For a moment there, as I was waking up, I thought of my grandparents when they were hobbled by bad eyesight but still sustained by joy. They would come to visit on our birthdays with boxes of Magnolia drumsticks, pinipig crunch and twin popsies that we could eat and eat and eat out on the grass under the mango tree, not caring about the stickiness on our hands and cheeks or on our t-shirts and shorts. They’d take us in their red Vauxhall and drive us around going nowhere just to be together and feel the wind or smell the rice fields. For a split-second in my mind I also saw my mom, passed on now going on fifteen years. She was smiling because someone had said something nice, and it was a good day, bright and airy. We were all young and light and having fun. Then, they evaporated, and no matter how long I lay in bed and closed my eyes and willed them to come back, they were gone. And in the eyes-open world, gone forever. When I’m gone, too, who will remember them?
Legendary talent manager Wyngard Tracy had many great stories. Of being born Juanito Ong. Of being tied to a post as a child, fainting from hunger in school, and of the fabulous Judy Araneta Roxas in big hair and bigger sunglasses coming to the Roxas Elementary School to give him an award. He had anecdotes about modeling on the side at the Hyatt wearing baggy pants with thin belts. About becoming the dahling of a great movie actress. Working in radio, sleeping on the studio floor, and learning about television. Plus, there was the day a famous band, not Side A, wanted to be filmed playing music surrounded by dogs high up on a TV transmission tower. . . they started rocking out with a power chord, and the dogs jumped.
When our stories aren’t being told anymore, do we disappear with them?
Facebook gives you the option of simply vanishing into the ether without a trace or having a memorial page maintained by a friend. Seems ghastly. Or at least, ghostly. I worry that my photo will pop up eerily every December in the feeds of my living FB friends and frighten them into the metaverse. (What does that even mean?) For a while, Linked In kept sending out congratulatory messages about the work anniversaries of a classmate who had died years ago. Very creepy.
Better to take the advice given to me by one of the best PR practitioners in town: Plant a tree, raise a child, write a book, she said. The formula for living a complete and remembered life. Google attributes the trio of tasks to the Talmud or to the Cuban nationalist Jose Martí. Whatever. Plant – raise – write. It has a nice ring to it. Could this be the key to immortality?
Tree-planting is easy and used to be a big thing. It should be again. I hear Bamboo is hot, although technically that’s grass-planting. Anyway . . . the one time I planted a tree with my name figuratively attached to it was when my parents finally bought land to build a house on after decades of renting university housing. Here at last was where we were to have a forever home; and to celebrate that permanence, my siblings and I were instructed to each select a fruit tree to plant on the lot. I picked rambutan, a spindly tree with sweet fruits that in their appearance foreshadowed the coronavirus. Well, it died. So much for planting a tree to be remembered by.
Raising a child. Very tricky proposition. Recently, I read The Code Breakers, Walter Isaacson’s fascinating account of the discovery of DNA through the development of CRISPR gene-editing technology up to the current fight to defeat the rambutan-like virus. It dawned on me that the great happiness my grandparents felt in seeing their grandchildren might have been linked to their knowing that their DNA had been successfully transmitted down to another generation, the evolutionary imperative having been satisfied, personal survival at the cellular level. But . . . however . . . on the other hand, it often seems these days as if the main objectives of offspring are to be independent, to be as unlike their parents as they can be, and to prove their fathers are wrong in all things. What then of legacies? Why should I care? Let’s just leave that there.
Writing a book—the procession arrives at the church—here’s where I finally announce that I have done it. Published a book. The ultimate ego trip. Whether copies sit on shelves unread accumulating acid spots or suffer the fate of the scrolls in Ptolemy’s library in Alexandria, I have put my stories out there to live on in physical form protected by hard covers and a dust jacket. I even put a picture in the book, in case readers want to attach an image to the words, after I’m gone.
Now all I have to do is convince people to read it. Send me a note and you could receive a limited edition, autographed copy of The Long Lunch. If you want to make a contribution to cover the cost of printing and shipping, I have a GCash account; but I’ll consider all requests even those unaccompanied by a commitment to donate. After all, it’s really about becoming immortal. (Smiley face)
“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”