I first met Daddy Toming a mere 5 years ago, as his namesake son’s girlfriend being introduced to the family. Of course these were not ordinary circumstances—I was 39 years old, four years older than his son and with two sons from a previous marriage to boot.
Daddy Toming was 78 at the time, and I daresay he was dismayed by the fact that his second son, a 35 year-old eligible bachelor, the carrier of his name, had fallen in love with “damaged goods”. It just isn’t done.
But even then I think he was more dismayed by the fact that he was nearing his 80th year and he still was not a grandfather. I think that was what softened his heart against the stern propriety that he was born and raised with, to accept me into his house on his 78th birthday. It was on that day when I first held his right hand to my forehead as a sign of respect.
In the following days I was to realize that whatever his reservations about his son’s relationship with me was to melt in the prospect of becoming a grandfather. He soon became cohorts with my second son Maui, gleefully going behind my back when he bought pellets for Maui’s toy rifle, something which I had insisted was contraband. But that’s what grandparents are for: if kids can’t get something from their parents, they can be sure their grandparents will provide.
Hardly a week after Maia was born three years ago, Daddy Toming had held her in his arms. He was wondering why she was so thin at the time, and suggested that I should supplement breastfeeding with formula milk that he himself will buy, just so his granddaughter will grow faster. Of course no such supplementing happened, but he was more than delighted to have seen his first grandchild grow into a happy, healthy, rambunctious little girl.
Perhaps one of my biggest regrets is not having met Daddy Toming sooner, even under different circumstances. He had had by that time suffered the loss of much of his hearing, and only Mama Maring could really talk to him. Even in the later years only talk of Freemasonry could magically restore his hearing, when his namesake went on the path of becoming a Freemason, like himself.
All the stories that I know of my father-in-law I heard from his son. I was never witness to the Toming in the prime of his life, except through the pictures, frayed and faded, that my husband and I scanned in order to preserve them.
But I will remember how a man so rigid in his ways had set aside his opinions and welcomed someone in my circumstances into his family. And I think that says a lot for a man like Crisostomo Padua Gaerlan.
May he rest in peace.