My Favorite Painting on the Wall
"That's my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive.
Every time the two of us are at the dining table, having lunch or afternoon snack, Grandfather and I couldn't help being distracted by the paintings on the wall; not that the paintings are conspicuous or extraordinary but chiefly because the routinary life that both of us have been sharing for the past two years and counting has rendered our minds either too jaded to think or overly critical about the most trivial of things.
Until now I couldn't believe that I've gone this far. I mean, don't ever think that I've finally got accustomed to this kind of life. Believe me, I may have finally escaped from a seeming limbo but still, boredom and homesickness continue to afflict my mind and heart like an incurable disease.
Anyway, as what I always say to myself in times when depression creeps back into my heart,
Better still-not-good than worst. Better a soft warm bed at a small house in the company of the seven dwarfs than on the floor of a big house with a big bad wolf. Ha!
Every time Grandfather and I are at the dining table, the paintings on the wall keep on distracting our eyes. From now on I would no longer forget how they look. Eyes closed, I see them all the more vividly. They haunt me. They stir my mind. They aggravate my restlessness.
Every time we are at the dining table, we talk even about the most trivial of things. I remember one entire afternoon we spent conversing about houseflies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. Pathetic! But can we help it?
Every time we are at the dining table, Grandfather and I talk about almost anything. Believe you me, if Grandfather were a book, no doubt I would have been the author.
At 90, Grandfather is still relatively active; but I'm realizing that a part of my task as his caregiver is to gradually let my relatives realize that Grandfather is not getting any better. Such an easy task!, one might readily quip. But when you're the one who bears the responsibility and the burden on your shoulders, the situation becomes difficult. The unnecessary and unfounded feelings of guilt become inevitable and inescapable. When Grandfather has a cough or stomachache or feels dizzy, I feel like I'm the culprit. I feel like my efforts are not enough. I know, I know—that no one, not even the doctors, has such small hands.... Yet still, the pangs of guilt are too sharp to endure.
What do we expect? Of course, Grandfather's health is deteriorating. He gets tired now more easily. Prodding him to eat—before was a feat—has now become an ordeal. He no longer remembers what he ate during the last meal or where we went yesterday or, worse, what he was looking for.
I woke up one early morning, about 5 or something, and saw restless Grandfather was already up and about. I asked him what he was doing.
He replied: "Looking for something."
"Looking for what?" I asked.
"Anungaba? [I dunno, I forgot]," was all he could muster.
I just uttered a smile of understanding and said: "Pa, it's still early. Go back to sleep. Later you'll surely find what you're looking for."
Oh well. Patience. More patience, Padawan eLf.
But, that laughable incident sent me yet again to thinking...
Aren't we all like that at many points in our lives—looking for something we do not know or understand? Trying restlessly to explore and conquer the great big unknown? I wonder how many did succeed.
A watercolor painting of mushrooms. If only opportunities are like mushrooms, which, as they say, sprout everywhere; then life would have been much easier. But where's the challenge? Oh well. Enough of such challenges! I've been challenged all my life. Enough of this! Where's my reward? I want it now!
When will I finally be able to start a family of my own? All I really want are a kind and lovely wife (I already found her), three intelligent children (we are yet to work on this on my return to the Philippines), and a simple home but full of love.
I always count the animals in this picture: 20. This is my most favorite art hanging on the wall, perhaps because I'm fond of animals. I used to have lots of animal pets back when I was young: fishes, white mice, hamsters, rabbits, puppies, turtles...and also pet plants, especially different varieties of cacti.
Kaylan kaya ako muling
Sasakay ng eroplano,
At lalapag sa ’yong piling?
I told Grandfather: "If ever I already have my own house, expect to see lots of paintings on the wall." Then, I asked him: "How, do you think, will I arrange the paintings so that visitors will always notice first my favorite painting?"
After what seemed eternity, Grandfather gave up: "How?"
I took my pen and a sheet of bond paper, and then I made the sketch below. "Now, Pa," I said to him, "suppose these rectangles are the paintings on the wall, which, do you think, is my favorite?"
"I call that piece a wonder, now...."