Saturnino P. Javier, MD, FPCP, FPCC, FACC

Dr. Saturnino P. Javier is an interventional cardiologist at Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital and Medical Center. He is a past president of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) and past editor of PHA’s Newsbriefs

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A few times in a parent’s life, a situation or a word or both can trigger quite a heartwarming (choked-up) moment. I have my own – which I distinctly remember – and keep recalling for the ‘feel good’ sense they bring about. These spontaneous actions or candid statements by our own children – at any age, at any time – can add a silver lining to the challenging tasks of parenting.

Luigi, my eldest, accomplished this a number of times. But what remained indelible in my mind was this interview for high school where he effortlessly dropped the most rewarding bombshell. When asked, who his role models were, he blurted out – loudly and clearly – without any momentary pause or fleeting hesitation – “My dad’. It sounded like it was a reply that was just waiting to be said, not just a perfunctory oration or a tentative pronouncement.

This was the same Luigi who deviated amusingly from prior reminders and orientation on how to respond to interviewers when he was applying at Ridge Field Primary School in Alabang many years ago. At age seven, he was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. He replied he wanted to be a doctor. He had previously learned (or been told) that doctors can heal people of their illnesses and help people get out of their miserable conditions. This time, when he was asked why he wanted to be a doctor, he replied – with all the candor and directness one could muster – “So I can have many money(sic) to go to Time Zone.” Both parents and interviewer erupted into boisterous laughter.

Franco, my second, on his 17th birthday, had a dinner celebration at Champetre in Bonifacio St. (Global City). As everyone was enjoying dessert after partaking off of steaks, pasta and mussels, he suddenly stood and delivered a monologue – as if he had a stage with floodlights on. Misty-eyed, in a slightly cracking, but firm voice, he rambled a speech in a monotone. Yet, this was a monotonous delivery that sounded like the most magnificent one – pleasing, elating and humbling. He expressed his appreciation for all that his parents had done for him in all of 17 years (really now?), apologies for what he did that could have disappointed us (really again?) and offered to be the better person he could ever be (whoa!). The grandparents were teary-eyed. “Where did that come from?” – I asked the mother, and the mother could just holler in glee and pride. “That was his thing alone. No one coached him,” she replied.

Sofia, my youngest, captured her loving thoughts for a birthday gift that seemed like a schmaltzy present but which nonetheless tugged at the heartstrings. That was a pillow – that emblazoned the phrase, ”No. 1 Dad”. “Suck it up”—was all that the brothers could say as they ganged up teasing her. (Well, that pillow now rests comfortably on my lounging chair in the study room.)

Touching gestures and meaningful words have a way of being remembered for their very simplicity—the raw, unbridled sincerity and spontaneity behind them. Whether it be an interview response, an impromptu speech or a simple token, they can ensure lasting impact on our memory centers. Those gestures have certainly been followed by many more acts of kindness and thoughtfulness. Yet those priceless moments resonate with such pristine rawness that they are etched permanently on one’s consciousness.

For many parents, it is a foregone conclusion that parenting is a task in which everyone is expected to do well. Others may fall short of this task, while others will be judged to have done very well. In whatever manner we raise our children, or whatever scenario our children have to deal with as they grow up, it is expected that time will tell how parental tasks and responsibilities have been integrated onto personal values and ideals – when they finally stand on their own – as individuals, as citizens, as professionals, or as parents themselves. But just as well, what they do NOT become also speaks highly of what values they have imbibed, what convictions they have assimilated.

Historical anecdotes may serve in various ways – depending on what paths our children have taken on. They can become rewarding validations – if they have become upright individuals – or just painful reminders or even, temporary palliation, if the outcome has turned out otherwise.

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