limitations of a three-year-old.

I am told he didn't begin to walk until he was four, to talk until he was six. He had little control over his spittle but a good enough one over his bladder. He never learned to read and write. I understand he was sent to a special school for a while -- and there were very, very few such schools then. Special learning required very special resources -- and our family was poor.


He had good motor skills though. My mom used to say: "Boy cleans better than Aning (that's me) does" -- because I left grease on the dishes and he didn't. He also rode the bunot meanly -- our floors always shone brighter than anyone of our neighbors'.

My favorite image of him is with a tiny radio stuck to his ear, all smiles, dancing in perfect beat and complete abandon. Out of sheer overuse and misuse (such as carrying them with him while he bathed), he destroyed radios faster than we were able to buy them.

We girls in the family grew up taray because of him. If anyone as much as laughed at him, the offender wouldn't know what hit him -- para siyang pinutakte.

Even in later years, my sisters and I used to cajole him: "Sino ang maganda, si Celia, Ella, o Anna?" He always replied -- well, ahem, who else? (hahaha). Not dagger looks nor threats of "sasakalin kita" nor jabs on his arm would make him change his answer. Anna was his favorite.

At 50, he amazed his doctors. No one in his condition had business being alive at that age. He lived more years, defying medical expectations.

Last Christmas , I noticed he had been hardly eating. He survived with glasses of Ensure. At our family reunion in January, he was a ghost of himself -- hardly eating, emaciated. He couldn't be bullied to say who was maganda. I said a silent goodbye to him then.

I half-knew somehow he would soon go.

He was never fully of this world, was he? He merely skirted its edge. He was half in, half out.

In my most faithless moments, I called my Kuya a child of a lesser god and questioned the purpose of his half-life.

At my most hopeful, I regarded him as our private angel. When I saw him sometimes on his easy chair, with a small, knowing smile, I envied him the wonderful secrets only he seemed privy to.

"Angel, angel," we coaxed him at one family gathering: "Tell us the winning numbers of tomorrow's lotto." He obliged, confidently pointing to six numbers out of 40 on the list we shoved at him.

That evening I lay awake, certain I'd wake up a millionaire, making plans how to invest my winnings, counting people I have to make balato to.

Well, as it turned out, this angel didn't give out cash. But what he has given and taught us money can't buy -- patience (infinite), wisdom (otherworldly), love (fiercely protective), and a connection with the divine.

In his coffin, he looked like a distinguished lawyer. Serious.

Everybody remarked how pogi he was -- in fact, he had the stateliest of noses, the finest of features.
Siya talaga ang maganda.

Wiser now, I believe believe believe that my Kuya Boy was a child of a bigger, more compassionate god.

Some translations for the non-Pinoy reader:
Kuya - respectful title for older brother
Bunot - floor scrub made from coconut husk
Taray - combative, hostile(slang)
Para siyang pinutakte -- (seemingly) attacked by a swarm of bees
Sino ang maganda? - Who is the pretty one?
Sasakalin kita - I will wring your neck.
Pogi - handsome (slang)
Balato - share of winnings
Siya talaga ang maganda - He is the truly beautiful one.

54 comments:

auee said...

very touching... reminds me of an uncle who became mentally disabled due to epilepsy.

I used to fear him when I was little, then he died all of a sudden when I was about 8 or 9 y/o. Sometimes I'd still feel guilty because the child that was me tend to step away from him rather than accommodate his hugs/kisses. I knew I was his favourite niece & on the day he died, I swear I thought he was at our place because I heard him call me with his usual "hoy".

Gina said...

Now the angel is up there smiling down at you, his favorite beautiful Anna.. Free from any physical and mental disability.

myepinoy said...

I just wondered what prompted you to blog about him?

Like Gina said, perhaps he is smiling at you now.

A timely and heart-warming post to reflect on Holy Week.

Leah said...

What a great tribute to Kuya Boy. I'm sure he is watching over his sisters lovingly.

My best friend back home in Baguio has a brother who has similar descriptions like you said , they call him autistic. I guess, in those days, education and development for special people like them was given much attention. I love him just the same.

THE JOAQUINS said...

