By David Haldane
Jan. 23, 2020
Her name will be Adira.
In Hebrew it means strong, noble and powerful; all qualities I would impart to my new daughter, expected to enter the world sometime in April. Twenty years ago, the last thing I’d have predicted for myself would be becoming a father again at age 71. But here we are and here she will soon be, so predictions have morphed into planning and we’ve decided to call her Adira.
Back in 2008 when I married a beautiful Filipina 34 years my junior, we talked about the possibility of this happening. Having already fathered two children in a previous marriage – a boy now 32 and a girl 35 – I had no pressing need for more. But Ivy was still young and childless, and I recognized the importance of family in Pinoy culture. So I promised not to stand in the way and soon our beloved son, Isaac, was born. The second child was more difficult; after a series of miscarriages, we decided to leave it to God. Recently, it seems, He spoke. And so, barring some unforeseen shift in the winds of fate, nine-year-old Isaac will soon have a sister.
He wasn’t initially overjoyed by that news. “No,” he insisted, “not a girl, a boy! I want a baby brother, not a sister.” After some parental coaxing, his attitude softened somewhat until the other day, patting his mom’s quite-ample tummy, Isaac told her that he’s anxious for the baby to come out. He also expressed the hope that she have twins; a boy and a girl. Needless to say, it’s a hope that neither parent shares.
So what will all this mean to the future of our lives? First off, of course, it means that we’ll be very busy for a while. Though not as busy, I suspect, as if we still lived in the U.S. where families are scattered and help hard to find. Here in the Philippines, fortunately, we’re likely to be surrounded by loving friends and relatives all eager to pitch in.
But there’s a deeper meaning, I think, and it has to do with roots. We came to this country nearly two years ago after more than a decade of living in the States. That’s where our son was born and where Ivy built a career. It’s also the place I spent my childhood and wherein my only remaining blood relatives still live.
Our intention in coming to the Philippines was to make it our home. As anyone who’s ever migrated to a new country will tell you, though, that can be a very long process. For us it began with finding a piece of land in a spot that we loved and spending the next several years building the house of our dreams. Once we got here, of course, there were lots of details to arrange; where to keep our money, how to access it and how to take care of the things left behind. Not to mention getting the proper visa for me (both Ivy and Isaac are dual US/Philippine citizens), arranging for healthcare, buying furniture and, well, for Daddy and Isaac at least, adjusting to a culture that’s brand spanking new.
But here’s the thing; a house is not necessarily a home. Not, that is, until a certain marker has been reached; the crossing of an invisible – almost mystical – psychic line. For us, I believe, that line will be the birth of our child in this strange new land, the first member of our young family, after Ivy, who will be more Filipino than American.
Shortly after moving into our house, Ivy and I hung a single piece of art on its wall; a canvas mosaic depicting an American and Philippine flag merged into one. I suppose it represented our idealistic vision of what the future might hold. With the birth of Adira, that vision becomes real.
And what of a septuagenarian becoming a father? No worries, I’ve assured my nervous wife, each new baby lengthens my lifespan by at least twenty years. So far, she doesn’t believe me. I intend to prove that it’s true.
David Haldane is the author of an award-winning memoir called “Nazis & Nudists.” A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an American journalist, essayist and radio broadcaster whose 2018 story of the California desert garnered a Golden Mike award in feature reporting. He recently moved to Mindanao with his Filipino wife and their nine-year-old son. This column tells the unfolding story of that great adventure. http:///www.davidshaldane.com
Published originally in Mindanao Gold Star Daily