Monday, October 17, 2005



My paternal grandparents came to America when my father was a young kid of seven. Just like the majority of Asian migrants, they developed the syndrome of clinging on to their past, to the period of their life when they were in their native land. But I could proudly say that at their age of past seventy, both my grandparents are still sane and mentally healthy although they love to talk about silly things. See here.

"Tony, come over here, quick." That excited lady is my dear old Granny.

"Where are you?" Getting hoarse but my grandfather's voice remains audible and clear to the ear.

"Out here in the porch... My, look at that, see that tiny white thing coming out of the stem? Do you see that, Tony?"

"Gee, it's a bud. I told you, this plant just needs some talking, a fairly good talking I'd say. In a few days we'll have some flowers."

"How I love the fragrance of the Sampaguita bloom. I remember the time when you used to bring me a handful each time you drop by for a visit. It was, ooh, the feeling was indescribable."

"You're getting sentimental again, Nady."

"Is that sentimental? Tony, sentimental is...hey, listen, someone's at the door."

"Hi, Gramps, hi, Granny. Where are you?" I ask even though I knew they are out in the porch inspecting their plant, the one I gave them for their forty-ninth wedding anniversary three months ago.

"Alain! Come out here, Boy, we're at the porch. Your Granny's gone crazy over our Sampaguita plant."

"Ah, I see there's a bud coming out now. What a novelty, that's what the Chinese trader said. And tomorrow, it will be ready to bloom into a flower. Granny, do you think it would exude the same fragance as the Sampaguita in your country?"

"Alain, you blasphemous lad! Our country is your country as well. Never disown it, I'd say, for that land's where we all came from. Remember that!"
Succulent dragon fruits

"Sorry, Granny, I didn't mean it. Well, that bud really looks good. Do you think it would be fragrant when it blooms?" I have memorized each line because this kind of talk happens every time I visit them. So, I just keep quiet at this point.

"Why not? It's just that you and your Gramps here are both doubting Thomases."
At this point I would be acting like a prop in a stage play amidst the dramatic dialogue of the leading characters. Or perhaps I’ve become a part of an invisible audience to their delight.

"Me? A skeptic? Ha-ha. Pragmatic maybe, but not skeptic. If the smell would be the same, well, that would be a big treat." I could sense genuine excitement in his voice.

"Treat? Wait till you mow the lawn next week. The smell of freshly cut grass will bring you to Cloud Nine. But don't forget to wear your breathing mask, I don't want to have your asthma acting up again."

"I won't forget, all right? Just remember your promise!"

"Of course. We'll get to the farm early in the morning so you can milk the cows. Fresh milk is good for your weak tummy, you know. And we will have a grand time picking up eggs from the hen's nests. It's laying season, isn't it?"

"I think so. But the cholesterol in the egg, how about it?"

"Oh, we'll just have one boiled egg each, no worry. Aren't you planning to shoot some birds, ha, Tony? ... What's bugging you?"

"Uh, sorry. What's on my mind is the weather."

"Why, what's your problem with the weather?"

"Well, don't laugh now but you see, I'm planning to take a dip in the old creek, just a dip, Nady. Do you think I could withstand the cold water? My rheumatism might kill me tomorrow night without warning."
Exotic raspberry

"Oh, Tony, the weather would be fine and I'm sure the water would be warm for us. We'll both take a swim till lunch time. Do you buy that?"

"Yeah, yeah. That would be wonderful, Nady. Lunch under the shade of the mango tree? Yeah. But wait. There might be ants, do you remember the last time we went picnicking"

"There won't be ants, Tony, I'm sure of that. We'll bring the picnic mat and the basket. How about taking the horse with us to the farm? Do you think that would be more enjoyable?"

"Yeah, but the bumpy ride might aggravate my scoliosis."

"That's silly, it would be a smooth ride, of course. But if you're really afraid, we'll just walk our way. The exercise will do us good, anyway, I need some exercise, too, you know. Alain, you're so quiet, Lad, how about going with us?"

"Hmm, I don't know. You see, I got to be going by now. I just dropped by for a short visit." The dialogue is ended at this point and it's curtain time for all of us. That's always the case, no major variation of any kind.

