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WHAT LOLA TAUGHT ME

Oh lola, you are sorely missed. I will always have a soft spot for the elderly. Their raw humor and genuine care when they look at you is something worth keeping. Their presence is like a lamppost at night. They give us wisdom that we may never find somewhere else. They have seen the world and had their fair share of pain and joy. Our elderlies deserve all the love this world could give.

I remember my lola sharing one of her many pearls of wisdom. She said, “We are all just renters in this world—we do not own it. We will eventually have to leave because there is a generation waiting to create their mark, and I am already overstaying.” She said this in one of her rare moments of lucidness. Like most of our elderlies, age took her memory too, but she did not lose the glimmer in her eyes, especially when she smiles, for no apparent reason.

When my lola was still alive, she rarely spoke Filipino. She only spoke Cuyonon, English, and Spanish when talking to her children and the help. I saw how she sometimes struggled to express what she wanted to say whenever she conversed with her other grandchildren and me. I also saw the frustration all over her face. She was probably thinking how a remarkable educator could end up scrambling to find words. Despite the obvious communication barrier, I grew fondly talking to her.

Remembering the good times

I remember always choosing to study next to her. She would often check out what I was reading. Whenever she would randomly comment, I would usually pretend I understood what she was saying, but quite honestly, her habit of code-switching made my brain bleed. It took me years to realize how I could have exerted more effort to bridge the gap. If there were one thing I would change, I would learn her language because I know she wanted to share so many things with me—life lessons that could have been prized inheritance, lost in translation, and reduced to sheer deep breaths of missed opportunities.

Language is often not the only thing that widens the gap between generations. Technology and ways of living also create barriers that make us not see how we are unconsciously leaving some people behind. Aside from being a lousy beautician, time also left our elderlies. The ones who formed the world we are enjoying and living in are slowly diminishing into often misunderstood relics. In our journey to make our mark in this world, we tend to forget to honor our elderly in ways that dignify their existence.

Understanding what they were for

My lola might be right; she had to leave so my generation could flourish.  The things we are meant to discover are the things they would no longer see and experience. Their lease in this world had to end to create spaces for those destined to continue what they had started. Our elderlies are not just mere torchbearers. They are not just references to future repetition. Their lives are symbols of hope and an unending journey towards discovery. Soon, maybe, if we are lucky enough to stay as long as my lola did, we could impart the knowledge passed on to us with a smile of relief—only then, maybe, we would understand why the best thing about life is that it is fleeting.

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