By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 29-Jul-2019  ·  
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Photo By Bek Abellana
Pablo Tariman with granddaughter Tanya at the CCP hallway.

The kitchen sink is clear, the potted plants trimmed and the menial act of laundry washing has now ended in the clothesline.

It is a Sunday and tomorrow is -- so to speak -- another day.

Your grandson’s uniforms have been ironed for the week and after a quick brushing of his battered shoes, you wonder if you can go back to that old routine of fetching your granddaughter who lives nearby.

She is growing up quickly than you can figure out because she hates baby talk and don’t use the word baby when you see her in a crowd of grade schoolers waiting for their fetchers.

You can sense she has matured way ahead of her age with a choice of words that escaped you when you were her age.

It is then that you realize fetching her regularly has given you a slice of a grandfather’s life worth reminiscing.

Years earlier, you find yourself fetching famous artists from their hotel rooms and making sure they are in the dressing room an hour before performance.

You are quick to sense some kind of tension on the way to the venue and so this is the best time to be quiet and just watch the artist go through his quiet moment. They need this quiet moment before they face an audience eager to savor their brand of artistry.

Last year, this fetching job was routine for two weeks someone famous was performing in Iloilo, Nueva Ecija, Baguio City and Roxas City.

Back to domestic chores after all the reviews have come in, you settle for a new kind of routine that doesn’t involve artists and their audiences.

You realize the simple act of fetching your granddaughter in school takes on a more intimate, if, meaningful, design.

When my youngest daughter delivered her second child, I knew she would need assistance one way or another. Caring for an infant and a five-year-old is a virtual invitation to martyrdom when you don’t have a part-time babysitter or part-time maid to help out.

My daughter quit teaching when motherhood first beckoned, and since I’m not employed full-time, I offered to babysit when time allowed. So occasionally I hit Pasig’s main thoroughfare with a stroller and kept the child occupied while her mom did the housekeeping.

Three years later my granddaughter entered nursery school, and her parents managed by themselves. But when she entered kindergarten and the family breadwinner became busy with special projects, I knew I had to make my special services available: I offered to collect her after school. I live not too far from it, after all. And my post-presscon writer’s life—consisting of reviewing films and concerts and interviewing film directors, pianists, divas and ballerinas—begins early in the morning and is done before sunset.

Before my new work began, my daughter had to fill out forms and send them to the school with my passport pictures. A few days later, I got my official ID and title: “Fetcher.”

I’ve taken to this job easily because I had enough practice when my three daughters attended a public grade school in Pasig. This time, my granddaughter is in a private school charging fees that are the equivalent of my college tuition decades ago.

Even with my official ID, I cannot get into the school compound if I show up inappropriately dressed. And I’m at the gate along with other fetchers 10 minutes before dismissal time.

There’s this maid glued to her cell phone. She takes selfies and talks loudly to her friends on the phone, as though to announce that she’s one of the better paid household help in town. Listening to her surreal English and superior airs, I realize she has ample human equivalents in Congress and the Department of Education.

Still I love this fetching work because when my granddaughter yells my name when she sees me, I know that an angel has just descended to rescue me from the swagger and braggadocio of other fetchers.

I check if she ate her baon and if she has new assignments. Do I need to ransack my old magazine files for clippings? Or ask neighbors for gumamela and sampaguita cuttings? Sometimes her assignment involves reporting to school with assorted plants and flowers.

I recall when my children were a bit older and I had to attend school meetings. At the Philippine High School for the Arts, an exclusive school nestled on Mount Makiling, some parents were bloated with pride in knowing that out of the hundreds who applied, their kids passed the rigid auditions. But they were prone to magnifying their children’s talents, in an effort to show that their kids were more brilliant than the others. On top of everything else, I was once urged to join a “parents-students bonding game” that consisted of getting into a sack and jumping over old tires, lurching and hopping to the finish line to the cheering of the crowd. I never attended such a gathering again.

I also recall scouring the Katipunan area for an inexpensive boarding house when a daughter was given a college scholarship at Ateneo de Manila. In this school for the rich and famous, the parents arrived in sleek cars during PTA meetings. But heads turned when a tricycle arrived with a weather-beaten passenger, no other than yours truly.

Yes, fetching my granddaughter from school has allowed me to review my life when I was coping with my own children’s schooling. Then, fetchers (notably the house help) didn’t have expensive cell phones, and one could wait outside the school gate in shorts and sando for as long as one was recognized by the children one was collecting.

Now, fetching allows me to bond with my granddaughter in the only way I know and will enjoy — by being with her, safely guiding her across a busy street, and listening to stories about her new teacher. These are far more enjoyable moments than the sack race I survived long ago.

And I’m proud of this school ID that identifies me as “Visitor No. 244 (school year 2018-2019),” with the modest title above my passport picture: “Fetcher.”

It’s true that there’s some kind of fulfillment when you see your daughters live normal lives on their own.

But it’s also true that there’s a certain poignant feeling, a certain uncanny emotion when you have a granddaughter starting to live a life all her own.

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