My recent birthday celebration had me thinking. What have I done so far for the past 28 years in this planet? Aside from mothering a lovable two-year old free-spirited child, what other significant contributions have I accomplished? Well, I earned my Bachelors degree at a reasonably prestigious university, worked for the government and been in various non-gratifying dead-end jobs, and well...that is all really. (I forget to mention finding a man who vowed to be my partner for life as I attribute that success in my emotional life mostly to him and not to me.) I am 28 years old and my friends keep on teasing that a couple of years from now my my age will no longer be contained in annual calenders, yet I haven't accomplished anything. I've had two failed attempts at getting a Master's degree and will most probably try my luck again at the start of this year. Considered as a sort of intellectual during my college years, I seem to have lost the passion for knowledge. My contemporaries have or are currently in the process of earning their higher education and yet I am here stuck in some brainless and thankless job, calling people who are not particularly overjoyed to hear my voice on a regular basis. The idealism, my heady days of intellectual pursuit, are all but memories of a quickly fading past. I long for the "old" me. Now that I am practically an "old adult" on the brim of becoming a young thirty-something person, I suddenly have this inexplainable longing for my past. A past that I never really enjoyed, but now desperately want to go back to.
Extending way way beyond my college days, my mind keeps flashing back with the memories of my long-forgotten childhood. Most probably because as I presently write this I can vivdly envision my grandfather or my "Tatay" as I fondly called him idly whiling away time on his deathbed in a rural place called Caranas in my province of Iloilo. He is dying and everybody knows it, but we cannot do anything about it. He has reached his golden years, now more than 80 years of age, he has probably outlived most of his peers. My grandfather's sister, my grandma lovingly called "Lola Ika", who is a couple of years older than him is fast approaching her 90's. Nobody knows her exact age now as her immediate relatives cannot find a copy of an existing birth certificate. They both lived full lives in their youth and sired sons and daughters way beyond the normally accepted ratio these days.
I miss them both. I miss the days when they were still strong, could talk coherently, chastised and even perhaps spanked me for my childhood misbeheaving days. I visited my lolo, my Tatay, last May and saw him peacefully sleeping in a fetal position. Legs crumpled and bent, his muscles are slowly defeating him and refusing to recognize simple voluntary movements ordered by his brain. He has difficulty sitting up these days and can no longer stand on his own. He munches his food loudly with his toothless gums and has to spoon-fed like a child. Indeed, that is where we will all go back to. In old age just like in our infancy, we return to our needy state. Days when we were simply helpless, defenseless and completely dependent to external care from our loved ones. After being independent for a such a long time, it might either be a relief or a pure frustration to suddenly go back to being dependent again.
I wanted to cry at that moment. But I held my ground and refused to shed the tears as there was nothing to regret about his life. He spent it wisely, lavished his family and friends with time during his younger years. And yet, I feel like crying, invisible tears are flowing down my face as I cry for those years I did not spend with him. Where was I when there was still strength left in his body, when there was still memory and sense in his mind? I was preoccupied with myself then. I indulged in sensory and intellectual pleasures all meant to discover the real me that I was trying to form. In those years I centered on myself, I lost him, I lost my patient grandfather who took care of me in my youth. The one who said, "Choose which chicken you like and I will kill it and serve it up as your dinner." The one who let me roam around to catch piglets and goats running inside our backyard. The one who provided me during my childhood a place called home. The only place I would ever call home. It is still exists in the corners of my mind, that wonderful place where I felt loved, protected and experienced total bliss. And as long as I am alive it will always be there. My grandfather, the physical house itself, may soon pass but as long as I keep on breathing, its memory will forever be true, pulsing with life, eternal, fresh and vibrant, just like when I was a child.