Grow old with you
I HAVE constantly been asked why, at my age, I haven’t gotten around to having a romantic relationship with anyone yet. Let me tell you why.
When I was a kid, I used to spend all my summers with my grandparents—my mother’s parents—in their farm in Ifugao. I was their first grandchild, so you can imagine the attachment I have with them. My grandparents were avid readers and would always tell me bedtime stories about mythical creatures, magic, and their childhood adventures. I remember my grandmother demonstrating a “bear hug” when she told me a story about a hunter who was caught in a struggle with a polar bear. The moment got stuck in my memory because after that, whenever I came to the province on vacation, she would give me a great big hug which we fondly called a bear hug.
Lola was a consummate neat freak; she hated seeing trash in the premises of the house and she would berate anyone who left litter within her line of sight. She was loud in an endearing way. On the other hand, Lolo was the quiet one. He was content sitting in his favorite chair, reading newspapers and having coffee in his regular spot in the house. For some reason, their contrasting personalities matched. Despite being loud, Lola would go silent when in the middle of her rants Lolo would scowl and say “Ay apo.”
One of my fondest childhood memories was the summer I spent watching the sun rise and set with my grandparents in the farm. When the sun began to set, we’d watch the herons fly back to the trees after a day spent foraging or doing whatever herons did, and we’d sit on the porch of the old farmhouse quietly watching the flock of birds coming home to rest—Lolo with his cup of coffee, and me with my cup of milk. Then Lola would bring merienda, and we’d sit and watch as the last rays of the sun disappeared.
My grandparents’ love story was idyllic. It was your typical boy-meets-girl story. What made it storybook-worthy was the way they stayed in love through the years. I would watch as they held hands when they walked on the beach, or when each refused to eat a meal when the other was not around. I remember when Lolo started having dialysis treatments and they would go in the dialysis room together hand in hand, and Lola would pull up a chair and just sit beside him while waiting for his session to finish. In time, even the nurses would prepare a seat for her when they arrived.
A few months after the dialysis treatment began, Lola was diagnosed with cancer. She had to go to Manila to get checkups and have tests done. At one time, she was in Manila having her checkup when Lolo had dialysis scheduled on the same day. I accompanied Lolo to the hospital and you could see how upset he was that Lola wasn’t with him. The true testament of Lola’s devotion was when she arrived that same day from Manila just so she could be with Lolo for his dialysis session.
When Lolo’s condition worsened, I started sleeping in their room so I could help Lola keep an eye on him. It was then that I saw how they went to sleep at night, each holding the other’s hand. They would wake up at 3 a.m. every day to have their coffee and early-morning conversation. I would wake up to the sound of their laughter while they watched the sunrise from their balcony.
In 2011 Lolo had a stroke and went into a coma, and was hospitalized; Lola refused to leave the hospital despite several people expressing willingness to stay as his watchers. My siblings, cousins and I took turns sleeping in the cramped watchers’ area and assisting Lola when needed. Lolo was in the intensive care unit for more than a month, and Lola was there the whole time. She was so insistent on being with him upon waking up and again before going to bed at night that the hospital staff had no choice but to accede to her request that she be allowed to enter the ICU despite the strict visiting hours. She was the only watcher allowed to do that.
On Dec. 24 of that year, Lolo woke up. He smiled at all of us before he went to sleep again. Lola was so overjoyed that she organized a Christmas party at home to celebrate. On Dec. 25, she went home to see to the preparations for the Christmas party. I was left with my sister to care for Lolo while she was away. I was sitting with Lolo in the ICU when he started having a seizure. I immediately called my mother and everyone rushed to the hospital.
I always wondered how it would feel to make a crucial decision about someone’s life. It was something you saw in soap operas, not something you’d expect to experience in real life. That same day, the family, with Lola’s consent, decided to bring Lolo home. On the night of Dec. 25, he passed away.
Lola was inconsolable. She looked for ways to keep herself preoccupied afterwards and devoted her time to gardening and other means of diversion. A few months after Lolo’s passing, Lola’s cancer worsened. It was as if the only thing keeping her strong was her determination to care for Lolo during his illness. She had to have chemotherapy sessions to fight the cancer from spreading. It was in 2013 when the cancer metastasized. On Feb. 25, 2014, a little over two years after Lolo’s death, Lola passed away.
When people ask me why I’m hesitant to embark on a romantic relationship, I tell them why: I want someone to hold my hand when I go to sleep at night. I want someone to hold my hand on the beach when we’re in our 70s and we no longer look good in bathing suits. I want someone to travel from the other side of Luzon just to accompany me to my hospital checkups. I want someone to have coffee with me and tell me stories while we watch the sun rise on a balcony outside our bedroom.
I want to find the love that my grandparents had for each other. I was lucky to have witnessed such a testament of love during my lifetime. I can only hope that when the time comes for me to write my own love story, I will be able to write something as beautiful as theirs.
Laurice L. Pocais, 26, is a third year law student at St. Louis University.
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