For my dad’s seventieth birthday, my mom whipped up an extravaganza, decking their home with balloons and lights and candles, setting up party tents in the garage and backyard, preparing a spread for roughly a hundred of their closest friends. We children were reduced to children again–that is, told to stay out of the way as the house was being decorated, and more importantly, made to prepare a song-and-dance program. Fortunately, the bulk of it could be delegated to the grandchildren, but we couldn’t not do anything at all, and so my sister and I rehearsed a couple of my dad’s favorites at the last minute, and as expected, come performance time, she played the piano perfectly, while I botched the second-to-the-last line of the third and last song, looking like a total idiot as I tried to decipher the words my mom was mouthing to coax me out of forgetfulness while my dad gestured for me to hold the mic closer to my mouth. Nothing like a song-and-dance program to eradicate, in the span of a few minutes, one’s hard-earned integrity.

Later on, after a few speeches by my dad’s friends, we daughters were prodded to speak up, and as expected, my sisters turned weepy right away, while I channeled all energies toward resisting the teary vibe, and so ended up talking about my regular trips with my dad to the dentist (WTF?) when I was thirteen because I had braces on and had to go to the dentist every couple of weeks, and how he was so nice because he brought me to the dentist regularly and then took me to the bookstore afterwards as reward. And how, the whole time I was in Europe to work on a book, my dad sent me a total of one message which said, “Anak, anong oras na dyan?” Ayun. Yun ang nasabi ko tungkol sa tatay kong mahal sa harap ng lahat ng kaibigan niya. I did manage to say he was patient enough to put up with three different kinds of crazy in the form of three daughters, which had my sisters nodding in agreement, and my mom and dad beaming with pride.

Baby birds. Spotted by my dad in the garden on my birthday last year. Clearly the highlight of his day.

Baby birds. Spotted by my dad in the garden on my birthday last year. Clearly the highlight of his day.

Mama (or Papa?) bird. Not so happy about grumpy old man and gaggle of girls inspecting the babes.

Mama (or Papa?) bird. Not so happy about grumpy old man and gaggle of girls inspecting the babes.