I’m not an overly sentimental fellow and consequently often forget things like birthdays, anniversaries, and such, but for the past three weeks, my brother had persistently reminded me about my father’s grand 75th birthday celebration. My luck being as it is, the date fell on the very same date I had to be in Bangkok on work. I tried to adjust the work dates but there was simply no other available slot if we were to make our deadlines. I consoled myself with the thought that my peripatetic sister was also going to miss Papa’s Big Birthday Bash, still roaming as she was somewhere in the great plains of the USA with my niece.
And yet, a nagging voice in the back of my head said I was going to regret missing Pop’s 75th someday. I just had no idea how close someday might have been.
I texted the birthday boy as soon as I awoke in my hotel room early on his birthday, expressing my best wishes and my regrets for being unable to attend. My mother responded 8 hours later on his behalf, saying Pop ran out of load and was relaying his thanks to me. In hindsight, it’s not far-fetched that he was actually making tampo and was therefore not deigning to text me, his prodigal Bangkok-loving firstborn who couldn’t be bothered to delegate work to someone else in order to attend his 75th and enjoy a long evening of grilling from all his well-meaning, meddlesome siblings, who at this late date still demand grand-nephews from me.
It’s not like I’m going to inherit a kingdom or anything that I have any pressing needs for heirs.
I rationalized my unconscionable absence from this grand fete by recalling how I barely knew my father while I was growing up, thanks to his absences that sometimes ran for years on end. Like myself nowadays, he, too, was often away on business back then. I’ve long stopped blaming him for being an absentee father, thanks in part to a screeching flock of harpies I called aunts, who would denounce me as an ungrateful wretch for demanding my father’s presence while he was away in foreign, exotic lands making moolah and, presumably, some whoopee as well.
Fast-forward, and kettle, thou art black.
At any rate, we were flying into bad weather coming into Manila last Sunday, Mother’s Day. I had heard on the news in my hotel room earlier that morning that a storm was headed towards the Philippines, and, as icing on the cake, that a plane had crashed while attempting to land in Indonesia, killing all 27 passengers aboard.
Comforting thoughts to have when one is about to spend three hours strapped onto a metal tube hurtling at high speeds 37,000 feet above the earth.
And because I can be morbid, fleeting thoughts in my addled brain ran along the lines of “What a terrible Mother’s Day present it would be if, you know, the plane crashed.” And while the air lanes between Bangkok and Manila have certain areas of turbulence, the flight back was especially bumpy. I’ve long gotten used to turbulence but our approach to Manila was zero-visibility, blanketed in nothing but gloomy gray clouds. It was surreal and discomfiting to look outside the windows and see a fast-moving wall of gray-white mist and nothing else. At any moment I thought we would be joining the cast of Lost and I’d have to spend the rest of my life on that wretched island.
I only managed to heave a sigh of relief once we broke cloud cover and Manila’s city lights finally came into view, twinkling like little beacons of hope miles below. The aircraft made its approach and I felt we were about to do a crosswind landing – it just felt the craft was not making a direct approach but rather was swerving from right to left approaching the runway. We landed with a thud and the aircraft lurched as a Pinoy seaman started to clap, only to promptly stop when no one else joined in.
I left Manila in sweltering 37 degree heat, and returned in the eye of a deluge.
It took Centennial Airport close to an hour to unload our baggage, with three flights eventually sharing the single - and empty - baggage carousel. Given the bumpy ride, I was uncharacteristically resigned to the hold-up – it wasn’t like I was so eager to get back to the Tartarus I currently call home, anyway.
It wasn’t until the next day that I learned that lightning had struck the aircraft we had just disembarked from minutes earlier, injuring 9 ground crewmen. Hence, the delay in unloading our baggage. Interestingly, there was no exceptional commotion among the Centennial staff in the Arrivals area regarding the incident; the P.A. system merely apologized to us for the delay, citing “technical problems.”
I would’ve felt so guilty had I groused about the delay while Storm was zapping the bejesus out of some PAL personnel.
And tonight, this is the first story I read on CNN.