I brought my granddaughter Mona for an eye checkup with Dr. Carmela Ongsiako, who looked smashingly youthful in her stylish low boots, all-black pants and tops. She was a classmate of my daughter Gia, and I saw her growing up in stages. I also knew her beautiful mom, although we’ve lost touch. Indeed, it seems that every day is a reminder of how much time has passed.
Carmela was herself surprised to see Mona, all of 15 now, whom she last saw living with Gia as a baby, until her bachelor dad got married and they moved out. She was also happy to see that I was holding up as well as I could.
Mona was found slightly astigmatic and nearsighted, but no glasses were prescribed, as she admitted when asked—she wouldn’t wear them anyway. Probably feeling privileged to have consented to see a doctor—as she most definitely feels having gotten top grades—she wanted an extra thick milkshake at Makati Med’s Floating Island restaurant. I ordered a vegetable dish myself to take out.
It was one of those rare times I was out without Vergel. As Carmela herself did, I thought I was doing so well until, just as we were about to be driven away, a waiter from Floating Island came chasing after us. He apologetically handed me the unpaid bill and my unredeemed senior card. Most likely, when the driver texted me in reply, “Opo, Ma’am,” indicating he was now in in position for pickup, I panicked and left with Mona, herself oblivious.
Too many things
But then, I had done something of the sort when I was much younger, in my 50s, if I remember right. I was on my way to the airport and thought I had time for a snack at Pancake House. Dada Moreno, whose family still owned the chain then and who was herself managing that Makati branch, sat with me. Just when it was time for me to go, she was called to her office to take a call. I stood up and told the waiter to say goodbye for me to Dada. I left without paying. She and I still laugh about it.
But it’s not so funny now. I may feel momentarily incomplete having left my mobile at home, but I don’t feel too bothered. But forgetting my handbag hanging on the arm of the eye doctor’s chair and being reminded halfway out. Or leaving some purchases under our table at Paul’s, and having to rush back from the parking lot. Or sometimes not even realizing it until the next day, as was the case when I left my credit card with Mango; there I was welcomed like a long-lost friend—they seemed more relieved than I.
It’s definitely not the kind of excitement I need, but it’s happening too often. And being more conscious, more focused, is itself a problem. There are simply too many things to deal with in old age. Even before sitting down I must have a plan on how to get up again; if, for some reason, I found myself on the floor I would need help, and even with it the maneuver would be rather complex.
My greatest fear is falling. Oh, and am I super careful in the shower, especially during my nocturnal trips. We have grab bars fixed in strategic places and gotten rid of the bathtub, which, again, required what seemed like contortionist adeptness getting in and out of.
But what to do about my hearing, which is going faint? Deafness runs in the Roces family, but Dad was somehow spared. He could hear perfectly well, so he’d put cotton in his ears when Mom, who had the problem, was watching TV. It was Dad’s vision that was impaired; his cataracts had been removed, but he only had peripheral vision, at best, after a stroke.
I had my own cataracts removed, from both eyes, and I’m just waiting to get my distance prescription glasses—I can now read unaided. My hearing problem is yet relatively mild, but the cost of hearing aids should be enough incitement for me to take care of it. We bought one for Mom, and she never got used to it; the battery seemed always dying on her. Toward the end she stopped wearing it altogether.
The technology may have improved since Mom’s time, because a younger cousin swears by it, happy to feel included again in conversations, especially at parties. I probably should start saving for it.
Meantime, I’m confident that when I get my new glasses, with a much lower grade for distance, even my hearing will improve. But again, I may need to learn lip-reading. Oh, but I forget: the face mask negates everything! Anyway, one problem at a time. Everything else seems minor after my angioplasty—a crown on one of my few remaining molars would seem the worst of it.
But what could be a clearer reminder of aging than my 83rd. Birthdays I’ve always looked forward to, and this year I’m celebrating the whole month, in small groups, instead of one big party. I remember the late Gilda Cordero-Fernando, our First Draft mentor and organizer, complaining that I had not had time to sit and chat with them on my last big celebration, my 80th.
This time I want it more intimate. For one thing, with no prescription glasses until March, I’ll see and hear better in closer company.
Erratum: In last Sunday’s column, there was an error, my error, not that anything could tarnish the image of a Tony Meloto, but nevertheless, to be called the “pinup girl” of his many advocacies does him a disservice. The title was meant for Lila Quirino, but my frequent transpositions of phrases while reediting my piece must have misplaced the phrase. It was Lila who I was referring to as she allowed pictures of herself before and after her recovery from psoriasis to be used inspire hope to others suffering from the dreadful skin affliction.