I don’t know why, but the question tends to put me on the defensive, which I’m sure isn’t the intent. So, what have I been doing these days? Well, aside from nothing…
I could turn sassy like Margaret Mitchell, who when asked the same question answered, “Don’t you know, it’s a full time job to be the author of Gone With The Wind?”
I may never write an epic but it looks like I’m living one; with my good genes I could go on and on. As a septuagenarian, I’m certainly not bored; in fact I’m pretty busy.
Where does my time go? Well, for one thing, I’m committed to a lifetime twice-a-day hair care regimen; just begun, it has already done wonders. Genes as well gave me the problem, and if I had done nothing about it, I’d have ended up looking like my Roces uncles with no chance of making up for the loss with a mustache.
The rest of my life is inserted in my heavy hair schedule. There’s, for instance, the highlight of conjugal existence—planning meals, although again, more often we have some restaurant do it for us; my kasambahay’s cooking is excellent, but her repertoire is rather limited.
I check my e-mail every day, and when I do I sometimes get stuck in music on YouTube; our friend Juan Miguel, a compulsive surfer for these things, alerts me. Sometimes I succeed in tempting Vergel to sit and listen with me. Uncle Marquitos’s pal Ben Sanchez also puts me onto interesting bits of history and life’s practical tips.
But it’s music that absorbs my day—songs of my era. I tune in to Dr. Love’s postprandial Teleradyo program of such songs, and sit, reminisce and feel young again. Initially I felt a bit embarrassed when Vergel first walked in on me having such a time of it, but he quickly dove in himself and joined me. I could give him a run for his money recalling the names of long-gone singers, but he beats me hands down when it comes to groups, bands and instrumentalists.
And thank God for this, my weekly column; it keeps me engaged and focused on life around me, and affords me loving glimpses at the past. Some days writing it come easy; especially when a subject is particularly inspiring, whether a person or an event, comes up. I often find it all cathartic; it helps me deal with past and present in a kindlier way. Who needs a therapist when I can be my own and get paid yet for it?
I’m also blessed with friends, and at our age, we seem to appreciate one another more and more. Some, mostly classmates, I join for cheap thrills like pushing to the max the benefits of our senior cards by halving orders or splitting desserts five ways. Our savings go to a collection box for some philanthropy.
Since I mean to extend life in as good a quality as I can keep it, I’ve been going to the gym three times a week. I do the treadmill at the sports club for 45 minutes while Vergel plays tennis. On certain Saturdays or Sundays we both join a breakfast group at a neighborhood restaurant for a chat. Vergel has his own separate Tuesday lunch group, and when he does I take the opportunity to see some of my own friends, my children or grandchildren, whoever may be available.
We sometimes watch television till late, but only in the living room—we’ve removed the set from our bedroom to get it out of the way of our reading.
On each other’s night table sit books by, among other authors, our favorite essayist E. B. White and the writer and writing teacher William Zinsser for rereading. Me, I regularly take E. B. White to sleep. There’s for me just a special kind of joy in reading him.
When we do go out, we limit ourselves to concerts, milestone birthdays and other occasions. We also try to not miss book launches and art exhibits. These are occasions that are over before we turn into pumpkins.
But the last invitation to an opening we attended gave us a bit of a problem. The kooky artist required her guests to come in something you wouldn’t wear elsewhere. I couldn’t imagine what that would be, but I didn’t want to think about it. I arranged my ride with my friend, Rita, because Vergel was iffy about it—not just because of the costume requirement—but because of another engagement.
I went wearing dark glasses in the twilight and dressed in white—blouse, pants, shoes—and passed myself off as a blind masseuse. When Vergel realized it could be that simple, he decided in the end to come. He arrived later, preannouncing to me he was coming “as a construction worker prepared to wash up at the end of the day’s work.” For a moment there, I felt alarmed but he did come dressed—in a t-shirt and cargo pants.
The occasion turned out to be fun. I had become aghast to see how a friend had gotten so quickly old since last I saw her until I realized it was a costume. The celebrator artist herself, not one to ever be outdone, came as herself from head to waist, but to her legs clung pink alpaca twins, rubbing furs every time she walked.
So, what have I been doing? I don’t care now if whatever I do come up short by the reckoning of others; having borne children, written a book, and gone on planting trees, I feel quite secure in my immortality.