Death aznd dying never failes to fascinate me.
Yes, I lost my Dad who poayed piano Jazz professionally...when in one massive stroke, he was gone...

Never even got to talk to him.

At the morgue before he was prepared for viewing we kissed him on the cheeks, My two sisters and I.

My blog: http://myjoaquinfamily.blogspot.com/

houseband00 said...

I am so touched with what you shared Anna. I could actually feel the warmth of love by just reading the post. =)

Anyway, I tagged you ha. =)

vernaloo said...

Hi Anna :)

This is very sweet. You and you're family are very admirable. Kuya Boy was pretty lucky to have you guys. Kayo din syempre :)

Wherever he is, for sure, he's very happy :)

lady cess said...

i am so touched by this post. damang-dama ko ang pagmamahalan sa pamilya ninyo, particularly sa inyong magkakapatid.

sexy mom said...

daughter monica and i read this post together--so sweet daw...she's a good writer, too, you know. so she knows who is a good writer and not...she said you were able to connect the thoughts so well.

Anna, your brother is sure an angel, i like the way you described him in his coffee--stately, like a lawyer..

Heart of Rachel said...

Hi Anna. Thank you for sharing this touching story about your Kuya Boy. He must have been a true angel of your family. God must have sent him to you to give you strength and teach you the deeper meaning of love. He must have been a real blessing in many ways than one.

SASSY MOM said...

I'm so touched with your story! He's an angel indeed... but he's also very blessed to have you as his family.
I can feel the love just by reading your story.
You now have an angel to watch over you.
Take care...

SASSY MOM said...

Hi, anna!

Super touched ako with your story... I forgot to tell that I have tagged you.

Hope you don't mind!

annamanila said...

Auee!

Yes, young children feared and turned away from my Kuya too -- including my own. You know how scared kids are of strange and unusual faces. But like you, they learned to love their Uncle boy when they grew older and wiser. You were your Uncles' fave too ha? I think we are blessed having someone that special in our lives.

annamanila said...

Yes, Gina. I can believe what you're saying. He's smiling at us . and he's back to being the perfect soul he really is. Thanks so much.

annamanila said...

Myepinoy!

By Friday, we will celebrate the first anniversary of my Kuya Boy's departure from this dimension. Yes, he's perfect and perfectly happy na. But sometimes I asked myself whether he, with his semi-consciousness, wasn't luckier than all of us "normal" human beings."

annamanila said...

Leah!

Yes, I owed my Kuya Boy that tribute. I have only words now .. I can't gift him with his favorite music anymore. Thank you for loving the autistic boy. Gina, I think your heart is in the right place. Bless you.

annamanila said...

The Joaquins!

Aha, death and dying and the aftermath are so fascinating. No one really came back to tell the story, di ba? As for me, all I know is that there is more to us than our sensate bodies, as our grasp is bigger than our reach (or is it the other way round.)

You have poignant memories of your Dad's death. I am sure he still felt that kiss.

annamanila said...

HB!

I am complimented that my tribute to my Kuya touched you. But you're really touchie-feelie naman di ba.

Yes, I will try to comply with your tag sometime during the long stretch of a holiday. Ty.

annamanila said...

Verna!

No doubt, he's very happy na where he is .. unless reincarnation is true (I tend to believe it eh) and he might be preparing for another round here possibly as a 'mainstreamed' or normal person na.

Enjoy the holidays.

annamanila said...

Lady Cess!

Tama ang take mo. Very close talaga kaming magkakapatid. Thank you for letting my little tribute touch you.

Have a blessed easter!

annamanila said...

Sexy Mom!

Thanks lots Dine for sharing my piece with your daughter. You are a family of writers aren't you. Please thank Monica for me and tell her I want to read some of her pieces too.

Advanced happy easter to all the talented Racomas.

annamanila said...

H of Rachel!

Yes, Rachel, exactly. Di naman pwedeng he was sent here just to be on the fringes. I know he was given to us for a purpose. And perhaps it has something more to do with us than with him. In a way, parang angel talaga.

Ty ty ... bless you.

annamanila said...

Sassy mom!

Touching ba talaga? I wrote it at a vulnerable time eh. Tama si myepinoy it may be good material for the reflections we have to make this holy week.

