As we approach the Thanksgiving month of November, we not only start thinking of the blessings but also the challenges that we all have to thank for and especially those individuals who made things possible for yourself. Obviously, this always starts with the All Magnanimous Lord, our God, our parents, our family and friends. Today, I am paying tribute and special words of THANK YOU’s to a lovely and amazing nonagenarians now, Captain James & Marie Nixon of New Jersey and Florida, whom a lot of us Filipino Americans endearingly call Mom & Dad.
Dad’s first encounter with Filipinos was in WWII serving in the US Navy in Luzon, where he was injured and attributed his survival to the locals. After his recovery, he tried to “smuggle” food and other goods from his ship and distributed the supplies to the natives who were “living in nipa hut shanties” while others lived in caves. Upon his return to the United States, he made it his mission to assist Filipinos, especially those in the Exchange Program of Nurses and Doctors. This mission was further reinforced when he was exposed and experienced first-hand, the “patented” Filipino way of TENDER, LOVING CARE of both Filipino doctors and nurses at Saint Barnabas Medical Centre in New Jersey.
Although Dad Nixon retired as Chief of the Essex County Police Department, NJ, I first met him as a Sargent, bringing ambulance patients with various medical problems as a volunteer and instructor of first-aid squads to SBMC emergency room. I, being single and far away from home, I elected to keep myself occupied in the ER and the OR, especially during weekends. It was during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Easter brunch festivities that affected us the most. Hence, when Mom and Dad together with their only son, Billy and daughter, Madeline extend their invitations to join them during these holidays, I am sure, it was not only me but the rest of their “adopted” Fil-Am children who were not only too ecstatic and thankful for these generous gestures. The Nixon’s home has since been the home of almost all foreign exchange doctors and nurses until they retired in Osprey, Florida. Mom’s cream puff, pasta (being of Italian descent) roasted & honey baked turkey, and of course, my favourite Italian “wedding soup” are considered Mom’s signature dishes during these holidays. In between these parental activities, Mom & Dad also tend to some housing, transportation, immigration, financial needs, including taking us to either Kennedy/ Newark airports for arrival/departure chores.
Two particular incidents that will be everlastingly etched in my mind was when I brought Nora to their house and ask for their blessing for our planned wedding October 24, 1970. They not only gave their blessings but also accepted to give the bride away, in lieu of Nora’s father who was in the Philippines. Dad even offered his brand-new Cadillac as our bridal car. After attending all the rituals that a Roman Catholic wedding requires, Dad graciously gave up the privilege of giving away the bride when Nora’s father arrived at Kennedy airport 24 hours before the wedding day. Dad Nixon then insisted that he would be our chauffeur of his new and designated bridal Cadillac. What a treat it was, and I felt like a Million Dollar Bucks!! A couple of nobodies from a faraway third-world country riding in a new caddie chauffeured by the Chief of Police of Essex County! The other incident was when I finally acceded to his prodding of submitting my US immigration papers. I always bent on going back to the Philippines after my plastic surgical training. However, when Martial Law was declared, my parents advised me to stay put until the political climate settled down, which sentiment the Nixons agreed. After sitting on my application for years, Dad asked me again, “Jess, did you ever fill out and submit the immigration forms that I gave you?” After giving him all the run-around alibis I could think of, he bawled me out in a typical Irish but fatherly and firm conviction, ”Fill out & submit that GOD#### papers! At least you will have the option to stay legally, should you change your mind.” He accompanied me to the head of NJ Immigration office and handed the forms personally to Mr. Dominic. Thanks, Mom & Dad, for your foresight and stubborn insistence. Literally, I and my family owe you my American life, which, needless to say, I am most proud, humbled and honoured to have just as I am with my Philippine ancestry.
For the past decade or two, Nora and I, together with Drs. Cesar & Mila Puray, have visited Mom and Dad in Osprey, Florida, where they now reside. Adopted children, Shay, Dudley, and wife Jane Cabildo, former New Jersey residents themselves moved to nearby Nokomis, Florida to be closer to Mom and Dad. In the 60’s, the Cabildos, particularly Vivian and husband, Rusty Quinton, a well-known Philippine social media columnist/editor of a national newspaper were instrumental in the Nixon’s sentimental journey back to the Philippines meeting some of the government dignitaries and top entertainment stars with special mention of meeting and being entertained by Asia’s Queen of Songs, the one and only Pilita Corrales. The Nixons have nothing but fun memories of their post-war visit to the Philippines. Back to the US, The Nixons used to attend our PMAC Medical Balls, especially during our induction as Presidents of PMAC & Its Auxiliary, the International Medical Council of Illinois Balls and other important family events, such as weddings of our kids. Oftentimes, Dad pilots one of their two private aircrafts in their visits to Chicago. He is a seasoned private and commercial pilot and son, Billy, our wedding bestman, a licensed flight instructor, offered me several times how to fly which I politely rejected. A decision which later remained one of my major regrets even up to the present. Instead, I opted learning and going thru the rigors of becoming the best plastic surgeon I can be. Every 3 to 5 years, the Purays and the Correses take the Nixons on cruises as a small token of our love, appreciation and everlasting gratitude for ALL the countless favors they have done for us, which we know, no amount of pecuniary value can represent.
Last month, together with the Purays, we paid Mom and Dad a short visit on the suggestion of our sister, Shay, because of their “failing health” and other related issues. To our surprise, the couple still live in their own house without full-time domestic assistance. Except for a noticeable but occasional “senior moment” episodes, Mom still cooks and Dad still drives. They will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary on Nov. 5 which we could not attend because of previously scheduled OPD procedure. Hence, we took them out for an advanced celebration. Before our departure back to Chicago, we did advise them not to be bashful in seeking assistance from all of us. They should not take unnecessary risks that may endanger their overall safety, health or well-being, as there are government social services that address these common social issues designed specifically for seniors.
Our flight back kept me reflecting about Mom and Dad’s longevity and the wonderful work of sharing their wisdom and love for us all these years. What an opportunity to thank them! How many of us are given a chance of writing an honest-to-goodness THANK YOU letter to our parents, while they are still alive? How many of us deliver thank you speeches to our parents while they can still hear and appreciate it? I, certainly, have NOT, and just like most of the general population, we only write and give glowing tributes to loved ones when SUCH LOVED ones are already DEAD. May I, therefore, take this once-in-a-lifetime chance of echoing my siblings’ and their families’ heartfelt thank you’s to our genetic parents, the late Frank, Sr. & Anacorita Corres via this tribute to our amazing NONAGENARIAN American Mom & Dad Nixon. “FOR ALL THE EXAMPLES AND LESSONS YOU HAVE SHOWN AND GIVEN US; FOR ALL THE SACRIFICES YOU HAVE TOILED FOR US; FOR ALL THE AFFECTION AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE; FOR ALL THAT YOU ARE, AND LASTLY, FOR YOU, OUR DAD, CAPTAIN JAMES DONALD NIXON, LATE AS IT MIGHT BE, FOR YOUR US NAVAL SERVICES IN WWII, ESPECIALLY IN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE PACIFIC; AND KEEPING OUR SAFETY AND PEACE IN NEW JERSEY AS AN OFFICER-OF-THE-LAW, A TRIPLE BOOM-BOOM THANK YOU TO YOU AND AMERICA, FROM ALL OF US FIL-AMS AND AN EVER-GRATEFUL FILIPINO PEOPLE FOR OUR LIBERTY!
A HAPPY THANKSGIVING AND GOD BLESS US ALL!
“THE NIXONS, AMAZING NONAGENARIANS WE HAVE THE PRIVILEGED OF CALLING MOM & DAD.”