Flossing one night, I feel suddenly fortunate I still have 25 of my full set of 32 God-given teeth!
Four of the lost seven were doomed from the start, my dentist told me, due to poor location—inaccessible for proper brushing. As also happens, all four were wisdom teeth, and I don’t quite know what to think about that.
I also gave up two incisors when I decided, already an adult, to wear braces on my upper teeth to align them. I was to be told later, however, that the bracing may have may have been the cause precisely of my bad bite, which now had to be corrected with a retainer.
Now, the seventh lost tooth: An upper molar that cracked on a feast of almonds and had to go. I doubtlessly went through all sorts of discomfort and expense for my late decision not to leave nature alone, but it did make me smile with confidence.
Any decision brings along its chain of consequences, and I’ve been lucky, particularly with those taken late in life. A 40-year-old separated woman, I enrolled in a post-graduate course in journalism and met Vergel, my husband.
One of my teachers, S. P. Lopez, asked why I was back in writing school, and I answered rather flippantly, “Because I think I now have something to say.” In college, Prof. Aurelio Calderon had remarked, to be kind, that I’d do better as a columnist because I couldn’t be objective enough for news reporting. Indeed, I always thought the “whys” and “how comes” were very much a part of the story, and therefore, a part of reporting.
At any rate, I was to end up, definitely not so soon, as foretold. It was only four years ago, after contributing occasionally to this paper, that I was asked to do this Sunday column for seniors like me—that’s how late I arrived, literally.
But, if it counts at all, I do come from a line of columnists who were themselves never really reporters—my own father, Titong (Joaquin), and three brothers, Rafael Jr., Anding (Alejandro), and Ding (Alfredo).
Today I can’t imagine myself not a columnist. That’s how comfortable I have become in my belated calling. But, my husband, who has always had a special respect for good reporters, thought I’d have at least developed good professional habits if I had done some reporting.
But perhaps having lived in interesting times and met interesting characters that fiction could not have itself conjured, I have my own strengths, if only accidental.
Vergel and I are at such juncture that whatever we do might be late, anyway. There should still be much to live and hope for; we lie in wait, for instance, for the complete freedom that’s supposed to come with age, although I’m beginning to suspect it’s all a myth.
For one thing, we’re pressed for deadlines well advanced due to the holidays, while yet trying to survive the absence of our lone kasambahay, Lani, who orphaned us on Dec. 19 and won’t resurrect until Jan. 13. The situation is ripe for all kinds of trouble for two seniors home alone in this season.
It begins at breakfast when we juice bales of green vegetables, because, like Dylan Thomas, we refuse to go “gentle into that good night,” intending instead to fuel with green juice our “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Terrified and intimidated by gadgets, I put Vergel in charge of assembling the juicer and working it, feeding it stalks and leaves. I volunteer for the more tedious part of the chore, preparing the veggies—peeling, washing, coring, cutting. I also clean the juicer.
The kitchen, of course, is a disaster!
Lucky Vergel, he has always benefited from my lack of trust in his ability for housework, especially in the kitchen. It may seem cruel that, like Nero, who fiddles while Rome burns, Vergel plays his guitar while I labor. But, before I get anyone’s undeserved sympathy, that’s exactly where I want him to be—out of the kitchen. To be fair, he’s been washing his tennis knee braces himself, making the bed, and pouring juices and drinking water into glasses.
I must say he’s come a long way, undertaking more and more chores each time Lani goes off. In fact, we have both become better at coping with than escaping home chores. We’re proud in fact to rediscover that, no matter how late in the day, we can still take care of ourselves.
Heavy responsibilities and obligations, except to one another, are now strictly voluntary. We have time enough for all our children and grandchildren. Everything happens in God’s own time.
So, as another year ends and a new one dawns, what else can I say but Deo gratias.