In 2016 I arrived back in Subic Bay in Late November to a much chubbier girlfriend. chubby in that certain way that makes you think that the cause was not excess calories, but another vice. There is a certain inherent danger in making an assumptive remark about a person’s potential pregnancy when it may turn out they have really just been gaining a bit of extra girth. It took about a day and a half for the truth to come out. We sat on the bed at “By The Sea Resort” and she cried and showed me the pills she had been given to terminate the pregnancy. I went online and did some research. The where an ulcer medication that listed potential for miscarriage as a side effect. She had been given specific instructions as to how to use the pills to end the pregnancy. Take two, insert one, Irene cried, told me she was drunk, only one time, after a party. I didn’t really believe this, but ok. I took the pills from her and flushed them down the toilet in the CR. She told me her cycle was always crazy, so she wasn’t sure if she was pregnant when she first didn’t get her menstruation, and then how much she worried once she realized she was. I asked her if she had been going for check-ups, and she hadn’t. We talked a little and I gave her 1000 peso for the doctor and left to go diving.
Four hours and two dives later I was rinsing gear outside the Arizona Dive shop when she rolled up in a trike carrying an ultrasound and a prescription for vitamins. Mike, the excellent Irish dive guide at Arizona, patted her on the belly and remarked she “must be eating a lot of extra rice!” Mike is an excellent guide and diver, and considerably more fearless then I am when confronting potentially pregnant women. Life goes on. There are a lot of imperfect relationships and situations in the world, and this was not a foundation you would choose as a starting point for a bright future, but life is not perfect.
In 2014, a year after we had first met, I returned to the Philippines and Irene and the family greeted me at the airport. Ivy Joy, Irene’s only child, was 7 years old at the time. We had spoken on the phone and on Skype often during the previous year. She took my hand and walked me to the waiting taxi. Since that day, wherever we go, my daughter and I hold hands. She has become the most important person in my world. Years later, watching Irene holding the ultrasound and the vitamins, I was not considering as much the how we got here, but where too next? I guess an appropriate shipwreck analogy would be, once you are in the water and she ship is gone, it is no longer time to worry about how to repair the leak. You’re moving forward, swimming, or you drown. Long distance relationships are pretty challenging from the beginning. I benefit from a business that keeps me on my toes most of my waking hours from March until November, without a lot of time for anything else. It is a non-traditional formula that works for me, 7 days a week from the end of March until mid-November, then diving and spending my time here. I was never foolish enough to think it was a good arrangement for a family situation, but it is what I have been committed to. The other option would be to walk away.
Almost two years later and I am waking up Saturday morning to Lyka Rose’s happy noises as she bounces on the bed. Friday was the “Jolly Joker”, our big night out, and I am tired and sightly hung over. It is just after 7 AM and Irene is in full igloo mode, wrapped in covers, hiding and hibernating in her corner of the mattress. Lyka pulls the blankets off my feet. She is awake and ready for the day, regardless of the rest of the family. She slides off the bed, and retrieves my shorts from the floor where I discarded them not so many hours ago. I’m impressed. Not quite 2 years old, this is a smart little girl. Previous mornings I had made her wait for me while I got my own shorts before I opened the bedroom door and let her lead me out into the apartment. I pull on my shorts and she takes my hand and guides me to my office chair sitting near the bed, pointing to the seat and raising her arms to be lifted. I put her on the chair and push it towards the door, and for the first 30 minutes of my day wheel her slowly in circles around the kitchen. The rest of the household is concious, if not awake and active, and Lyka enjoys the views as we repeat a very small path around the almost sleeping faces in our very small apartment.
The Water Baby
Biologically, Lyka Rose is not my daughter, but sometimes I think their are larger powers at play. She is, beyond any doubt, a water baby. She loves baths, and screams and cries when they are over. She revels in the cool water, splashing and laughing, and she has know how to turn on the water tap in the laundry area since she could walk. When I first arrived in Subic this year we checked into the Palm Tree Resort to be next to the dive shop and so Ivy Joy and her cousins could swim and enjoy the beach. The first morning we ate breakfast at the hotel’s second floor restaurant. Lyka started as usual, not sitting still, walking around the table. She came to me and grabbed my finger, pulling me. I followed as she lead me across the restaurant, then down the stairway which led to the ground floor. Once down stairs, she pulled me right to the pool where she immediately tried to get in. I let her splash her feet on the top landing, and finally had to carry her back to the resturaunt against her will. Irene was not amused with the slightly soggy baby, but in my heart I was thrilled. During our stay at the Palm Tree Lyka would delight in every second in the pool until shivering and blue lipped, Irene would bundle her into a towel as she shrieked and screamed to go back in the water. Later in the trip we visited a pool near us in the Subic Freeport zone. The kiddie area was a very safe 10″ deep shallow pond with gentle water jets. Lyka spent most of the time in the kiddie area pointing to the adjoining big pool, and trying to escape into the deeper water, or trying to climb the stairs to the small kids water slide that was built into the fake rock island rising above the shallow pool. It was a short, gentle slide that ended in the deeper pool. When we first arrived, I had quickly relented and carried her up to the top of the slide, placing her on my lap before slipping down. In hindsight, the slide was a little quicker than I expected ,and I should have maybe taken a slower approach, but we slid into the big pool, ducking under for a fraction of a second before popping back to the surface to hear Irene shrieking. Lyka paused for just a moment after as I held her and Irene directed us back to the kiddie area. I was nervous she was startled by the sudden dunk, but once back in the shallow area she intermediately began pointing to the bigger slide on the other side of the pool, ready for the next splash.
When I was a child, I often found my way into the water, even when I was not supposed to. Now I watch Lyka Rose always on the lookout for her next opportunity to swim or splash, and just running her hands under the water in the sink for her is pure bliss. We may not share biology, but it does seems to me larger forces may be involved, and a larger kinship binds us. We are both water babies.