After a L-O-N-G “vacation” back on the Mainland and the resolution of minor annoyances like jet-lag, I’m finally back in print.
This last voyage to my roots was intense, in both exciting and disheartening ways. One word comes extremely close to describing it in the proverbial nutshell: Life-changing. No, I, myself, haven’t changed very much at all. Sure, I may have plumped up a little – something that I’ll blame on ingesting too many processed foods – but on the whole, I believe that I’m still the happy-go-lucky guy, who left his paradise behind some 4 1/2 months ago.
It’s life that has changed. Things will never really be the same. Of course, things are always changing but, for the most part, those changes are so slowly incremental that they are nearly imperceptible when they happen. Only the benefit of the passage of time makes their presence known. In these past few months of absence from the place I call “Home,” change stepped up its pace considerably, deluging my status quo with a lot of “away we go.”
I won’t devote much time in this article to those changes, but I will mention a few as a prelude to some future stories. As some of you know, my son and daughter-in-law have presented us with the ultimate “welcome back” gift. Grandson, Henry Dale Keating, was born just days before our arrival. He’s the most pleasant child; the kind that you wish would accompany young parents in public places like restaurants, stores, and others. Grandparental pride? Some; but more objective truth than not.
On life’s flip-side, there were issues with my health that caused some anxiety and angst. This ol’ boy isn’t getting any younger, and life takes great pride in reminding me about that. No boring tales just yet, however (remember, future stories), but I am doing much better now and there’s no need to worry. After all, life goes on. And, so should this article.
THE STORY BEGINS
Well, not really “begins” as much as “begins yet another time.” It’s not an original tale: the plot is completely familiar; only the actors and time-frame are different. It’s an aperiodic event that happens in many households here in the Philippines these days. Too, it’s not simply a matter of “if” it occurs, it’s a matter of “when.” For us, here in Pasuquin, the “when” appears to be just about now.
I’ve filled paragraphs and paragraphs about this subject in earlier articles, mostly from hindsight. This time around, the sentences will be written more in the present tense. I’m writing about relived history as it’s being made. I might even have the opportunity to predict some near-future events, as well. That railroad train is a-coming right back down that old track. This time, I hope, I will just watch it pass from a viewpoint at the depot, and not tie myself to the track.
Once again, we are in for problems with our katulong – our house helper. All of the warning signs are beginning to appear. Kind words from caring family members and neighbors, letting us know of “things” that occurred in our absence, ring familiarly in our ears. Little bits of well-hidden evidence of misdeeds are starting to surface. Other signs, like a missing this or a broken that (and the ever popular, “How’d that get here?) continue to pop up daily. Experience is starting to shout, “The Katulong is Going Sour.”
GOING SOUR? WHAT THE …
The “sour” that I’m talking about is not the super tart, tingle the taste buds type of sour. Nor is it a description of a personality trait or temperament. Gee, our katulong’s disposition is one of the cheeriest, almost giggly, temperaments that I’ve ever come across. She can brighten the dreariest day with her presence (or is that a disguise?).
No, the “sour” that I’m talking about is analogous to milk that’s been out in the open too long. It’s a performance trait, not a personality trait. Our katulong’s performance is souring.
When she first came to work with us, she was marvelous in her ability to get things done quickly, correctly, and with a minimum of direction – the perfect house helper. Though we’d keep a watchful eye on her most of the time, there was never anything to see other that positive aspects of a hard-working, dedicated helper. All through the months that she was with us during our stay here in the islands, we wanted for naught from her. We were able, for the first time, to take short trips around Luzon without worry. When we’d return, everything was “shipshape” and proper. We had no complaints – none whatsoever.
Fast forward to the present. That wonderful temperament is still there, but the performance has waned somewhat. Tasks that were routine easy chores for her before have turned into time-consuming adventures in retraining and strains on memory. Even the ratio of time spent at the market to number of items procured is off, with “time away” taking on a priority to “buying the goods” come market day. Infrequent but noticeable disappearances into the barangay have started to develop as well. And finally, so have the “easy” chores turned into lengthy tasks of burden. Quite a change.
I’ve seen it before. The interest in working is leaving our katulong. Her day off this week has turned into a weekend away, and counting. She’s made some mention of her husband needing help with their farm in the mountains, and has also squeaked out a little tale about a stomach pain that she’s had for years still bothering her. She’s preparing us with excuses in advance.
Now, considering that the only difference in circumstances between the before and the now just happens to be our time away these past 4 1/2 months, and couple that with well-meaning reports of her absences from the property for days at a time while we were away, and the one tale-telling sign that I always look for upon our return from our vacations – our dogs became skinny – and there you have it. Call it “role-reversal,” “Westernization,” or what you may like, she’s lost her desire to be a katulong. She also is developing a desire to live a nicer life, similar to ours if she can, but not a life as a house helper.
We’ll be chatting with her soon (when she returns from her day off), and we’ll try to find out just where our relationship will be going in the upcoming months. She did express that she wanted to end her work with us next February so that she can return to her home and take care of her family and their farm. That’s okay. Early notice is fine with me. It helps us prepare for another katulong transitional period and helper hunt. In the mean time, however, it sure would be nice to have our katulong back, working at peak performance.