“Some students get emotional and cry when they visit.”
Those were the words of one of my instructors in the caregiver training course that I’m currently taking. I laughed it off at that time not knowing I’d be one of those students.
“Grabe pud ni si Ma’am,” I said to myself.
It was a few weeks ago when our Care for the Elderly module came and our teacher decided to bring us to St. Joseph’s Golden Home Foundation, Inc. SJGH is a non-profitable foundation serving as a home for indigent and abandoned Filipino men and women aged 65 and up. It is, I believe, the only elderly home in the city of Cagayan de Oro.
Up until then, my only knowledge about elderly homes was based on what I see on movies and TV. I’ve never been to one. And if I hadn’t taken this course, I wouldn’t have known about there being one in our city. #CluelessGirl
Before we could walk through their doors, we were greeted enthusiastically by a very sweet and jolly lady, one of the residents there. Upon seeing the joy on her face, the genuine welcome she extended to us, I could feel my heart swell up for some unknown reason and I started to tear up. I tried controlling myself. I really did.
But before I knew it, the first of my tears fell as I desperately made my way to the back of our bunch. Luckily, I was not alone in taking refuge in the back while wiping tears away. A classmate, who upon seeing the Lola, remembered her own grandmother also made her way to the back in hiding.
Honestly, I don’t know what it was that made me cry. I had grandparents but, unlike my classmate, I was never super close to them. I went in there completely emotionless. I came out feeling like a different person.
Maybe it was because I expected to see grumpy old people who would love nothing else but for us to leave. Maybe I saw my grandparents and saw how much I missed and how much effort I didn’t make to get to know them. Maybe I saw my parents and my fear of them growing old and leaving me just overwhelmed me.
And… maybe I saw myself in them.
Old. Alone. No family.
I always tell myself that it’s totally fine to be alone. And a good part of me genuinely believes that. However, that day, I realized that I’m also terrified to spend the rest of my life alone.
Filipinos have a tight-knit, family-oriented culture. I grew up hearing people say that one should have kids so you won’t be alone. I get raised eyebrows whenever I tell people that I’m not sure if I want the package, husband and kids. Parents break their backs raising their children. Yet we have people like the lolos and lolas of SJGH who were abandoned by family and probably by their own kids. Really, this is a sore topic that has no exact and concrete solution.
I guess it was everything. All the reasons written above were what made me cry. You’d think that you’ve accepted the inevitability of old age until you see yourself in the eyes of the very warm lola who greeted you like you were her long lost grandchild. It’s truly heartwarming.
That day, I looked at my parents as if with a whole new set of eyes and I thanked God for them and prayed fervently for more time with them, for a chance to make them happy, for a chance to be a better daughter to them. And that night… I also prayed that maybe, just maybe, somewhere in this huge, chaotic world someone out there is waiting and praying for me.