I got a tag to list down seven songs from another buddy. Maybe I can write it in such a way that will comply to both your tags. Thank you for visiting and for tagging me.

Gypsy said...

What a wonderful tribute to your Kuya. Why should the doctors wonder about his long life? It's no surprise that what extended his life and made him enjoy the fullest life possible was the love you all generously lavished him.

pining said...

he's very fortunate to have a family so loving and caring...
it must have been hard for you to talk about him especially when you lost him just recently... I lost my brother five years ago in May and I still find it hard to talk about him without shedding a tear..
You're lucky to have him, too :-)

jerry said...

What is the purpose of his half-life? God knows. But i tend to agree that its more connected with you, his family, than to your Kuya himself. Did growing up with your brod make you a better person, annamanila. Can you try to answer that?

sheilamarie said...

Tita Anna, maybe the special children really are God's little angels here on earth.

Thank you for sharing your Kuya Boy's story with us. =)

Princess said...

What a fitting tribute to your Kuya Boy this Holy Week. He is now in a very enviable position - and with his angels, too! Thanks for sharing.
Your style of writing is very beautiful.... hindi nakakainip basahin....
Princess

faith said...

bless you, Ms. Anna.

annamanila said...

Gypsy!

The doctors said that people who are impaired that way usually have short lifespan. I think one of the reasons is that they usually don't complain when they feel sick so that treatment is usually delayed. But on the other hand, they're not subject to stresses and pressures that usually lead to life-threatening medical conditions, di ba.

Gypsy, how is the paper chase?

Gave a blessed Easter.

annamanila said...

Pining!

Someone called them "necessary losses." And we lose them by various means, not necessarily as permanent as death. Pero masakit pa din, di ba.

You're still grieving over your brother. I guess mas madali akong mag-release. And I have come to believe that death is absolutely safe.

annamanila said...

Jerry!

There are so many experiences that have contributed to the shaping of this person that is now me. I guess kasama na din yung living with a special brother. Thank you, Jerry, for nudging me to reflect that way.

annamanila said...

Sheilamarie!

I think you're right. So, we were really privileged to have been given our angel in residence.

Thank you and take care.

annamanila said...

Princess!

Yes, he's better off and happier now than anyone of us here down below can ever be. That's very very comforting.

Thanks. Will always try to make my pieces readable.

Have a blessed easter.

annamanila said...

Faith!

Bless you too, Kim, and Faith and your pilot and all people you care for. Have a blessed easter.

Gypsy said...

I believe what you said somewhere in this comment section, your Kuya may be luckier than most of us! Re my paper chase, ayun chasing pa rin..almost, almost na. Thanks for asking! Have a blessed Holy Week.

Belle TH said...

Anna, such a beautiful story! I agree, he is an angel sent from above to live with you long enough be able to share many happy memories. It must feel good to know that you were his favorite.

Have a blessed easter to you and your family.

niceheart said...

What a touching and wonderful tribute to your brother. I'm sure that wherever he is now, he's saying, si anna pa rin ang maganda. :)

rhodora said...

Anna, my friend! How are you?

You know what - somehow, your Kuya Boy is luckier than anyone of us - because he kept his innocence to the very end. You are right - he must be a child of a Bigger, Greater God.

kathy said...

I was amused that you'd ask your brother to choose among you girls who is the most maganda. My sisters and I didn't fight so much about who is maganda than who is most panget. :) Anyway, your story is touchie-feelie ha, now I know why you liked my likewise touchie-feelie stories, hahah.

Your Kuya Boy reminds me of my late father - who at the age of 65, defied everyone who thought that kyphotic people lived short lives. Your Kuya was a real blessing to you and your family - he was instrumental in influencing the person you have become, di ba? I want to believe that he is now in eternal bliss where there is no pain or disease, watching over his loved ones.

May you have a blessed Easter!

Toe said...

Very beautiful post... as usual Annamanila! And the title says a lot... Child of a Bigger God! Beautiful! I have a cousin who is also special He is the eldest of ten children. My uncle and auntie says that it is this cousin who brings their family together. I think they are given to us because God loves us.

Hahaha... I can just imagine you being mataray in defense of your Kuya. :)

dimaks said...

