I ache, and what else could it be at my age but precisely that. Indeed, I suppose I should, at the very least, ache. It’s healthy senior philosophy: I ache, therefore I still am, and should be grateful for all this dull throbbing—in my knees, my toes, my shoulders, my head—as a reaffirmation of life.
I have, moreover, become more aware that I’m made up of parts—connected parts—so that, while one part might, for the moment, call more attention than the others, some if not all the other parts have to do with it. That, like a leak, a seemingly isolated pain may be a mere symptom of a larger problem. But am I eager to discover?
My own mom in her 80s resented every suggestion of a checkup, her own life-sustaining philosophy being that, at that age, something’s bound to have given and be found.
“Bakit ka ba hanap nang hanap?” she’d ask accusingly.
My own sense of denial does not go to such reckless lengths. I monitor myself; I watch what I eat, and, when I reward myself for good behavior, I do so prudently.
All in all, I feel fine, although lately I’ve been feeling some tightness in my hands. My fingers are stiffening and my wrists not rolling smoothly.
It’s my husband who plays, but it is I who gets a tennis elbow. My head sits on my shoulders like the world on Atlas’; I diagnose it as fatigue from lifting my 130-lb corpus out of bed every morning, even after a sleep that very rarely goes under eight hours.
Also, I wake up with weepy-sticky eyes—they probably leaked all night, clogging my sensitive sinuses. I think I should turn off the air-con, which runs practically all day and night, but my sanity—my very survival—depends on it in this especially oppressive summer.
I’m told in Eastern philosophy that my internal and external worlds mirror each other, that indeed everything is somehow connected. As it happens, my outside world has been thrown out of whack by the absence of my wonder woman Lani.
Just back from a two-week home vacation, Lani came down with hepatitis and needed to be sent back to Masbate, where she apparently had contracted it, for quarantined treatment and recovery, which should take at least a month.
To be deprived of help is punishment enough for any senior, but for it to be meted to an old dog in the thick of a life’s struggle!
I have just acquired my first “touch phone,” and some of my contact numbers have disappeared in it. The shop has managed to retrieve most of them, but the rest remain lost in some electronic limbo, and I just can’t wait for them to reappear in the course of their own fates.
I also have had no idea how ultra-sensitive a touch phone is, and how inept my senior fingers are for it. They lack the ability to taper enough toward the tips to enable them to deliver the Horowitz touch Steinway phones require. If I’m not hitting the right key, I’m hitting two or three keys at once; as a result, unintelligible messages are sent off, prematurely.
Moreover, the damn thing seems to have acquired the most annoying human habit of guessing what you will say even before you yourself have a clue. So, if you get a strange message from “Chut,” that’s probably me.
Taking a call itself is no longer a simple matter of pressing a key. It entails an entirely new skill: Press green phone icon; following arrow and (again) applying right pressure, slide finger sideways toward red phone icon. Whew!
I usually end up looking like a fool, finger-strumming an absent guitar with my thumb, and before I manage it, the ringing stops. Often, the performance happens before a public drawn to it by circumstances only cellphones can create. To avoid another call, and further embarrassment, I call or text back.
One day, I call cousin Ninit, not really to seek sympathy, but, in fact, to brag: I have this new touch phone that e-mails, Skypes, Googles and guides travelers by GPS (global-positioning satellite—I made sure I knew). Of course, I have no idea how to make it do any of those things.
Ninit and I have about the same technological IQ, although I’m probably more computer-literate and cellphone-savvy. Her phone problems are something else; it chooses its own ring tones, for one thing, and Ninit says it has baduy taste.
She’s been able somehow to trace the ring tone supplier and text her displeasure—“Ayaw ko ’to”—and she gets a new ring tone, a song that begins with, and is perhaps titled—“Ayaw ko.” Friends have given up contacting her by cellphone, texting instead her driver, Paeng.
In her own brand of disguised sympathy, Ninit, now a touch-phone owner herself, brags back: “I know exactly what you’re going through. In fact, I have two of those!”
Meantime, domestic chores beckon. And while they may inspire some reaffirmation of life, I prefer leaving them with someone like Lani, who approaches it as a job, needing none of the philosophizing that soothes the aches of age.
Next time I call Ninit, it’s not about cellphones, mine having been practically tamed, but for substitute help.