"Okay, if you want to leave now."

"I'll be going my way then. See you when I come back." After some tight hugs, I carefully insert the money envelope in Granny's apron pocket. That would take care of them until the time when I get back.

"All right, bye, Dear. I'll see you to the door."

"Don't bother, Granny, I know my way out. It's already late anyway, why don't you just go to bed, the power will be off any minute now." It is a federal regulation to shut down the power at exactly nine p.m. to conserve on electricity. And one, no matter how frail the health is, had to contend with the cold winter by using heavy blankets or easing the sweltering summer nights with an occasional midnight shower.

"You're a big help, my Dear. Thank you and goodnight."

"Good night, Granny, Gramps." I take a subtle glance at the open cupboard to see if the nutrient pills would be sufficient for one month. I check on the well being of the household gadgets like the pollution controller, the fire detector, the water purifier and the like. Hmm, they look fine to me.

"Good night." It is a chorus from the bedroom.
Tangy pineapple

The clock hits nine, the power automatically shuts down and the bud withdraws from it's impending bloom, to be ready for the same routine the next day. The artificial plant which is powered by electricity gives joy to the millions of plant lovers all over the world. Although it was manufactured using synthetic materials, the design is almost perfect that any suspecting eye wouldn't think it's not genuine.

I close the door, without a lock, of course. Who would bother to put a lock on the main door of a unit on the 55th floor of the Richmond Apartments? That would be silly.

But being silly is talking about the lost things, those wonderful things of yore that would never come back. The genuine cows that could give you unadulterated milk, the laying hens that could produce natural eggs, a horse ride. A horse? I have no idea what kind of animal it was but Gramps told me it has four sturdy legs with a cuddly mane.

Well, you see, I know all those silly talks about them gone things. I had heard all these from Gramps and Granny so many times before. About the refreshing creek by the old farm during their childhood days in a country called Philippines. But who would risk a dip in any creek now without courting the danger of contamination by toxic wastes? You see, my imagination provided me the near-actual experience of swimming in a creek and having lunch under the blooming mango tree, complete with the biting ants. I had seen a real mango tree, you know, in the photo album. Where else? And who wouldn't desire the smell of freshly cut grass? I'm willing to pay a million bucks for the actual olfactory experience.

I take a last look at the door as I make my way for the open chute that would bring me down the building. Going out, I fasten the velcro straps on my parka hood for it's starting to drizzle and experience tells me that acid rain is bad for my hair. I step out on the lawn and the vinyl grass yielded to the pressure of my feet. The shower had made each plastic blade shiny with the reflection of the flickering yellow lamp light.
Very sweet Sugar apple

I give out a deep sigh as I flag down the double-decker bus that will bring me to the south west where my new post as a designer of artificial trees in the National Plastic Parks Inc. meant an increase in wages. The nasty smell of the Nata liqueur got into my nerves so I had to make a career move and end my two years stint with Natural Foods Corp.

Inside the bus, I continue with my reverie of visiting my native country someday. I don't bother with the question of how because I know for a fact that the island nation was already expunged from the world map when a nuclear plant exploded and annihilated everything in it twenty years ago. As what Gramps used to say, "Them gone things aren't coming back, my boy."

But them gone things will come back someday, I'm sure of it. The earlier generation was negligent but the repentance can be seen with the presence of countless ecological organizations, each one nurturing some kind of a museum which they call wildlife sanctuary or something. The projected environmental restoration process of two hundred years seems realistic to me even if the cynics say it would be impossible to achieve.

The window shades are automatically shutting off now, I see, we're passing an open sky as the red warning indicates. Well, man could surely cope with the ozone hole problem. I press the air button for more oxygen, the faulty filter of the bus is getting me a little nauseaous.

The semi-pure oxygen betters my feeling, it's really comforting, now I can relax a little, maybe nap a little and... maybe dream a little. That's my advantage, I can while away the time by dreaming, awake or asleep. And I would continue dreaming simply because I enjoy dreaming... especially silly dreams.
**** This story is dedicated to my parents, written in 1995 when they were still both residing in the U.S.

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