Easter rumination
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - April 22, 2019 - 12:00am

The long drive from Pangasinan on a Black Saturday gives one the space to reflect on the passage of time. For an athlete, there is no greater foe, and no insurmountable obstacle, like time. Easter is a very special time, sometimes squandered on mindless escape, but redeemed when faith tethers one to the ground. Easter is also a lesson in reflection, on purpose and choice of direction. Time heals all things, so they say. But time also consumes all things. You could say that it is the great equalizer, but that is deceptive, as it catches us, diminishes us, vanquishes us, all at different moments.

This writer took the opportunity to drive to my grandmother’s home in Domalandan, a few kilometers outside of the provincial capitol of Lingayen, where my mother had studied before getting that fateful scholarship that sent her to the US, and inevitably resulted in her getting pregnant with me. Many abrogated memories filled my head as we drove. It’s been almost eight years since my mother passed away, and almost a quarter of a century since Mama Upe retreated to the province since my grandfather died. Daddy Peping was the glue that held three generations together before the fourth came along.

Passing the Domalandan Center Integrated School, I saw the old concrete basketball court where I played during my summers in high school. Swimming was my first sport, and the undertows of Lingayen Gulf almost claimed me when I was six. But I was a slick, quick, high-flying (and arrogant) hoops-loving kid in high school, thinking I could show the barrio boys a thing or two.

Boy, was I wrong.

Dressed like a baller (even before the word was en vogue) from head to foot, I biked to the court at high noon. It was terribly hot. I met some dark-skinned farmers, who were boldly playing in heavy jeans with the legs rolled up, and nothing else. The rules were simple: race to 100, a basket was one point. No roof. No shade. With the score at about 48-47, these guys were still racing up and down, the thickened soles of their feet impervious to the scorching cement. I had welts all over my body from the heat. I surrendered and went home. It was a lesson in humility.

All that had flashed back in a mere instant. Moments later, we were there. My mission was simple, introduce my six-year old daughter to her 94-year old great-grandmother,; reunite three of four generations of Unson. But things were not the same. 

My diminutive Mama Upe shuffled out of her room, still smiling and warm. But her smile was one of polite welcome, not the flash of recognition. She did not remember who I was, her first grandchild, once her favorite. My heart cracked, as did my ego. And you had to yell so she could hear. My uncle Romy, Mom’s youngest brother, and my cousins John and Marius told me stories of how she was increasingly resistant to change, even to the renovation of the house. I listened as I stared at a lifelike charcoal portrait of my grandmother, a princess at the town fiesta in 1948: vibrant and beautiful. 

We like to hope that each step we take, each shot we attempt, is a sure thing. Athletes train long and hard to approximate perfection. We strive to improve our efficiency. Yet, we are working against the big clock of Father Time. Every game means something, until the time when we realize that it’s the people who mean everything. Would that working on ourselves made us better to one another, not just better at our solitary pursuits.

The PBA All-Star weekend was just held in Pangasinan, a sign of progress for the province that owns the most voters in Luzon, but until a few years ago, didn’t have a Starbucks. Would Mom be happy? I wonder.

Every shot we take is a step toward the space we want to be at. Every shot is the only time we can validate or invalidate where we are headed, if it will turn out right. We choose a path, a purpose. Then we ask ourselves if it is right for us, for our families. Every shot we take is an affirmation that we want more, want to be more, hope to be more. My grandmother dedicated her life to providing a sanctuary from the world, a haven where love and food and prayer were always in abundance. She was uncomplicated, and understanding. We all need that in our lives, more so in the times when there are no roaring crowds, no shots to take, no workouts or practices. In our most private moments, we need that.

A blessed Easter to everyone.

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