April has become my birthday month after I found out late in life that I was born on a date other than the one recorded on my Identity Card which has been 7 April from time immemorial and based on which record I turned 75 yesterday.
Yesterday was indeed an epochal day. It marked the 20th anniversary of my retirement from my only paid job. For a host of reasons, I had not elected to retire at a later age when I could and was unable not to retire when I reached that normal retirement age of 55 without approval from the authority. We had planned the evening on that occasion with a dinner with our closest friends in a hotel where Rosita and I would stay for the night with a view to making our way to Queen Elizabeth Hospital the morning after for the medical report that spelled the beginning of the end of an era for us, which Rosita had kept for a few days so as not to upset me that evening. She broke the news to me anyway before I fell asleep, largely under the influence of the wine at dinner, which I had guessed anyway from the logistics. It all seemed so vivid, even after 20 years.
Yesterday came and passed, as did the last 20 years. There must be a moral is the last sentence, which I might expand in the sequel to The Middle Child, if it ever appears. But I have increasingly been reminding myself to work on the project, having been encouraged every now and then by friends who had acquired the book though not necessarily had run through it. I met Stella in Macau recently who came over to my table at dinner and told me how appreciative she was when she got it; young Ping Sum said in his birthday greetings that he had read it once and was about to do a re-read; and a friend who recently got it through Su said he would read it during the holidays. All rather uplifting.
Looking back over the past week, I had been through a few birthday parties in my name. As early as April 2, Sunday, Marty and Shirley, parents of my god sons, had me cut a piece of cheese cake from Starbucks HKU at lunch and don a special birthday glasses, which not only made me look funny, but also enabled me to see clearer. That same evening, Bosco, Rosita’s brother, came with his wife Julia and her sister Helen to Mei Foo where we had more seafood food and plenty of birthday drinks. The next evening, we had dinner in Central with a group of friends Su named Champagne Friends for obvious reasons. Everyone had a lot to drink. Earlier in the evening, Peter came back from Shenzhen with a special birthday gift for me, a hulu or gourd shaped flask made of fine porcelain in light green, handcrafted by some masters in Chekiang. Now hulu in Putonghua rhymed with fulu, meaning fame and fortune, and implying two of the three cardinal gods together with longevity. It was very meaningful and thoughtful memorabilia indeed. Even Terence who hadn’t been drinking for a while on health grounds had a few drinks too. In a moment of weakness, I picked up the bill against their objections, but they relented after fixing another dinner date in June. There was an aftermath or sequel to the evening which I discovered this morning when I tried to locate the credit card with which I signed off the bill. I couldn’t find it; so eventually I reported it lost; and I was grateful that the bank staff was sufficiently helpful and effective on the job. Which brings me to 4 April when a group of younger brethren had decided almost a month earlier to celebrate my birthday. We went to a renowned eatery in Wanchai. Once again, there were plenty of wine and whisky so much so we had to bring home the left over. Then came April 5, on which date I had booked a table of four at KCC Grill Room to mark my birthday with two brethren, PPE and KT, using the birthday package offered by the Club. It was a lovely dinner and we all decided to do it more. On April 6, we had nothing scheduled in particular, but after lunch Su brought back a heavy lobster and something else from the fishmonger. Su decided to host a birthday dinner between us, which lasted rather long, which brings us to yesterday. I had a light breakfast, salad and black coffee with Julian and went home after gym. We then went for the Good Friday service at Ricci Hall. In the evening, Su picked up some fish from the vendor, but I began to develop flu symptoms. I retired early; and we would go for the Holy Saturday rituals later in the evening.
Now, Su had uploaded pictures of the parties and annotated her posts, which attracted more than a few followings since April 2, so much so that I have been busy replying to the birthday greetings even before the proper or official date, when more greetings poured in. We thank you for all your birthday greetings and well wishes. Some posts had attracted more followings and responses, but we thank you all the same. The social media is indeed a powerful vehicle to bring people together, if and when there is a will. We would see how things pan out.