6/11/2010
Questions from grandfathers

Am I the only one who finds these little conversations your grandfathers make amusing yet scary?

Sure, they're really doing it to endear themselves to their grandchildren, especially when they're just six years old or something. Besides, you don't always see each other: these encounters always happen within a family reunion, often over the holidays.

That's not exactly the case with the mother's side of the family. Since their house is closer - they used to live in ParaƱaque, and later they moved to Bacoor - we often visit. But my maternal grandfather wasn't always there: he worked as an engineer, or so I figured, and he was often away. When he's home, though, and we're there for a visit, he'd ask us to go to him.

"Ilang taon ka na?" he'd ask.

"Ten," I'd answer.

"Anong grade ka na?"

"Grade four."

I'm not sure if I was in the fourth grade by then. My math has failed me, which should make me a little failure in front of my grandfather, if not for the fact that before he died four years ago he cheated on my grandmother, bore a child, and cheated on her mistress, too.

My paternal grandfather is a different case. He's still happily married to my grandmother, still living in that little flood-prone house in Caloocan. We don't have that sort of conversation, despite the fact that we don't visit as often. There'd be occasional exchanges of memories from years gone by: it'd often be about how much better things were when Ferdinand Marcos was president.

But the past few times we met, he asked me one question I didn't expect him to ask.

"Ilang taon ka na, Niko?" he'd ask.

"Twenty-one," I answered.

"May girlfriend ka na?"

"Wala."

That's the sort of questions aunts ask. I have an aunt who often asked me that question, and then raise all the girls I had a crush on back in elementary school. But that's because aunts are made, by nature I suppose, to be a little meddling. Your grandparents are supposed to sit back and make the most of the time they had left.

Then again, my grandfather isn't that sort of person. When he reached the mandatory retirement age, he went back to his former employer and applied again. I think he still has a job now. Anyway, upon hearing that I'm still single, he pulled out his mobile phone and attempted to give me someone's mobile number. Yes, my grandfather tried to hook me up with someone.

And I politely refused. Or was I polite? I was, yes, but maybe to him, I wasn't. How dare I break the heart of a 79-year-old man?

He raised the matter again when we went to Zambales. We were there for his birthday - that's when he turned 79, something I remember because of the birthday candles that never got used - and he asked me the same questions. Yes, I'm twenty-one, and yes, I don't have a girlfriend.

"Eh twenty-one ka na," he said. "Dapat mag-asawa ka na para bago ako pumanaw eh meron na akong apo sa tuhod."

Setting aside the fact that what he just said was the most morbid thought I ever had in a while, he already has great-grandchildren. My oldest cousin has three kids: the oldest is already 14, and the youngest is six, or maybe five. I don't know. Shame, because I'm his godfather.

But still. I'm just 21. Am I supposed to get married already? I suppose he's coming from somewhere - my parents got married at that age - but I'm not exactly the person he should be talking to about it. Between me and my oldest cousin, there are three men. So, four chances of having great-grandchildren - and one of them already has three!

And our generation is quite different. Or, at least, my demographic is. I know some people have kids at 21, or younger - it's the Quinn Fabray situation before I called it the Quinn Fabray situation - but my bunch have other thoughts. Enjoy life while you're single, some might say. Save up before you start a family, others might say. Romance? Bullshit, I'd say.

During one of the days when I had to take three rides home rather than one - I think this was during my meet-up with Gwen - I bumped into Earl. He was my classmate in elementary school, and I remember us both being excited about being Capricorns, since he was born on Christmas.

"Kamusta na?" he said.

"Okay lang," I answered, quite timidly.

"May asawa ka na?"

And then I thought, why are you asking me this? We were born just a year apart, and now you're asking me if I'm married? And then I remember hearing that he already has a child.

A month or so later, I heard from Facebook that Tracy, one of my closer friends in college, already has a child. I just saw Kizia congratulate her. I didn't know anything. Not that I should know, but - and my thought went like this - you were pregnant nine months and we didn't know? And then I remembered the bus rides we shared from school and back, when we'd have the usual relationship fodder.

And here I am, a 21-year-old, single, and half-constantly answering questions about whether I already have a girlfriend. Not that I have to have one. But it still means having to answer all those questions, during which you start thinking that, yes, maybe you should get married and have a child. Cue another set of uncertainties, definitely including what my grandfather did before he died.

And your responses...

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