Thursday, August 11, 2011

Surprise party for me

Yesterday my first daughter called and said, “This coming Wednesday we’ll pick you up and we’ll have breakfast. Remember, it is you Happy Birthday on Wednesday!” And I said, “But we celebrated my birthday last Saturday.  I like it that way.  You surprised me. And the food you all brought was delicious. In fact we still have some of the fruits we didn’t finish, the pastries, and some dishes.  You brought a lot.”

And my daughter continued. She and our closest friends planned it that way so we won’t have to bother about cleaning our place, arranging the furniture and cooking some food.  And it is all true – preparing the setting for a party is a great task most especially by 70+.  Ooops. But believe it or not – you reach a point when you have have saved enough for the special food you want to prepare yourself and enjoy with your friends at your party but you may not have the energy and strength to arrange your place and do it best for everyone to feel good and enjoy at your party.

So when here they were last Saturday; everyone in my family – my children with their husbands and their own children, our closest friends – our family by choice; them all wishing me “Happiest Birthday” the weekend before my actual birthday – with all the unswept leaves and fallen avocados and persimmons in the backyard with some cobwebs in the ceiling and the unwiped chairs and tables in the deck where we have our get-togethers.  When they came – our family and our friends – we reset the two rocking chairs and two corner tables, the half dozen plastic white chairs and the foldable wooden tables that are permanent in the deck, and added some more chairs from the garage and turned on the old “onkyo” for music.

And lo and behold – there we all were talking, laughing, eating – enjoying my sweetest and most memorable 70+ Birthday Party. Ever.

The last of them left a little after eight and the party started by two in the afternoon.

The next morning, my husband and I kept saying to each other, “Very nice, nice party” as we tidied the kitchen and placed the chairs and tables back where they belonged in the deck and the garage; and swept the backyard of the leaves and the fallen fruits. And as we pleasantly and contentedly placed “all” in their right places, this little refrain kept humming somewhere in my mind, “But we missed the chance to get our place cleaned up and fixed up and spruced up whenever we have a party.”

A surprise party! A surprise party!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oh, if only, if only, I planned enough

I retired some years ago. And long before I retired I made plans. Plans about money. Where it will come from and where it will go. Plans about the years – what will we do with them – two years – 5years – after 80. And the months in each year. How will we use them?

And then I retired! My husband and I became together 24/7. In the beginning, he, in the yard and I, in the house. He was the gardener which he really was having grown up in the farm and growing fruits and vegetables made him happy. He’d drive to Home Depot to pick up the right seeds to plant and the effective potting soil and fertilizer to get the fruit trees and vegetables growing and bearing food. He was busy. He was productive. He was being fulfilled. Even at 70+. Even at 80 and beyond!

 And on top of all these when the kids and the grandkids come by once in 10 days, or 2 weeks to come and look see and talk with us and they see the red, red cherries tomatoes, the big green, red pepper and the calamansi and mandarin - they’d pick their heart’s desire and not stop raving, “Oh, grandpa, grandpa – these are good! Very good!” And my husband is standing there – looking, and filling with joy. Overflowing with joy!
And me, the homemaker/housekeeper 24/7. Yes – 24/7 – since the start of my retirement.

Now just a minute. What by the way are the duties and functions in the job description of homemaker/housekeeper? Where did I put the plans I made?
And besides I remember. I did not include the day-to-day tasks and to do’s in my retirement plans. I should have had. Like: preparing 3 meals and getting the dining table and kitchen in shipshape every day. Three times a day too. Another is making sure the bedrooms and the living room are orderly and clean and comfortable and beautiful. And the bathroom must be too.

And then let us see. I am the homemaker/housekeeper. I am seeing that a deck at the back would be wonderful. I could sit and read there and have coffee too, with my husband and the kids when they come.
I could place 2 rocking chairs, in the deck that we would build in the backyard. I think I have always liked rocking chairs. I recall my father had one in our old house long before the war was brought by the Japanese to my country. We’d put a retractable awning over the deck.  It is only $750 so the ads says. I saw this in the TV. Very affordable, I think. Or maybe permanent roofing would be best.

And we could make the backyard an orchard; plant a persimmon, avocado, orange, and moringa vegetable tree. Why not – there is space. Bittermelon and spinach – vegetables growable by anyone.

Now I know what to tell my kids when they retire. Your living condition is primordial when you retire – 1) 3 bedrooms, or one bedroom; 2) big or smaller living room; 3) very spacious and top of the art dining room and kitchen and bathroom too. If you can the above should be in place before you retire. What I am saying is, “Do your best to plan your retirement days – correct even to the spaces and furniture in your house where you spend 24/7. As for me – I am saying now – “Oh, if only I knew more or better?”

