I've reached a new milestone.
Within my extended family there is structure. Traditional structure of old world customs and heirarchy. Elders are to be respected. Being an "American," I've always struggled with this - trying to fight against the tide to gain that respect and position before my time.
Over the years, as my cousins and I collectively became older and a younger generation took out places, I moved up in rank and respect. As time passed, I found myself in the odd position of being mano'd to (mano po being the old custom of respect for elders by taking their hand and placing the back of that hand to your forehead). It became unfamiliar to be the "elder" amongst a growing sea of nephews and nieces.
And now, I've reached a level wholly shocking to me.
The Lolo, or grandfather, level.
A few weeks ago, my niece calls me from Illinois to ask if I will be the ninong (godfather) to her newborn daughter. Of course I would and found myself in the Chicagoland area this past weekend for the baptism. My niece is the oldest daughter of my eldest cousin - the one person in our hierarchy who doesn't call anyone "kuya" or "ate" because he's the oldest and doesn't have to. It's the position of ultimate privilege.
Anyway, I'm hanging around the house and realize that people are catering to me. There's no need for me to get up and get a drink, someone will get it for me. Need a little more rice? Not a problem. Don't get up. Of course, I get up and give my seat to one of the aunties because that's how it works. I'm still in the middle of the overall hierarchy and always subordinate to the aunt/uncle level above me.
But as I'm sitting there, secretly enjoying the luxury of respect, it hits me: I'm now on the "Lolo Level."
So, there's my cousin and his daughter, who is my niece, and it's her daughter - his granddaugher and, therefore, placing me on the same grandparent level.
Yes, I know there are some of you who will want to argue with this structure but regardless of what you think, this is how it works in my familys' structure.
And the thought that I'm now at the Lolo Level is just weird to me. I'm not THAT old.
Oh well, at least I'm still dating younger women... dirty old man that I am....hehehe.