A Visit to the Home For the Aged
In the school that I go to, every class has an annual visit to either an orphanage, a home for the aged, a place for refugees, and a barangay. Last year, when I was still a freshman, my classmates and I went to a home for the aged.
Most of us (more like everyone but the teacher) weren’t that ecstatic about it. Like, we asked ourselves, who would? Those precious five hours that we spend with those grandparents and stuff could be spent going to the malls or making projects and stuff. We all thought that it was just another cover-up for our school, you know, establishing a good front to cover a really messy system. I know, we sounded so spoiled.
We were divided into three: cleaning the quarters, kitchen, and washing clothes and mattresses. I sucked at kitchen duty, and I didn’t want to get wet, so I chose cleaning the quarters. Like, how bad could it be?
Oh, it was bad. Like, I could smell the spilled urine and I tried so damn hard to keep my vomit in my throat (thank god I did, the others weren’t so lucky). A volunteer-mother there handed us some mops and rags, then left us. My friends and I looked at each other, and our faces were already scrunched up. Seeing us look at the mop and at the floor and covering their noses, you could guess this was our first time.
(Just a quick note, we aren’t spoiled brats, although here we may sound like it, but we still know how to clean our classroom and not demand every iPhone that we see.)
Some two hours had passed and the room was clean and actually smelt nice. Two of my friends were actually clean freaks, it was just that the first five minutes in the room simply shocked us. As we talked while we did the work, we just realized something.
The quarters were cleaned only once a week, and seeing the room, well… We pitied them. It pained us to see the way they live, and with our initial reactions to come in this room, how much more theirs?
We finally finished and regrouped with the others. A ten-minute break made us form a group and talked about our experiences, and it was fun to know that the laundry people were the ones taking the brunt of all the dirty “stuff”. Yet, it was still a fun experience.
The next three hours had passed by a blur. We get to play and interact with the grandparents there. I was actually feeding the grandmother, and by feed I mean actually putting the food in the mouth, while two of my classmates were playing chess. Some other grandparents were singing and actually playing with the guitar. There were others who were crying while reminiscing their past.
One grandmother in particular was crying about how she couldn’t connect to her family once more. It was somewhere around four or five years ago, she couldn’t remember, and the grandmother had arthritis. She kept on dropping some things, and one day, she dropped her granddaughter’s glass. Her granddaughter was around 12, and was fond of designing glassware, with all those artsy stuff.
The granddaughter, Rosa was her name I think, made a really intricate and detailed design on the cup, and was about to send it into an entry in her competition, when the grandmother broke it. Rosa was actually chill, her words were like, “It’s just a cup anyway, it’s a loss, but I could make another cup like that one,” but it was Rosa’s mother, her daughter-in-law who was mad. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, so, she was sent there (the daughter-in-law never liked her anyway), in that place, and she never saw her son nor her family again.
Anyway, as the class was about to leave, a grandfather played a song. In our dialect it was in the lines of, “Salamat kaayo, salamat kaayo, gihatag kamo sa Ginook. Salamat kaayo, salamat kaayo, dili unta mi biyaan ninyo.” (Thank you, thank you, the Lord gave us you. Thank you so much, thank you so much, we hope you’ll never leave us.)
Only a few of my classmates, including me, understand the dialect. It was really bittersweet. Before the classes come and leave, there’s a bond that we form, no matter how short that time is. Those grandparents were taught how to love, and taught how to let go. I realized that, they are practically on their deathbeds, they should be given happiness! But I also realized, that we shouldn’t belittle grandparents. They’re actually stronger than we thought.
The beginning is always the same as other beginnings, the ending is always the same as the other endings. Yet it’s the story in between them that gives diversity.
I close my story.