To Dad, making memories was as important as accumulating assets you could count on in old age. He certainly made some for himself, and maybe that’s why he was such a cheerful old man.
My own memories have themselves already paid dividends in a way I never dreamed of. My exposure to the lovable characters in them have found their way into magazine and newspaper articles, some even preserved between covers in a collection of essays I brought out last year, “Personal Space.” There’s, of course, so much more I’m dying to tell.
Reading one particularly vivid recollection of mine growing up with cousins with lola and lolo in Park Avenue, Pasay City, my husband, Vergel, paid me a supremely validating compliment: “You have a writer’s memory.”
How I wish I really had it and could keep it long enough. Well, I do tend to forget wallets, cell phones and such things, but not the stories of my childhood. I’ve been told we preserve longer and more clearly memories of events, people, places and things that have emotional connections to us. If so, then almost everything that has happened to me is column material, and I’m only too happy to share it through this column for as long as both memory and column last.
Whether we are aware of it or not, memories are made as life happens. And as we grow older and gain some measure of control over the course of our own lives and begin to make choices for ourselves, we make our own plans. Those plans don’t always turn out as we have wished, but either way, memories are preserved on life’s CCTV for replays and hopefully wiser appreciation.
Life’s camera still running in seniorhood, I feel more empowered to run my own show and make memories I can giggle about, like Dad, who thought old age revealed God’s peculiar sense of humor.
A very private friend has decided to put down her recollections in a memoir, but exclusively for her immediate family—“so my grandchildren can get to know me,” I remember her saying. What a sweet idea.
But I guess I’m too much of an exhibitionist to wait; I myself feel like sharing my own life as fast as memories of it are recalled, triggered by something in the present. I like it particularly when my memories resonate with others, in a sort of mutual validation of our experiences.
“It’s so true for me, too,” some even make it a point to let me know.
Truth is, to me, the chief currency of retelling, and I’m perfectly comfortable dealing with it. Thank God, indeed, unlike fiction, truth doesn’t have to make sense.
Memories fill certain blanks in the present; they unlock mysteries. Suddenly something in life makes sense. Distance allows for perspective and detachment, and in my case a better predisposition to understand and give people the benefit of the doubt.
Whether or not I actually get it, compassion somehow sets in and forgiveness follows—forgiveness for my own misjudgment as well as forgiveness for others’ perceived shortcomings. All at once some sense of selfless love happens unimpeded, all blockages dissolving with time. I become more predisposed to love, and I want to make sure there’s no place for bitterness in my aging heart.
I have also decided to take a more active role in making my own memories—nothing so ambitious as leaving a legacy; I simply want to start putting things in order, at least in my mind, by dealing with my issues, no matter how unpleasant.
I’ve also begun to re-rank my priorities. Only last week I made time to drop in on a dear old man, now 96, who has just come home from the hospital. I went to tell him how much I’ve appreciated an uncle like him, and got my hand kissed in gentlemanly reciprocation. That in itself is a piece of highly emotional memory I’ve etched in my heart.
I also want to make fun memories. Without a vacation place of our own, I have to plan family outings ahead of time; I make sure to celebrate my children’s birthdays with them and try to spend quality time with them. And I thank God, for all this, I still can afford to foot the bill.
I cannot afford to be as generous with others, but a perfect Dutch-treat arrangement with friends allows us to get together without any awkwardness.
I’ve always attended reunions and homecomings, which sometimes overlap, since I went to almost as many schools as there were available to me: St. Paul College (nursery and kindergarten), Far Eastern University (grade one), Maryknoll College (grades two to six), St. Theresa’s College, Quezon City (high school), Colegio Mayor de Padre Poveda, Madrid (two-year finishing school), University of Madrid (a summer course in Cultura Hispanica), and finally St. Theresa’s College, Manila (AB Journalism).
My closest and dearest friends come from all these schools, and I’m proud to have kept them all. In their company, memories and laughter come most easily.
In one such golden moment, a class gathering at Chit Noriega Reodica’s home, she read us a Hallmark poem: