I resolved to keep my sanity and my fingernails from cracking the whole month: Lanie, my lone kasambahay, would be away on vacation.
I lived five years in the States, my friends like to remind me. They forget that in the late ’50s, although a mother of four, I was only in my late 20s, and that, apart from that, I had brought a yaya with me. I was the envy of colleagues of my husband (my ex for the last 40 years now) and their wives, not to mention neighbors. I was referred to as “the one with the stay-in maid.”
Once back home, I noted that the yaya’s day-off was a cause for panic for young moms, even if every child had one yaya all to itself. Anyway, there were plenty of well-trained, loyal yayas and other help to go around, at very reasonable cost. Indeed, life was far kinder all around, but not these days, especially during the pandemic.
Our life without Lanie is nothing close to what so many have to face. She went off the day after Christmas and, if everything goes according to plan—she has the airline ticket to bolster our hopes—our woes end on Jan. 26.
From the day she left we subsisted on leftover Christmas food until Dec. 29, when we all flew to Boracay for five nights. Good thing, too, that we had just about had it with rich party foods. We decided to join good friends and spend the New Year’s with them in paradise (aka Coast, at Station 2). It was also my way of delaying the punishment waiting for me at home.
Coming home used to complete the joy of travel. With Lanie waiting at home, we were welcomed back to a neat home with shiny floors, with linens all fresh, and towels smelling clean. There was also home-cooking waiting.
Well, coming home from Boracay, we were back home as we left it, as we were only too glad to leave it. At the sight that greeted our homecoming, my spirit and energy level automatically dropped.
Did I really expect to become Miss Efficient, after five nights in Boracay? Yes! We were four adults, after all; surely it couldn’t be that hard. In fact, everybody, amazingly, stepped up, except that their best efforts leave a great many details unaddressed, which I cannot ignore, even as I, with great understanding, had lowered my standards.
The big jobs are left to machines. In fact, in just three days, with two loads a day, I was done with laundry from Boracay. Everyone has been encouraged henceforth to wear only wash-and-wear clothes.
Meanwhile, I’m rediscovering shortcuts and tricks along the way. We each drink from marked glasses, which stay filled as necessary throughout the day. However, when it comes to machine-dishwashing, I’m rather old-fashioned; I still, needlessly, not only wipe the grease off the dishes but soak them before putting them in.
I haven’t yet turned heroic enough to polish the floor or the furniture. I’ll leave that to the maintenance man to do on his day-off. All our indoor plants have been brought down for better sun and maintenance.
For the little work I do, I wonder why I feel pooped. My daughter has been doing it day after day, without help, cooking, cleaning up, for nearly two years now. Of course, she’s 21 years younger. But Gia may have a point when she says, “It’s your easy life, Ma.”
Well, maybe so. But to get by, as I’ve said, I have lowered the bar. The best part is nobody seems to notice, let alone care.
We eat out a lot, but the Alert Level 3 may change that. As it is, we’ve refrained from snacking at home, which ends up messing up the kitchen. Eating is not the priority under my regime; keeping order is! We all could lose a few pounds, anyway.
I feel myself getting more fit in Lanie’s absence, and losing weight, although it is impossible to sustain this unnatural lifestyle. Something or other will have to give. I’m not going to get younger or stronger. The only reason we’re all still friendly at home is the prospect of Lanie coming back in time to end our ordeal.
Clearly there’s no substitute for Lanie, who may sooner than later evolve into a caregiver. Only well aware that at any time things can change, Vergel and I count her as a singular blessing in old age.
As I get older, I find more and more reasons to spend the rest of my days on gratitude mode—when increasingly no room is left for regrets or anxieties. Mom and Dad, and other guardian angels up there, must have not stopped wishing me all the best. When they were still around, they made sure “my troubles would all be small ones and my fortune 10 times 10.”
And for my part, I will “fill my dreams with sweet tomorrows.” In 17 days, Lanie will be back! INQ