What lola or lolo wants
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - May 26, 2019 - 12:00am

Of course when I write “Lola or Lolo,” I mean grandparents. We have wrinkles and white hair. We look useless and old. Let me assure you: we are alive with tons of experience learned from life.

When my grandmother turned 60, her children prevailed upon her to stop marketing. She didn’t because she loved marketing; loved buying rotting mangoes to turn into jam; loved to buy fruits to peel and chill and put on the table.

After I got married I decided to live with her for a while. I noticed that she spent a lot of time sitting and staring into space. One day she asked me where my husband was.

“He’s in Iloilo for his job,” I said.

“Did he ask you to go with him?” she wanted to know.

“No,” I said. “It’s his work. Wives don’t need to go when their husbands are working.”

“Whenever he invites you, you must go,” she said. Then she started staring into space again.

 Many years passed before I found out that she had chosen to live her life watching over her children, not going places with my grandfather because who would watch over their six children? So my grandfather fooled around. But she did not tell me, or anyone, that that was the consequence of letting your husband live his life alone. Then, it was the tradition to keep the details of life secret, to suffer life in silence. That was their culture then.

 Now that is no longer the culture. What is “culture”? Simply, culture is how we do things around here. Now we talk and we ask, what do older people like to do? I think one of the sources of unhappiness for people after they retire is suddenly there are very few things happening in life. Once I worked in advertising. There was always something happening. There were people to meet, to talk to, to laugh with; every day was either fun or problematic. Today I have no more problems to solve, nobody to talk to except my husband. After a while you are both repeating the same stories.

 Because I’m resourceful and creative, I have many hobbies. I knit, crochet, sew or make jewelry. Sometimes I play electronic Free Cell on my computer using two decks of cards — very stimulating — so that sometimes I spend a whole day doing that. Other times I play word games on my cell phone. I find all these meaningless games to engross me and help me pass the time. But I have to face the fact that they are meaningless. They just fill the time. 

 I have also spent an inordinate amount of time watching Netflix. I enjoy that, but it’s something I do alone. My husband enjoys playing ordinary solitaire and winning millions of mythical dollars playing poker on his cell phone.

 I’m lucky because I write a weekly column about life, meaning I have to live it in some way. Today I got two messages on my cell phone, both asking me to help find them work. One is looking for a job as a housekeeper. Another is just looking for a job. What makes them think I can help? I have been out of the swing of things for 18 years. Who will I call to ask, “Do you need a housekeeper?” The friends I see often already have one. What if I am asked, “Do you know her?” I will have to say no, I don’t know how she looks, don’t know how good she is. I don’t know if she’s for real or she’s just scamming me. With our lifestyle being conducted largely over the cell phone, we really do not know very much. We don’t know enough to be of real help and we really cannot know enough over social media. So I’m going to have to say, “Sorry, I cannot help you.”

 I think it’s time to configure a lifestyle for Lolos and Lolas that give them life that’s more meaningful than watching Netflix or playing electronic Free Cell with two decks or dedicated mahjong. We need to think of something creative and substantial that we can do, that will make us rise from our chairs and walk into a meeting room with people waiting to hear from us. We need to find a way to put everything we have learned to good productive use.

 I have a cousin who is very smart. He is 73 and continues to be a stockbroker. People often ask him, “When will you retire?”

“I retire every night,” he says proudly, “but the next day I get up and go to work again.”

We must devise a lifestyle that makes us think again, that wins us respect again. Then we can say, whatever Lolo or Lola wants, Lolo or Lola will definitely get!

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