Oh, if only, if only! I wish. I wish.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Remember My Brother

            Manong Junior was the eldest of us all, 12 siblings, in our family.  He played the role of eldest very well.  In fact, it is like I can still hear him saying, “It is all right, Tatang.  Give the slingshot to Romy.  He can have it. I’ll make another one for me. “ Manong Romy was next to him and I was the third, the first younger sister.
            I cannot forget that first day of the war. My family was out there picking up the bamboo cuttings thrown away in the construction of the bleachers in preparation for the provincial athletic meet held every December in the La Union High School grounds.  Suddenly, up in the air, some airplanes were heading east.  The next thing we knew from one neighbor’s radio – Clark Air Base in Pampanga was bombed.  So was Camp John Hay in Baguio.
            It was war! No one knew what to do.
            We had to evacuate to the mountains. Just like everyone.  My father was away on official business in one hinterland town in the province.  It was Manong Junior who mainly helped my mother to pack the essentials for survival. She used blankets and it was Manong Junior’s task to crowd them correctly and tightly together in the big blankets so they won’t fall in the way – the clothes, the blankets, the rice, salt, bagoong, other available food stuffs in the house – mongos, dried beans, tuyo, even vinegar, and some Purico – oil to fry – and the soap.
            The war dragged on … to years.  We began to be hungry. The “boga” (big mountain camotes) that my 2 brothers and 2 cousins, Manong Artor and Manong Ruding scrounged in the mountain sides helped a lot.
            And then it was time to move somewhere else for one can dodge the bullets maybe but no one cannot run away from hunger – where there is no more food. My father was ill.  He had to be carried by my 2 older brothers in an improvised blanket gurney along the dry river bed with small and big stones in the way with some light from the moon peering through the trees in the river banks. The destination was far and the way was long. Manong Romeo began to tire; he was after all younger and thinner. For several times he, threatened to put down my father on the stones.  But Manong Junior had the resolve, “No Romy,” he first pleaded, “We can’t do that.” Later he’d say, “Not yet here Romy. Not yet here. Later.” I can see now that without Manong Junior’s determination to carry my father through, we all may not have made it.  My father recovered.  My family did not perish.
            After the war Manong Junior could have gone to the University. The family was ready to support him. He chose to join the Philippine Scouts together with Manong Romy and my 2 cousins.  When he came home, 2 years after, he brought home, his bride – the mother of his six children – Roseanna, Eduardo, Alexander, Victoria, Alfred, and Baby.
            Manong Junior was a dreamer.  This is one part of him that is not very much known.  He dreamed of food production in the water – the seaweeds, called “aragan”, for example. In one of his visits to Palawan – he saw the coconut crab. “It is a very rare delicacy. When propagated it can be one attraction for tourists to the country”. But it was not yet the time --  40-50 years ago when he began to talk about these.  Neither was it his place. But it’s better to have dreamed than never to have dreamed at all. When one can dream –
            Oh, my brother Johnny. His, was a simple life. Very simple. Very difficult. And so hard. And he was giving – giving all the way. His humility ws beyong compare. He was unassuming to a fault.
            My brother Johnny – looking back I feel that he lived true to himself.  I know that he believed that the one and only obligation of the individual in this life is to be true to himself.
            And he was.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Deciding to go to the emergency room

I am not bored, I am in search of something meaningful to do. So, I am seeking the help of  my daughter because I do not know anything about blogging.  But, I feel that I can think very well about the things that matter about living as a 70+.

Last week I asked my husband to drive me to the emergency room. For days I had been having some  unusual feelings in my left chest.  (This took my mom a while to recall how she felt.) Some little, little tightness.  And it would go. Just like that. Some discomfort - very, very slight - barely enough to be felt.  And weakness - without any cause.  Not hunger, not work, not stress.  The first two would be there and then gone. So flitting.

So I managed. I kept about - doing the chores - 5 days - 1 week - 2 weeks. And the weakness began to come more often, and longer - even when I would be reading the paper in the early morning. Even when I watched TV, which was saying, for women the signs or symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke are different from the men's and they are even different among women.

The next morning after the TV ad on Signs & Symptoms of Strokes and Heart Attacks, I put my Kaiser ID card in my purse, and my necessities for a day stay in the hospital. And slowly I asked my husband, "Fred, I feel that I need to go to the Emergency."