(*The first version of this piece suddenly disappeared in cyberspace because of the blogging techie issues. So this is a rewrite. If I get to recover the original, you will see how my mind works. )
It was my way of welcoming the morning gloom in this summertime, this opening of email while sipping my freshly brewed coffee, that bean exiled from Colombia.
The roast gives off an aroma that wakes me up from sluggishness, some kind of a smell that reminds me of coffee at home, the barako kind, or the mountain coffee of Benguet, or the monks' coffee of Malaybalay, or the mix of all three.
Yesterday, the weather forecaster was right: the sun would come late in the day, he said, but it would come.
The sun came out with all its glowing glory by noontime.
While I was driving through my date with the sacred place and time, this Nativity at noontime, the sun was up and about, lordly with its warm rays giving comfort to the soul longing for better days ahead.
At this early morning hour, I remember the plot of stories we have been telling each other, we members of the family sundered, tentatively, by this distance between us, this vast sea that always spells an adjustment in time zone, not so much because of its waves and surf and placid promises but because somewhere, someone decreed that henceforth, in the meridian those places that lie here shall have this sun and those places lying in the other part shall have the moon.
One plot is my sense of what dream constitutes.
I dream as a father: me, a stage father of some sort to children who have a strong will of their own, a confident sense of self, and a firm faith in their own abilities.
One of the three children is the firstborn who has just wrapped up his college work and whom I am pushing to take up graduate work right away.
I could have contracted the services of a tarot card reader in the vicinity of Quiapo to make that firstborn remember his promise in summer--that he would push though with his graduate work--had I known beforehand that this firstborn would change his mind all of a sudden, preferring instead to look for a work, earn his own keeps, and go after his own fantasies on how to live his life the best way he knows how.
Never mind the disappointment.
Lo and behold, the blood compact of a social contract of a family begins.
The mom: You will have to pay for the internet bills, the telephone bills, your share of the food and lodging and the daily allowance of your sister, the one in college.
The firstborn: Opo. Pero bakit ang dami? Parang sa akin na lahat ng bills?
The fist daughter, shrieking, enthused like an infatuated teenager could: Ayoko, ayokong siya ang magbibigay ng baon ko! Titipirin niya ako.
The mom: Mabuti nga sa iyo.
The firsborn: Gusto ko yan, sa akin ang baon niya, ako ang magbibigay.
The first daughter: Ayoko!
This is a scene that is common in my household.
It is veritably a battle of wits, rarely of wisdom, if at all.
Imagine the scene a thousandfold.
No one member of the family believes that he or she is not wise. That belief in one's wisdom is a given.
In this case, the specific difference is the wit: He or she who has the wit wins.
I had expected that the firstborn would start his graduate work this June but all of the sudden the direction of the wind changed.
I had told him that we can still get by sending him to his masters, that the power of the purse, however limited it is, can still afford to see him through till he finishes.
Yes, he said for awhile.
But even house rats have the right to change their minds, I suppose.
So this past few days, it became a battle of wits until I realized that I am at the receiving end in this game of peek-a-boo, in this game of hide-and-seek, in this cat-and-mouse game of pushing your luck too hard.
The firstborn emailed me this morning, the email on his decision to work coming off with the tenor and timbre of finality: I am not ready to catch a dream about getting an MA this soon.
I read the subtext of that statement--or I overread: I want my own money, I want my own life, I want my own independence, I want my own bank account, I want my own space to decide what is best for me.
Of course, I am pissed off.
But take it from the missus, take the context from there: Ikaw, ikaw, para kang hindi nasanay sa Amerika. Diyan, diyan, diyan, disiotso pa lang ang anak, pinapaalis sa tahanan. Ikaw, magbebeinte uno na ang anak mo, kinukupkop mo pa. Hayaan mo siyang mag-isip.
I am jolted of the finality of what she says, the missus.
It is true: the firstborn is going to be his own man in a few days--and he should be his own man.
He is no longer the son born into the chaos of the interregnum between The Assassination and the first-ever People Revolution.
I was a young instructor then at the royal and pontifical university and when he was born, that was the time that I joined the fist-ever strike called by the faculty union of the university to protest the syphoning of our money to other pockets other than our own.
Now, I let go of that son to dare.
I look at the morning gloom.
I look at the email.
There is gloom in the email, there is gloom in the morning.
I let go of the sun; it is going to come to its own by noontime.
I let go of the son; he is going to come to his own in the noontime of his own man and his own mind.
A. S. Agcaoili
June 10, 2006