Yes. at some point, humans even wish to cross human sanity to evade life afflictions and calamities. Or sometimes they wish death. But then, I agree, your brother was an angel in its own kind. An angel to impart the real essence of life. A life that does not look at the graces you receive everyday.

julie said...

Anna, so this was the brother you were talking about. Yes, it is sad that he was born at a time when more sophisticated evaluation procedures as well as assistive technology were not readily available for him. But who cares? He was well-loved, in fact, I'm sure it was your love that made him live longer than expected of him. Re calling him before as "a child of a lesser god" and questioning the purpose of his half-life, now you know that being what he was was the purpose of him being your brother. He made you learn lessons about life, about loving, about patience and even about wisdom. Such was his significance that he may have had a half-life so he was able to yours whole.

No amount of religious reflections would do us good during this Holy Week if we do not know how to love others, even if they do not have the capacity or even words, to show us that they love us back.

annamanila said...

Gypsy!

Luckier yes in the sense that problems, pressure, rejection, furstration, angst were aien to him. Luckier because there is no doubt he went straight to his creator when he died.

I am glad you're almost at the end of the paper chase, Gypsy. I hope you can still blog or at least get in touch when you get to the land of shelleu. byron and the beatles. lol

annamanila said...

Niceheart!

What a tickling though! That anna is still his favorite where he is.

Am also tickled you dropped by (at last) -- have heard of Niceheart for the longest time; been wanting to get acquainted; medyo nahihiya lang. haha. A blessed easter.

annamanila said...

Rhodora!

You're really back. You now have the time to bloghop. Splendid. Sorry hindi ko masado nababasa yung pieces na sinusulate ng american friend mo. Medyo heavy stuff yata lol

Yes, he has kept his innocence till tne end -- the innocence of a baby, an unblemished spirit.

annamanila said...

Kathy!

We asked him who was maganda kasi wala namang tunay na beauty sa amin eh. (Ako lang -- lol, joke). Eh si ba, dapat positive ang approach. hahaha

I looked up kyphotic and yes, I remember you mentioned your dad was humpbacked. He was almsot reclusive? And that allowed him to focus on his art, di ba? And on his family too. Sabi nga, every thing, superficially good or bad, has its up or downside. It really boils down to attitude and faith.

You were blessed having such an extraordinary dad. Take care now.

annamanila said...

Toe!

Talaga, panganay din yung special cousin mo? Bakit kaya ano? Dapat di ba yung mga latak (like) who's defective?! hahaha Sige, di na lang akong magbibiro about lataks. Siemper, there is a hard-to-fathom purpose .. alam mo naman si God eh ... masyadong masikreto. Tutuo yon, nung araw, may tumingin lang sa kuya ko tapos nginigisi... patay syang bata sya.

annamanila said...

Dimaks!

So true! Tandaan ko nung araw .. i got his very overwhelming problem -- sabi ko di ko kaya, magbreakdown na lang sana ako para oblivion na. Eh kaso, ayaw eh. LOL Kaya kinaya ko na lang.

Yes, an ange; in disguise who taught us what is essential, taught us how to see with you heart, not our yes. TY!

Nanalo ka ba sa photography contest? How do you spend Lent in Tsukuba?

annamanila said...

Dimaks

Let's say it again:

Yes, an angel in disguise who taught us what is essential; taught us how to see with our heart, not our eyes.

(Grabe, fat fingers! haha)

annamanila said...

Julie!

I really really liked what you said: That my Kuya Boy led his half life so that we could lead our lives to the full.

Thank you. Yes, I remember I alluded to my Kuya when you wrote something about special children in your site. I know you have a a rapport with them. It must take a lot of love and patience to do so. :)

dimaks said...

haha.. as long as they can strike the keys of your keyboard.

Well re lent, I really don't know in much detail with the Christian friends here :) though I heard they go to church.. like that.

the photo contest still goes on :)

Prab said...

Nakakaiyak naman... ~_~

annamanila said...

Prab!

Terrific to hear from you. Pero my goodness, you are on a marathon blogreading and bloghopping. Hope, hindi ka mabigla o marindi. Anyway, have a blessed Easter you and Ellie.

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