About two decades ago, Sonny, the husband of my sister-in-law, kept persuading me to join him in Bicol when we retired.
“Elvie and I dream of retiring in Ragay.”
“What are you going to do there?” I asked him.
“Why, with my Social Security pension, pasarap-sarap na lang kami sa Ragay. Painom-inom na lang kami kan mga dati kong barkada. I’ll be taking it easy the rest of my days in my beloved hometown.”
Sonny and Elvie did indeed visit Ragay, not just once but several times.
When I saw Sonny and Elvie again just a few months ago, they were both retired, but there was no mention of going back to Ragay.
“Anong nangyari, Sonny?”
“It’s difficult now.”
“What do you mean?”
In the first place, he said, his wife had a mild stroke. And then, many of his former barkadas were gone. Besides, he had quit drinking and smoking. Importantly, he would miss his “apos.”
“It’s different now. Many things have changed.” He then looked gravely at me: “When are you going to Naga?”
Before I could answer, he said he wanted to visit Ragay one last time to see his remaining relatives. But he did not want to travel alone. He was not as strong as before and he may need assistance during the 20-hour flight. His wife could not accompany him because of her medical condition.
“I think I may need a travel companion, too, Sonny--somebody much younger.” I wondered if he got my joke.
Vic is another friend from Bicol. He has been living in the US for the past 35 years. He is already 71 but still working with the federal government here in NY. Ten years ago he bought a condo in Makati and a house in Naga with dreams of retiring in both places, with a driver, a household help, and all that.
“I don’t have any family here in the States,” he said. “At least back home in the Philippines my relatives will take care of me.”
When I met him again at church last month, he told me he had given up any idea of going home, and decided instead to stay permanently in the US. Twice he went home and twice he experienced the onslaught of typhoons. He stayed in a hotel in Naga instead of his house because of the brownouts and other inconveniences. So much for going home.
My former Philosophy professor once told us: “While you are young catch your dreams before they fly away.” Or, as Thomas Wolfe put it: “Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going.”
For when the dream flies away, You Can’t Go Home Again, if I may borrow that famous title of Mr. Wolfe’s novel.
Once upon a time, I dreamed of moving to Florida. I wanted to retire near Walt Disney World, so I bought a house near the area and dreamed of living happily ever after, just like in the Disney movies.
The dream, however, did not match the reality. After a year, I found myself back in NY. It’s a long story why I changed my mind, but suffice to say that, in Sonny’s words, “things have changed.”
In my opinion, the best option is, as one gets older, to stay as physically close to your family and loved ones as possible. I only have a few relatives here from my side, but my spouse has all her brothers and sisters living in NY and I want her to be as near them as possible.
Admittedly, our modest pensions and Social Security, although meager here, could guarantee us comfortable lives in Naga, but the hard countenance of reality like advancing age and health issues have to be taken into consideration. Besides, my spouse no longer has any immediate family left in the Philippines. They have all moved to America.
When you are old and careworn, moving to another place will demand changes like looking for new doctors, adjusting to the weather, enduring the traffic: basically starting over. I don’t need to do these changes and one advantage in NY is that mass transit is very accessible. Everyone takes the subways including executives dressed in suits and government officials. At my age, I thank God I can still drive; but at the same time I can also go anywhere in NY even if I don’t drive. There are express buses, subways, ferries, taxis, uber, for easy transit.
It is not bad to dream and plan. But while we propose, God alone disposes. In the end, it is always God’s will that takes place.
With your indulgence, kind reader, I cannot help bringing to mind these Bible verses:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
Plans to prosper and not to harm you,
Plans to give you hope and a future.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit”; Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
My friend Vic’s parting words when we said goodbye were: “I may end up in a nursing home here in America.” We shook hands, embraced, and walked our opposite ways.
But after a few steps, he turned back and said: “But that’s all right; I leave it all to God’s will.”