Friday, January 8, 2010

"I remember Turo"

For over a year now, since he died shortly after I met him after not having seen or talked to him for almost 32 years, I still can't seem to shake off the memory of Turo (Arturo) Dionson. It's not an unpleasant feeling at all...melancholy perhaps. I am drawn to writing about him because I admired his ordinariness and quiet endurance. He had cause to complain about his lot in life but what I will always remember when I saw him for the last time in mid-2008 was his serene smile.
He was a third cousin, meaning our grandparents were first cousins. He was the illegitimate son of my mother's second cousin, forsaken by his father (for whom he was named after) from the very beginning, not treated like a "real" grandson by his grandparents. He was older than I by a few years. He played soccer well. He was very pleasant and kind, not a mean bone in his body. We weren't close; he was just another cousin out of 50+ cousins in town.
Then we lost contact with each other for 31 years. By an accident of birth, I ended up in Canada with its bounty and good fortune. He stayed in the Philippines, doing what everyone else does to make a living. It is not an easy life.
We met each other for the first time (since 1977) in Aug 2008. We talked about old times, the travails of being a parent. I am familiar with what it takes to survive in the Philippines; it is not easy. Unless one is born in that environment, one can't imagine what the life is like. One lives from day to day, week to week. One is never sure where tomorrow's food money is coming from. The worst is the feeling of utter helplessness in providing for your children!
Turo didn't talk about such things with me; knowing him, he would have felt it an imposition. He was proud of his son, he was proud his soccer skills were still intact, and he was very happy to see me. I was very happy to see him; it reinforced my belief in the capacity of man to endure. I gave him all the soccer jerseys I have owned through the years playing in local recreational leagues.
Turo died the following month, presumably of a heart attack. I loved him for himself and for what he stood for. He didn't waste time being unhappy. He knew what was important in this life.

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