How I got Wrinkled before I got Old

Wrinkles normally start to form at age 30, when our skin gets thinner, drier and less elastic.

I noticed creases on my forehead, knotted brows, and crow’s feet at the corners of my eyes long before I reached that age.

How they got there is a story to tell…

My parents initially planned for three kids. As far as my age of consciousness can take me back to the past, there were only three siblings in the family. Then they went on a baby-making spree ending with seven.

But let me start when there just the three of us.

The eldest was a girl. Being the eldest, and a girl, she was my dad’s darling. The third was a boy. Being the youngest, and a boy, my father doted on him that he got his namesake.

The middle child, the one to have the honor of suffering from middle child syndrome, was I.

Being a middle child is not the best way of growing up. It is like walking a tightrope with a difference — you don’t get a pat in the back if you make it because you are expected to, but got whacked on the butt for recklessness if you don’t.

The little Jon Snow:

It didn’t help much when my parents had those silly arguments which always evolved into custodianship of the children should they split up. My parents were not legally married when I was born. So that made me and my sister illegitimate.

My mother insisted that I be with her since she was still legally single when I came into this world. My father, on the other hand, was just as insistent that I should be with him.

Why? I really don’t know. I was too young to understand adult things but it planted a seed of insecurity in me. It made me ask, “Whose son am I?”

Jon Snow is better off.

I was the house watch:

I was left with my sister and brother each time my parents were away. It was always a horrific experience.

Since the dawn of man, sibling rivalry has always existed. Good examples were that of Cain and Abel, and Esau and Jacob. Ours was evident each time we were left at home.

When my sister picked on me and I fought back, sure as hell, I got punished for going against an elder. When my brother acted up on me and I gave him a whack, sure as hell, I got punished because, being older, I was suppose to exercise restraint.

I loved it when my parents took them along to see a movie, for example, or attend a party and left me behind to watch the house. It gave me space.

Sure, I resented those times. But I did not put up tantrums. I kept it to myself, suffering in silence. But I developed an inferiority complex so deep that my teeth were unsure how to free themselves from my gums (later in life, I had to make several visits to the dentist to fix them).

Anyway, I must have done an excellent job at house tending that, at a very early age, I already did the marketing, a bit of cooking, dish and clothes washing, ironing, house cleaning, changing busted bulbs, and just about every chore there was. I even laid out electric wirings when a new bulb has to be installed somewhere in the house.

I did errands too, like making bank deposits and withdrawals even if I could barely reach the teller’s counter top and made phone calls when my sister has never touched a phone yet.

With childlike exuberance, I did them all without complaining. I was even happy, in fact, to be given such responsibilities.

I was the dumb ass:

Our elementary years gave me a respite from both of them. I met new friends, played with them, and explored with them. I became a normal kid having so much fun.

Until the report cards started coming and the scolding started flying. My sister and brother apparently were brighter than I. They have grades up in the sky while mine was stuck in the mud.

My father was a firm believer in good education and loathed poor academic grades. I, therefore, got the most pecks in the pecking order among his children.

I took his harsh reprimands in silence. Sure, I felt bad and hurt. But these were directed more at myself, not at my father. I felt bad for not being as bright as my sister and brother. I was hurt for being unable to please him.

I thought I was a failure. I thought I would never amount to anything in life, I thought I was inferior to them. It gave me self-doubt, thinking that I had a half-developed brain.

I developed an inferiority complex that made me knot my forehead and squint my eyes in fear each time I was in front of a crowd.

A frown was permanently etched on my face probably as a defense mechanism against potential bullies and hecklers.

Smiling was a torture. Having bad grades was bad enough, having bad teeth would not help my situation a bit, I thought. This became a stigma that until today, I still don’t know how to give a hearty smile.

During my elementary years, I started getting wrinkled before I was old.

My saving angel:

She was the sister of my late maternal grandfather. She was a nurse and a spinster. Perhaps because I had the features of her late brother, or because she sensed my predicament, she took me into her care.

I still lived with my family, but I spent my time with her whenever she’s around (she lived in a maternity hospital where she was the head nurse but spent her weekends in my grandmother’s house).

She showered me with love and affection. She read to me stories of Tarzan and Jane, Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae, Dagwood and Daisy Bumstead, Nancy and Hugo, Popeye and Olive, and many more.

She took me places, bought me things and took me to the movies. On many occasions she had me sleep in her quarters with other nurses. In short, I spent a great deal of my childhood with her.

Oh, how I enjoyed those days! She instilled in me the value of reading, of expanding my horizon through learning. Slowly, I started building up my self-confidence.

She was a deeply-religious woman and taught me some Christian values which became a part of me, like discipline and respect for others.

To a very large extent, she molded me into what I am today.

The metamorphosis of a dumb ass:

High school and college zipped by almost unnoticed. There were so many new things to learn, so many assignments to make, so many examinations to prepare for.

On top of that, it was the time when I started becoming an adult. Partly divorced from my parents (not financially, though), and almost always away from my sister and brother, I slowly became my own man.

I formed my own ideas and thoughts, took on some beliefs that have guided me until today, and formed new friendships that still exist at present.

Oh, because of my penchant for reading, my grades improved that in some cases I surpassed my former tormentors. They may have better raw intelligence, but I was more knowledgeable about a wide range of things; they were brighter, but I was smarter. And these were useful in both the academic and real worlds.

Meantime, another sister and two brothers came into this world and were quickly growing up. Mom tasked me to help her guide them in their formative years. The sense of responsibility I learned early on made me more dependable than my sister and brother.

Making a lemonade from my lemon:

The lines on my forehead are still very visible but the furrow between my brows is gone, so are my crow’s feet. The skin continuously rejuvenates if one is healthy.

And I think that’s a good lesson in life.

Nothing ever lasts. As long as we keep a healthy attitude, things will always turn for the better; everything will heal in due time. Our pains and sorrows, failures and setbacks, if taken in proper perspective, become invaluable lessons for the future.

I became an engineer and had a successful career — a lot better than both my sister and brother.

I went to see other places at company expense, rubbed elbows with people they can only watch from a distance, and moved in circles they can only wish they could.

But I harbored no animosity towards them. I cried, like I never cried before, when my sister died. My brother is still around and though we are never close as brothers should, we are also not at each other’s throats.

He doesn’t take it too well to be mistaken for my elder brother. He is slightly overweight, his hair is all white, he lost a front tooth (which he never plugged), and he walks with a cane due to arthritis.

Me? I am having the ball of my life.

When I look back on those days when I got wrinkled before I was old, I can’t help but smile and be thankful. They prepared me for the future.

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