Some notes on growing older
On Friday evenings, my father comes home to Bicol from Manila. After eight hours of bus travel, he reaches home the next day. It is something he does so more frequently now that he has already a baby toddler for a grandson to play with (or to hit him with toys) when he’s around. But for us, his weekly homecomings mean a different thing. First, it instantly signifies change of bathroom routine schedule. He usually arrives early in the morning, just in time for rise up and breakfast. But the first thing he does is to go to the toilet to spend an hour and a little more unloading while reading his morning paper. He does so with such consistency that we have already been used to it and it has already become a part of the weekend scene. All of us in the house know what’s next in line when he goes out of the bathroom.
He pays attention first to his luggage, takes out all his weekly laundry, and then attempts to start the washing machine. But mother enters the scene only to scold him like a child telling him to take rest first before everything else. That’s the only time he realizes that his grandson is already up and it’s already playtime until the kid falls asleep again.Just before lunchtime, mother starts mumbling a mantra-like formula we would instantly recognize as the next level of the events of the day. Father is outside the house, examining things; from the fence to the gate railings, from the roof to the water pump, from the radio antenna to the garbage bins. Another exchange of arguments between mother and father follows. Mother wins most often, and succeeds in keeping him indoors playing with his grandson.
Weekend meals at home mean dishes of vegetables and fish. Mother and father are strictly faithful to their diet, and that strictness involves us all. We all eat lunch together, a meal which ends in an almost chaotic image of a dining table because father wants his grandson to eat with us on the table. The kid, who apparently sees everything as a toy, wants to play throw and catch while eating.
Saturday afternoon means mother and father are going to Church for an anticipated Mass since Sunday is the real rest day for them. For those of us who have Saturday evening schedule, we should have taken shower early in the afternoon, or to make sure that we won’t stink when we go out, take bath just after lunch. Mother and father attends the five o’clock Mass, and father eats up three hours in the bathroom. That’s without exaggeration. And there are five of us in the house.
After dinner, father watches the evening news. By that time, we are already done praying and wishing there is nothing controversial in the news lest father begins a running commentary for the news program like a director talking about his film on some DVDs. Father ends the day by falling asleep watching TV or answering his daily crossword puzzle.
But he is not done yet. His loud snores intimately accompany our nights, even if we are in the next room.
(My father is the operations manager of the Philippine National Railways. I would frequent his office only to find out how his job burdens him much—from employee complaints to accidents to thoughts on how to improve (or more appropriately, sustain) the ailing company which was utterly neglected by the government.)