She noticed her suddenly getting busy that one afternoon while she was lazying herself toying with her point-and-shoot in the small hammock. It was rather unusual for her seeing her busy like that. Whenever she visits them, which is rarely, she normally sees her lying on the rickety wooden bed just by the door of their crumbling wooden house. She doesn’t mind if she shares the bed with her two cats, both tied for her own reason, one just got birth to four kittens who would soon be disposed to different households. She sometimes hear her snore, which calms her because she knows she’s in a deep, sound sleep, undisturbed by the chaos she’s loathed all these years. She surmises that when she doesn’t make any sound, she’s just there lying, appearing peaceful, but all the worries and frustrations are filling her restless mind. A thirty-something woman’s mind is a bucket filled with those, who knows how much of them overflow from the mind of a soon-to-be centenarian?
She then heard her call her name and was obliged to get inside the house.
She did not change her house dress, a worn-out yellow sleeveless shirt and red-green floral shorts, but she saw her glimmer with these white, or silver, (not-so-authentic) jewelry pieces on her neck, ears, wrists, and fingers. After boasting about them being a gift from her youngest child, she asked her to take a photo of her in that set.
She jokingly asked her why she was not wearing her glittery blue semi-gown her sister gave her, the dress she said she would want to be buried in once the time comes, but she blamed herself for not initiating and letting the old woman have the guts to ask for the shoot.
But she has lots of it, guts. She is never shy. She sings in front of many people if she desires. She dances in front of many people even if she’s half-naked at times. She is never the one who holds her thoughts back from anyone even if she’s not right. Her children and grandchildren cringe when she fights with others and even if she does it for them. She also fights her offspring and grandkids themselves (who are all scared of her at one point in their lives) if she feels they are disobeying or disrespecting her in any way.
But who could question the old lady’s character? When one was raised by a strict mother, was educated only up to the second grade being told that like carabaos, one could survive without further education, married at puberty during the time of war, buried a supposed-to-be only son after days of giving birth to him, buried one husband after another, worked on her own to feed six daughters, one of which she also buried after years of being in an abusive marriage, and has battled almost one hundred years of the daily ins-and-outs of life coping, or failing to cope, with the weathers of times, who wouldn’t be that tough?
And now she wonders, tough as she believes herself to be, will she ever reach her time? Being educated as far as she had dreamed of and being able to cope with the changing times, will she be able to survive sixty more years of the ups and downs of the world’s turmoil-driven setting? Will she ever have that chance of having one love that would give her a family she could work her butt off for? Or will she be there, too, on a rickety bamboo bed, trying to sleep her troubles away? Or will she be in a corner of some confinement together with others like her, or with no one somewhere under the sun begging for anything that would keep her sane? But does she really want that? To reach her time?
Despite her age and being the oldest among her siblings, despite being almost blind, despite the regrets and the failed dreams, one can still see “life” in her. She doesn’t have any conditions that would force her to be bed-ridden. She can still walk around every morning and every late afternoon sometimes accompanying her ailing younger sister. She can still notice the little things annoying to her and nag or rant about such. She can still wish that one of her offspring would put her in a big house and make her be called “rich.” (Years ago, she exchanged her roadside lot, now costing a million, with 300 pesos and a radio, which was a symbol of status during that time.) She still wishes that one day, she and all her offspring would be in one place and live together again. Most of all, she can still seek simple joys from simple things like being photographed by her, presumably, favorite grandchild.
She counted 1-2-3, uttered “smile,” then clicked it.
Who said she could trick her with the count and impose a smile on her? She managed, though, to take another shot.
And there it was, the kind of smile she got from her.
She is certain that she will be happy when she sees these herself in printed copies.