Even if the results were due the day after, the anxiety would spoil the day. So, I moved the test for the next day, with no inkling at all that on the eve of my birthday, I’d end up in the emergency room, anyway.
Mercifully, I wasn’t the patient, as I kept explaining to the nurses who began to fuss over me, trying to sit me in a wheelchair at the entrance, ignoring Lani, my kasambahay, who was about to faint in front of them.
The girl noting down Lani’s symptoms flashed me a suspicious look—but, no, Lani wasn’t pregnant; she was, in fact, having her period. I was concerned because she was anemic, like many of her relatives.
Vergel had dropped us at the emergency room, since the driver had not yet arrived and had gone to a breakfast with friends without me. I wanted to be with Lani because she was terrified of doctors, and with good reason; cancer had already claimed not a few of her relatives, in the decade that she’s been with us.
I was, in truth, more anxious about the big mole on her chest that was growing and becoming itchy.
Reversal of roles
I spent the whole morning in the ER, sitting in the cubicle, watching over her, in a sort of reversal of roles. Every time a nurse would come in, I would be the recipient of lavish praises.
But how could they have guessed how Lani takes care of me and my husband seven days a week?
After a few hours, Lani was discharged, and given a prescription for her dizziness and nausea. She agreed to see a doctor the next day, which we did, and together took a blood test— the day after my birthday.
Waiting for my turn in front of the cashier, I couldn’t help overhearing a cell phone conversation about “Mommy” between a young lady seated beside me and someone I presumed a sibling.
“Ay, ayaw ng Mommy ’yan! Sa bahay na lang sana, pero saan, sa garahe? Naku, lalong ayaw ng Mommy ’yan. Sa Arlington kaya? Pero hundred-hundred-thousand yata para sa tatlong araw. Sayang ginagawa pa kasi ang simbahan, doon sana. O, sige sa Floresco na lang. OK naman siguro ’yon sa Mommy, ano?”
It was easy to conclude Mommy had expired, funeral arrangements were being made by her children on the phone, while one of them waited to settle a hospital bill. I presumed the family could afford it, unlike others whose tragic loss would be compounded by inability to pay the bill.
Costs of dying
One case in particular comes to mind: My brother and I were next in line at the cashier’s waiting to settle Dad’s bill. He was being discharged to go home. We had to wait a while because the family before us were hysterical in their desperation, almost begging the cashier to accept the title of their home in payment, so the funeral parlor could take their mother’s remains out of the hospital.
Between planning birthday parties and making bucket lists, I’m factoring in the costs of dying these days. And I mean to set aside funds for it. As it is, I may have gone overboard in buying nicho; I bought one in Pinaglabanan Church and another at Santuario de San Antonio, where my Mom’s and Dad’s ashes are.
The subject is never pleasant, but at least I found consolation knowing children, as a rule, are considerate enough to accommodate Mommy’s wishes even after she’s gone.
Reason to celebrate
Test results in our general practioner’s office gave Lani and me some reprieve. Lani was not anemic, and her mole needn’t be removed. A change of prescription would address her medical concerns.
I am still prediabetic despite my weight gain; my cholesterol, however, although lower than previously, needs to be addressed.
The doctor put me on Crestor for two months, after which I should be OK, if I follow his dos and don’ts. Three times a week of aqua-aerobics is doing me good, but I should add a 30-minute walk every day.
I still had reason to celebrate, but birthdays at this stage find me looking to more meaningful and more private activities, bordering on personal whims, with no explanation owed anybody. This year I wanted it quiet and private—
unlike on my 75th, when I felt it important to be with friends who had somehow shared happy parts of my life. I was so pleased to see the venue bursting with friends.
In truth, no birthday of mine has ever gone by unmarked one way or another; usually an intimate lunch with my two cousins, one of whom celebrates her own birthday a week before mine. This year there were six of us, three co-celebrators and three guests.
Contemporaries as friends
On the day itself, however, I did exactly what I wanted: I re-scheduled the blood test, went to aqua-aerobics and stayed for the power breakfast at Anabelle’s. My fellow aquabelles managed to come up with a cupcake topped by a single candle.
Vergel and I had a dim sum lunch at New World Hotel. I had to finish my column in the afternoon, it was deadline day. We ate dinner at home and watched TV.
It’s hard to believe, but there’s no denying how many birthdays I’ve already had. No matter how good I feel, I’ve slowed down some. I’m not getting any younger, for sure, so I’ll be playing things cautiously from now on.
If I should follow cousin Ninit’s advice, my next birthday bash will be my 80th, which seems so far away. To be sure, I’ll be surrounded by friends again—maybe far more friends.
Stravinski is right: “After 80, all contemporaries are friends.”