“Happy 79th birthday, po! You should celebrate more this year than next year. That’s what the Chinese believe. That’s why I celebrated my 49th birthday more than my 50th.”
The tall, friendly weekend market stall owner with an easy smile said this to my Pa last Sunday at Legaspi market in response to my telling him that my Pa was turning 79 that day.
I googled it and true enough, it is a custom in China to celebrate more (or double!) when your age ends with the number 9.
Pa and I liked what that kind man shared with us. Then again, I like to celebrate my birthday – and my parents’ birthdays – every year. Why wait for a round number or even the year that ends with the number 9? Each year is deserving of its own celebration. It doesn’t have to be huge or loud or ostentatious. I quite like it when it’s small and quiet and simple. Make it meaningful. Make it count.
That day, Pa and I spent the morning at the market, then had coffee and hot chocolate at Dulcinea, took the P2P bus to Alabang, rode a tricycle home then to church just in time for 11am Mass with my nephew Marco and my sister-in-law Ann. Then we went home for lunch with many of my relatives from both my Pa’s side as well as my Ma’s.
My cousin asked me to lead the prayer. I got all choked up and cried, so grateful was I for Papa. Pa who not only turned 79 that day, but whose life was called a miracle by his doctor after he made a full recovery from his second stroke. Pa who continues to work as a lawyer for regular people – from tricycle and taxi drivers to down-and-out relatives. Pa who takes to heart every time he loses a case – especially the criminal cases where his client would need to do time. Pa who showers his grandsons with gifts. Pa who buys Ma her favourite star apple every time he sees it. Pa who is a good friend to his friends, a good brother to his siblings, a good Pa to his kids, a good husband to his wife, a good Lolo to his grandsons.
There is so much about the man and the life that he’s led to celebrate.
Not just in the years that end with the number 9.
But every year.