By Maria Olivia H. Tripon

One and a half years seem to be the longest I have stayed home. In that time, I only ventured out twice just to get vaccinated.

The second dose was in a different mall so I got to see the latest changes around the city. It was in the middle of July and as I lined up, I heard a graduation march and thought there must be a graduation in the mall until I realized it was us, the vaccinees, who were “graduating.” Our “diploma” was the vaccination card.

I counted 14 days after my second dose of Astra Zeneca and couldn’t wait to go out of the house. I was really excited! My son, Mike asked me where I wanted to go. I definitely wanted to get a professional haircut although I did learn to cut my hair somehow. My wish list was to go to the cemetery and spend time with my departed loved ones. I was able to visit former President Noynoy Aquino’s and his parents’ graves. I also would have wanted to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist especially on my birthday but my “warden” (the term used by my co-senior “inmate” for her son) thought it best to do so when it’s safe.

I was planning to schedule my annual check-up only to be restrained once more with escalating Delta variant cases. It’s a continued detention for us seniors and minors. Poor Henry, my grandson who turned five in September, is riding his trainer bike inside his family’s condo. Most kids have no place to run around and play.

Our helper was finally able to go on vacation to her hometown in Negros Oriental, cancelling and postponing her trip until after she had her second dose of Sinovac. We were fortunate that our village leaders arranged for vaccination for all households.

Her month-long vacation made me busy with housework with the help of my son, Gabby who was happy to do the dishes and take out the garbage. My daughter, Mariel moved in with all her work-from-home paraphernalia to take care of her three Persian cats, two rescued cats and a dog.                

What do homebound seniors do to counter ennui? First, we take care of our beauty. I  put on make-up not only when I have a Zoom meeting, but even on no-occasions as if I am going somewhere. I put on a nice dress with matching earrings and sandals, with perfume to boot!

I do miss the spontaneity of simply going out. I used to just take a public utility van to Makati and go home via a long walk while window shopping through Greenbelt and Glorietta, all the way to SM for the ride back at the Parkway garage. I miss my independence. Nowadays, I must ask permission from my “warden” Mike if he can send his driver to bring me somewhere.

Like many “detainees,” I resorted to “Marie Kondo” my home and did some inventory of things to throw, give or keep. I have given away many books and files to libraries, clothes, toys, and kitchen stuff to fire and flood victims, bags and shawls to Marawi, but I am still left with a lot to fix. I procrastinate on this never-ending job that brings me to my high school days or when the children were small as I go through photos, drawings, and schoolwork. At least I have started to classify them.

I have grown accustomed to my room as “lola’s room.” It has a resident spider and lizard, an occasional cockroach, and a line of ants in the bathroom. The latter looks like a Person with Disability ‘s (PWD) bathroom because of the many handrails, non-slip mats and a plastic chair under the shower. I am resilient in my old age and have adapted to changes.

This is my world now. Half the lanai is my office where I have a filing cabinet, laptop, and printer on a small table. My parents’ big bookshelf lines the wall of the lanai. As I type this story, I look out at a small indoor garden, a welcome patch of green and sunlight.

View from the author’s “office”

Music is a welcome treat. I still have my second hand piano that my husband bought for me and can still play my old pieces. I bought myself a small radio that can play audio cassettes and CDs (I haven’t thrown them away). Gabby had the record player fixed, and we listen to some old songs occasionally. When the rowdy grandsons are here, they constantly want to hear Voltes V on a 45 record or the Star Wars LP. My daughter discovered her old Jammiroquai cassettes and played them.

This pandemic has wrought changes in our families. Last year, my grandsons Leon, a third grader, and Hugo in grade one, started homeschool. Their parents, Jim and Edhel who are both doctors, had to adjust their schedules to teach them.

My grandsons are lucky to have wifi and computers, with parents who can teach them at home. What about the poor children with no gadgets and wifi? What about illiterate parents who dream of education for their children but can’t teach them at home? In my walk around our neighborhood, cars line the narrow streets gathering dust. Does a single family really have to have three or more cars?

We realize we can live without a lot of things

which we used to think were essential.

Aside from getting creative with leftovers and learning some tricks from cooking apps, I was able to save money from not going out for lunch and coffee with friends and shopping on a whim just because it’s on sale. Lately I’ve been consciously buying local produce as well as products of communities to help them earn a living with dignity.

Confronted with so many deaths of people I knew, I have attended too many Zoom masses to learn that spending time with friends and family is essential.

One thing is sure. We can’t go back to what we were before. We realize we can live without a lot of things which we used to think were essential. The really valuable things we took for granted were family, health, and prayers. While I look forward to be free to go out again, I pray that the post-Covid world will be better and kinder to all. WWW