Baby-care lessons were still memorable and implementable
HER yaya off, I have to give her a rinsing bath myself, after a swimming lesson at the club. A 72-year-old grandma put in emergency charge of a frisky, slippery, testy four-year-old, I definitely need all the tricks I know to get the job done.
No bribe or threat working, I decide to trust my veteran’s instinct: no need to spend precious senior energy—soon enough, she will come out on her own.
Sure enough she emerges, announcing, “Wee-wee!” And once in the women’s-locker bathroom, she was a captive.
Smarter next time, she will pee before going in, but I’ll be ready with Tito Vergel, enlisted to scoop her out, not without a chase, but she enjoys that. Alone with me in the bathroom, she will turn contrarian again, challenging an authority with no physical strength to back it up. A bribe will work, pasyal, an excursion to Greenbelt tomorrow, which she may have been scheming for all along.
Once home for the full shower, with pasyal on her mind, she gives herself in complete surrender until, in a mental lapse, I hand her the telephone shower for her to wash the suds off herself. She grabs it, looks at it with an impish sparkle in her eyes, holds the fountain (oh, how she loves fountains—inordinately!) to her mouth, and starts gargling and drinking.
“Mona, give it back to Mamita!” I squeal. “Please,” I supplicate when command does not work. Finally, she holds out the fountain to me and gives me a generous drenching, delighting deliriously in it. “You’re so funny, Mamita!”
I wrap her in a towel—“like a lumpia,” as she likes to call the routine—and half-carry her out (I’m no longer good for a full carry). I dry her hair and lotion and powder her, but I let her win the battle over what to wear. She picks what she calls “her perfect nightgown,” long, white cotton, with a pink ribbon threaded across the neckline. I brush her hair. Ah, nothing more beautiful than a newly bathed child!
I am myself a dripping mess. Quickly turning her over to her single-parent Daddy, I take a half-bath, lie down for a bit of rest, and fall into a nap unintentionally.
What a difference 22 years makes! I wasn’t even 50 when my first grandchild came. Baby-care lessons were still memorable and implementable, although I was never called on to do anything really hands-on—Carlo had two yayas, one left in harness during the other’s day off.
I have five grandchildren—the three others are Rafael, 18, Rory, 17, and Maita, 13—and was yet active and young enough to be involved with all the older four.
With Mona, I don’t have many good years left to feel important to her. My relationship with the older ones has changed with time. Friends have taken more and more of their time—and, naturally, my time with them, too. I’m the last one they want to see a movie or go shopping with. Just as well. I tire easily, sometimes fall asleep in the movies, and I’m out of fashion. Eating out is about all we do together now.
I’m jolted out of my accidental nap: time for Mona to wind down before dinner. She sits quietly threading bracelets for her dad, her yaya and Tito Bob.
Whenever she sleeps over, bedtime is story time—no “Law and Order” TV for me. Her current favorite is an interactive volume of “Cinderella.” She presses icons that produce sounds appropriate to scenes. At some point I doze off, and she escapes. She climbs up beside Vergel on the couch in front of the TV in the living room. He takes her back and finds me asleep, curiously bejeweled: Mona has put dangling earrings and a fancy necklace on her big sleeping Barbie.
As a sign of surrender, she asks for her milk. Vergel joins us in bed, and the two of them go into their own routine, with Vergel creating figure shadows on the wall by the light of his reading lamp and Mona trying her own hand at it. Probably from residual excitement, she talks, screams, in her sleep—“You never listen to me, yaya!”—and kicks in Vergel’s direction.
Awake or asleep, she threatens to turn her yaya into a cat unless she behaves. Obviously, she’s been watching too many cartoons and princess movies. She quotes from them, sings excerpts of songs.
Suddenly, she asks Vergel, her prince at the moment, “Do you remember how we met?”
He plays along, “No, do you?”
To which, still asleep, she answers, possibly parroting from an inappropriate movie, “No, but I try not to think about it.”
Watching her there, on our bed, conversing, kicking, so energetic even asleep, I can’t help wishing I were younger.