‘Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh, the father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs.’
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
She’s ninety four now, and it shows. It shows in the sagging folds of skin once stretched taut over cheekbones. It shows in the awkward angles of her toes, and even her edematous feet, all bent by age and an accident. It shows in the cataracts that have taken up residence in her eyes, and in the hearing aid she often needs but rarely wears.
She’s ninety four now, and she decided to go home. She didn’t decide at the LAX, where she thought she was boarding a plane to Virginia up until the flight attendant proclaimed ‘Mabuhay!’, and even then she voiced an ill-fated, feeble protest. She didn’t want to go back to the Philippines, because that would mean leaving behind goverment subsidized medical care and possibly becoming a burden to her seventy four year old daughter.
She’s ninety four now, and she has decided to stay. She sleeps most of the time, smiles when you wake her up, and eats whatever is within reach, even sans her subsidized false teeth. Her agenda is to immerse herself in ambrosial bliss, and because this involves lechon, ice cream and all sorts of unhealthy, it has divided the house. The doctor, of course, is on the side that says by all means. She’s six years shy of being a hundred, people. I’d say she’s earned the right to eat what she wants. Anyhow, the word is out; she has proclaimed it lipay here, because of all her kapay kapay grandchildren and their equally unhinged children.
She rarely talks about it, but they say she’s been through a lot. Her husband supposedly had five wives, at least that we know of, and allegedly begot children with each one. Of her three children, one is dead and one married a woman who has never really been affectionately spoken of, save by her own mother, and perhaps not even then. Her only daughter, despite the occasional histrionics brought about by an empty nest and a somewhat, shall we say, traditional view of religion, is actually a perfect companion for her. The supply and demand for fussing over has been addressed adequately, at least for time being.
She’s ninety four, and it doesn’t show. On occasion she talks about how said daughter-in-law is unhinged, and my grandmother chides her for it, saying that it angers the Lord when one speaks ill of others. To which great Granny retorts that He wouldn’t be mad if it were true. She asked me if my stepmother is a good person, and when I affirm, she smiles and heartily nods, saying that was well and good, as my father is as unbalanced as they come. While being prettied up for a visit to her 96 year old aunt, she laughs at the video camera, ‘Sexy!’
I suppose she’s reached that age, when you just let go of the drama. When you laugh not because you intend to be patronizing, but because you genuinely find joy in the simple and the small. It’s when you understand that you may be harder to take care of, and so you become more appreciative of those who do the caring.
Welcome home, Granny. You’ll be one hundred before we know it.