Last Friday I arrived home and almost immediately Janet asked, “Do you have any plans tomorrow?” I had no Saturday plans other than to lay around, which as a hard working kano I deserve, and Janet had the day off as well, so a little husband-wife time seemed in order. I assumed she had something in mind and asked, “Is there something you want to do?”
“Michelle and Douglas just had their baby and I want to visit.”
“Remind me who Michelle and Douglas are,” I answered. In the last year we have made friends with many Fil-Am couples and that in conjunction with my geriatric memory (I joke that I barely remember my kids’ names) made it necessary for Janet to jog said memory. She began to describe what each looked like and I nodded my head in recognition, though truth be told I didn’t remember. Saying that he is “tall and white” and she is “short and Filipina,” didn’t exactly eliminate many possibilities.
‘Where do they live,” I asked.
“They just moved to a new home. I have the address. I think it’s close.”
“Good. I had a long week and…” I read the address. “This place is at least 45 minutes away.” Actually, according to Google Maps it was over an hour away. She looked devastated. “But you know,” I continued. “If we went just a bit out of our way, we can do a nice drive up the Gorge and go to that restaurant we like for lunch.”
Janet began chatting via Facebook with Michelle. “We can have lunch there,” she announced.
“OK, but there goes my idea,” I said. “But if they’ve invited us for lunch…”
“They didn’t invite us for lunch.”
“But you just said.”
“We should bring them lunch. After all, when I have a baby I want people to visit me too.”
“And what kind of lunch do you want to bring them?” I said, a bit of exhaustion creeping into my voice, imagining preparing lunch and then driving an hour.
“You mean KFC.” Janet smiled happily.
Janet loves KFC. The only thing she doesn’t like about the place is the fact that there is no white rice on the menu. This makes no sense to her and is clearly a poor management decision and the prime reason KFC is no longer one of the fast food big boys.
“Can we get Popeye’s instead?” she quietly asked. Janet had recently discovered Popeye’s and considers it a step up from KFC, since in the Philippines “crispy” is king and a Popeye’s drumstick is crispy enough to use to break up cement.
I agreed. The weather was supposed to be nice, the drive would be pleasant and there is very little that I enjoy more than seeing Janet happily speak Visayan to a fellow Pinay. Janet’s English is good but speaking it is still a strain and causes a “nose bleed.” When she speaks Visayan she laughs and screams in a way that she can’t do in English. I love watching it. So, we were set for the next day.
That night we were watching a movie. For reasons that I still cannot fathom she chose from Netflix the bio-pic “Patton.” Three hours of explosions and George C. Scott scowling and holding his ivory-handled oten substitute!
Janet was surfing on her phone. As a writer and former wannabee screenwriter I find watching a film and Facebooking at the same time to be offensive but have given up trying to make an issue of it. Janet seems to be able to multi-task, though in the middle of Patton she did stop and ask, “What is this all about?”
My answer of, “A crazy World War 2 general,” seemed to satisfy her.
Suddenly she asked, “what do you think about this name?” She started throwing out combinations of first and middle names and I absently nodded my head in approval as husbands the world over do when they are trying to concentrate on a movie.
I didn’t need to ask why she was seeking my input on names. I knew all too well why.
After she’d come up with a couple female combinations she liked, Janet asked, “What about boy names.”
“How about George Scott?” I answered. I was bored with the movie anyway and always considered Rommel to be the more interesting General.
We went back and forth on names for about fifteen minutes until she had several options she liked. My suggestion of Jack, my grandfather’s name, as well as Nicholson’s did not make her short list.
The next day we got up, Janet made rice, we grabbed a bucket from Popeye’s drive through and headed for our friends’ home. They live in a small city or big town; from Janet’s perspective it’s the provinces. The drive was nice, the air was clean, and the beautiful view from their yard was provincial.
The baby slept most of the time, as do all newborns. I have forgotten the child’s name; it was hard enough to consistently remember Michelle and Douglas. BTW, once they opened the door I did at least remember who they were!
Both parents gamely tried to wake the baby. After all, they reasoned, if friends had driven an hour and brought crispy chicken to boot, the star had to make an appearance. Finally, she did and Janet, Michelle and the baby disappeared into a bedroom, giving Douglas and I a great excuse to watch the Ducks whip UCLA.
I knew what was happening in the bedroom. Janet was getting herself more and more amped up for a future when she would be a proud mother. At 26, if she were still in the Philippines without child she’d be bordering on aged.
It wasn’t just Janet that was feeling the loneliness of being without child. Like potential grandmothers the world over, Janet’s mom was looking forward to a grandchild. She’d already let Janet know that if we have a baby and want to come visit, we could feel free to leave the baby behind for six months or so.
Now in American culture, Janet’s mother’s suggestion would be unheard of. After all the woman had ten children; three are still living at home and going to school. Several of her other children are living within rooster-crowing distance. She has two grandchildren who she is practically raising.
There is of course also the point that in the Philippines mixed children are considered highly attractive; like winning the lottery, our progeny might become the star of the barangay. Janet’s teenage brother had already made it clear to her 2 year old niece that “when Janet and Dave have their white, long-nosed baby” that baby will be replacing the two year old as the star of the family.
There have been other incidents. A couple weeks ago out of nowhere Janet wanted to rearrange our room. I complied and we moved stuff around. There was no real need or advantage to do so, but I innately knew why we were doing it; she was getting ready.
A few days ago, Janet’s BFF suggested that she should be pregnant by January. Now that Michelle and Douglas have had their child, there is only one more pregnant woman in our Fil-Am community, and she is due about then. That would give Janet nine months of uninterrupted community attention.
The interesting point of all this is what I have described before as the dichotomy in my life. At work I actively talk about the end and my retirement plans which are at least within sight. At home we plan for another beginning. I guess I am too am getting myself ready.
My teenagers are nearly 15 and 19, meaning that I was already in my 40s when I had them. One day, over 18 years ago I carried my then baby boy into the convenience store around the corner. I was a frequent customer but the Korean store owner had never seen my newborn. “Ah, your grandson,” he declared excitedly.
“No, he’s not my grandson!” I yelled at the man, pissed as hell.
Four years later, I carried my newborn daughter into the same store. The same store owner declared happily, “Ah, your granddaughter.”
“No, she’s not my granddaughter!” I shouted.
At this age, with the possibility of a new baby looming, I suppose the best I can hope for is to be called grandpa!
Life is good and never boring!
PS. And finally, here’s Sam Elliot telling it like it is!