My sister sent me the other day screencaps of an uncle’s Facebook page. This uncle was the husband of my mother’s older sister who passed away from breast cancer roughly two years ago. I didn’t have enough time to establish a close relationship with him when I was growing up. He was one of those more sensible people in my approximation as a kid. I was wont to eavesdrop on living room conversations among adults as they exchanged gossips and complaints about their partners and children while I made them believe I was innocently napping on the couch.
The photos struck me as bizarre because I initially thought it was he with his eldest daughter–though I knew my sister had sent that to me in order to make a point–I sensed a tone of judgment in the absence of an accompanying text to the screenshots I received. He was with another woman–and by the looks of it–a girlfriend. Upon closer inspection of the photos, the woman he was standing next to was quite unlike my aunt. Whereas my aunt was rotund, though not downright overweight, the woman in the picture was svelte like an ideal Siamese cat. While he and my aunt had maintained that ample distance between married couples during family get-togethers, an unwritten rule they needed to follow to avoid calling attention to themselves and also because married couples think PDAs are best left to the young and those liaising with their paramours, this uncle and his new girlfriend threw that unwritten rule out of the window in the first photo–my uncle can be seen wrapping his right arm around the younger woman.
He was looking straight at his phone camera with that unnatural twinkle in his eyes for someone in his late 50s. He looked in love, rather uncommon for a man of his age who’s with his partner for a good thirty years or so. The last time I remember myself sporting that twinkle was when I was 16. I am twice that age now, and the memory of that glow in my eyes is in a dusty drawer of my distant personal history. He looked content, very happy, almost looking like an Overseas Filipino Worker who has worked in the Middle-East for more than a decade without the benefit of seeing his family even once while his contract is in effect, and finally arriving home after years of doing construction on the Burj or Dubai airport.
In the second photo he kept his distance from the younger woman lest it be misconstrued negatively–of course he minded what people in my hometown would think of his new-found love, with a younger woman, and two years after the death of his wife, and in a place where the surviving party in a marriage is expected to be perpetually loyal not only to his partner when she is still around but even to the memory of the beloved who passed on, and to stay devoted to no one except to their children who may be adults by now but who still subject their parents to the same expectation to be responsible for them as a child would. He’s not given cart blanche to do whatever he likes, but his age more or less gives him excuse to be oblivious to what the neighbors will say if he desires so, and my uncle chooses to not care anymore and to follow the path where he thinks happiness is waiting for him.
And I am not wrong. Throughout the years, he has remained one of the more sensible people I have a wonderful chance of knowing.