Humming in my universe Philippine Star August 8, 2010
I am spending a lot of time these days with my grand child. Let me tell you, that’s like saying I am trying to co-exist as best as I can with a phenomenon like a typhoon or an oil spill, or something that demands total attention or up-to-date info, response and reaction.
There is nothing low key about Ananda. She is like New York (the city that doesn’t sleep), or Shinjuku district in Tokyo which is perennially teeming with activity. She is always up to something.
She can bombard you with questions which I normally do not mind answering except when I am writing. Right now she is asking me why an Ipad is expensive and why she can’t have one yet while I am trying to finish this article. And she won’t accept a simple not-so-well-thought-out answer by a careless, impatient adult like me who merely wants to shut her up for now.
In fact, I already decided to drop the previous topic I was supposed to write about since she has once again totally taken over my attention span with her questions. Before all this, she was asking a million other questions which when I don’t reply can get her to be even more incessant in asking, demanding for answers.
Ananda can be tiring during moments like this. It is difficult to finish anything if one is constantly disturbed or bothered with things especially when they are off-topic. I am writing about her. That’s half the problem solved. I know I have no choice but to make her my subject since she is too large and too loud to ignore.
I cannot recall when I was growing up to ever being as curious as she is. Or maybe I was but it was an age when we pretty much answered our own questions. I can’t recall any adult I could comfortably badger 24/7 with questions and comments quite the way Ananda can do it to me or any of her Paredes relatives.
I often try and put myself in her place just to be able to muster some patience when she is on a roll and wanting to engage everyone. I remind myself that I was a kid once and how one can only imagine what an interesting place the world is in a child’s eyes and how novel everything can seem. It is a world of endless stimulation, awe and wonder that makes her curious and curiouser about everything. I must seem like an old, boring man to her when I cannot match her fascination about everything. I always have to remind myself to be more tuned in or more understanding, and involved in her world to be able to shape her into a human being who likes to inquire about life and everything it offers, instead of constantly reigning her in and killing her drive to understand things.
She is a fast learner. And that is an understatement. Her language skills are far way advanced, and now that she has learned to read better, we can’t even spell out words anymore when we want to talk but keep her in the dark about certain subjects we do not wish for her to understand. She is also quite physically active. She is constantly traipsing, dancing, or just moving about the house and never seems to get tired. While I am happy about her state of health and the fact that she is an active child, I have gone past being amused when she expects me to respond in the same light, active way when she pulls me into her world. My 58 year old body is much slower than her 6 year old one is now. And I know the gap will only get worse! Right now, I can still carry her to bed, and manage when she wants to ride my back. In a few years, this will be impossible. Thus, I am enjoying it now while I still can.
Lydia, my wife is quite happy and relieved that despite the fact that our grandchild lives in an age of television, DVDs, internet, gadgets, and instant gratification, the kid likes going with us to mass. She likes being in the adoration chapel, and also enjoys the majestic, joyous singing that the choirs in the Church of Gesu at the Ateneo deliver. She likes the communal activities, people kneeling all at the same time and responding together in prayer. We also have a small altar in the house, and to my surprise one evening, she suddenly insisted we all pray, and that has become an almost nightly ritual before she sleeps. She likes the whole idea of the lighting of candles, reciting pre-set prayers, and then blowing candles after.
Ananda can really work me up both as an adult and as a kid. An unknown writer once described grandparents as just being antique little boys and girls, and nothing can be truer. With Ananda, I can often break out of my grown-up patterns of thought and my physical routines and engage her at her level. She especially enjoys banter—smart ones—where for example, she insists we talk in rhyme or avoid certain letters when we use words to talk. Or sometimes, it is a game of imaginary, invisible gifts we bring to a table and gift each other with, or a game of hide and seek.
At times, she can ask the most serious things like ‘what do you mean when you say, ‘that’s life?’, that can leave me dumbfounded and speechless.
As a grown up, we sometimes think we have the monopoly of knowledge and experience compared to people as young as Ananda. Thus we can get impatient, and even treat them in a trivial manner. But a Welsh saying which goes that ‘perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild’ can make us want to look at how we really relate to them. A child is quite a compelling creature. Why? because he/she is so powerful. When they cry, we are forced to drop everything and check to see what’s wrong. When they gift us with something they made such as an awkward drawing, a clay figure, or anything at all, they can melt our hearts. When they get sick, we are beside ourselves with worry and ready to negotiate with heaven and give everything we possess just to assure they get well.
Perhaps I should relax more when it comes to Ananda so we both can enjoy each other more. After all, she has a mother who is already responsible for her. ‘Being grandparents sufficiently removes us from the responsibilities so that we can be friends, ‘ said writer Allan Frome. I always carry that sweet thought in my head when I see how excited she can get when I come home. She likes to wait behind the door to scare me with a big ‘boo’. And as her grandfather, I look at my feigned surprised reaction as one of the duties I must happily perform.
In every human community, grandparents have a special place in the rearing of generations, and vice-versa. ‘Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being’, observed sociologist Margaret Mead. As I live out the afternoon of my life while Ananda’s bright and early morning is unraveling, I imagine we are a perfect match. We are fulfilling a mission, a sacred pact to make us both have a greater experience of being human.
And what a great time we are having doing it!
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I have two workshops coming up. One is a Songwriting Workshop: A lot of people through the years have asked me about writing songs since I have written so many, including hits, over four decades. I have long wanted to conduct a workshop on it. The workshop will be held on Aug. 14-15 from 1 to 6 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The workshop fee is P5,000. It is a requirement that participant in the workshop must know how to play an instrument — guitar or piano.
The other is a Basic Photography Workshop will be held on Aug. 21, 1 to 7 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Seminar fee is P3,500 * * * Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a slot for any or all workshops. Or call 426-5375/ 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie.