SUCH IS LIFE
as Kelvin Yu replied when I sent my condolences about his grandmother's death some weeks ago. Last Friday, we buried my tita in the morning, celebrated Neva's birthday in the evening, and the next afternoon, Saturday, I watched my cousin get married to his highschool sweetheart.
It was a small, intimate event: close friends and family only. What I will remember most about the ceremony was BB, my cousin Ray's yaya, who's been with them since before he was born, bawling her eyes out into a handkerchief. This is the woman who bathed him as a baby, wiped his ass when he took shits and took care of him when he was sick, made his beds and cooked his dinner. Kind of his second mom. I have my own BB: Ate Susan, who's also been with my family since before I was born. In fact, she was with my family when my dad was still young and they all still lived in Leyte. She's the only other person in the house who speaks Waray besides my dad. I'm godfather to her firstborn. I was wondering how she'd be when my time came. This has become common in recent generations: with mothers working fulltime, we're raised by our helpers, and these helpers stay with us their whole lives sometimes, and effectively become part of the family. There were times when Ate would have rows with my mother, and she'd leave for a few months to work somewhere else, and her presence would be missed, not only because we had all these chores to suddenly handle, but simply because she's the person who's always at home, who answers the phone, whose cooking we know best.
So my cousin Ray married Yoya, his girlfriend of what, 7 years? When I first heard they became a couple (senior year high school), and got more information about Yoya, the connections were almost uncanny: her best friend was my batchmate in grade school. She lived in MY village, and was dating MY first cousin, who lived far away in North Fairview. But they make an excellent couple.
Things are set up in such a way that I should hate my cousin. Because he is blessed: good looks, great family, good grades, and more. Growing up, I often heard various paraphrased versions of "Why can't you be like your cousin Ray?" He was valedictorian of his batch in grade school. Graduated high school and college with honors. Plays guitar and cello. Did I mention the good looks? Crush ng bayan yan. Even straight guys would have a crush on him. He was one of the glee club's stars in grade school, and hosted some show with Gary V. that was a big thing for my relatives then. In high school, he was an actor in Dulaang Sibol, and went on to be the definitive lead in their play Sinta. See what I mean? He had everything going for him, at least from the standpoint of the shy, insecure bookworm with average grades. Probably the closest he came to disappointing his parents was choosing to take Management Engineering (reputedly Ateneo's hardest course) instead of Biology (his parents were hoping he'd become a doctor). And of course, he had Yoya, who was the crush of 2 other people I know, and was always being compared to Liv Tyler before I finally met her.
I should hate the guy. But I don't. I love him.
Ray is my closest cousin, one of my best friends. Beyond that, he's one of those people I admire, whose sheer niceness and generosity of self have been an example, and a sign of hope for this sad, doomed world. He is one of those people I can claim to know before I am turned away from the pearly gates at the final judgment, and hope maybe that'll buy me some time before being cast into the fiery pits. With all his blessings, there's another, more important one: he's just a nice guy. He never made me feel any less of a person. He appreciated black humor. We would have vacations at one another's house during summer vacations. He taught me to shoot pool. We watched VHS tapes (or was it Betamax?) of recorded Simpsons episodes I borrowed from Gab. I can still say to him "Lemonade?" and he'd still know to reply with "Pleeze." and I would conclude with "You're my best friend." We would sing along to "Beat It." We biked around his village in the rain, and I crashed my bike into an open manhole hidden by a small flood. We both had crushes on Alyssa Milano in "Who's the Boss?" (who didn't?) I lived in his house for six months, half of my first year in high school, because we thought it would be easier than my staying at home in Paranaque, and he would get mad at me because I burned through his Michael Crichton and John Grisham books before he'd get to finish them. For the past 2 years he's stayed over with us on weekdays and went home on weekends, because he used to work for Ford over at Laguna but now is at Unilever, still a far drive from Fairview. I can't say I won't miss him, but of course, being now married, he'll be with Yoya.
Did I envy him at certain points in our lives? Hell yes. But I never, EVER wished anything bad for him.
In another world, maybe I hate him. In this one, I am one of the people who brag about him first and fastest. You'd think he was my son or something.
Anyway, I just wanted to share that. I'm really happy for him. And yes I cried during the wedding.