(This is re-posted from my old blog. My grandfather, Augusto Cosio, Sr., passed away on August 24th, 2010, and I haven’t been able to write yet about how I feel. I hope this posts suffices for now. I miss Lolo very much. Though we mourn his death, I choose right now to remember his life… and how well he lived it.)

“Few people know how to be old.”
François de la Rochefoucauld
Lola and Lolo on their 60th wedding anniversary
(NOTE: The original post was written on June 14, 2008.)  
Edita Mate Cosio, aka “Didit” to her friends, was born on June 13, 1927, in Leyte. She’s my lola (grandmother), she is 81, and she is a babe. My brothers will second and third me on that note. She ballroom dances thrice a week, and has the social life of a seasoned Philippine Tatler palangga. She could rival Eva Longoria or Sarah Jessica Parker for style and high heels. Can you tell me about another 81 year old who wears crimson chiffon, black leggings and four-inch heels to the daily 6 AM Mass?
“Lola, you’re what, 36 this year?” Kiddo playfully queried during my grandparents birthday party last Friday.

“I’m 38,” was Lola’s curt but beaming reply. She said it smoothly with those sultry eyes… We often joke that she remains 36 – plus the current “balance” of her actual age in years. No one could ever douse Lola’s appetite for life. She just wouldn’t settle for anything less than a moment to joke, a moment to smile, a moment just to take life as lightly and as joyfully as ever.

Ah, the Cosio legacy. To gracefully age and embrace life fully in the twilight of years. In all my years growing up I have never been more thankful for my grandparents’ attitude towards the golden years. “What’s your secret?” I ask Lola every year on her birthday. And her reply is always the same, but even more contented than the year before: “Smile often. Laugh a lot. Be happy over your kids. Love your husband.” I guess that’s why she can dance a heck of a samba every week. With a simple adage like that to live by, you can spend each day celebrating life, just simply celebrating it.

Lola and Lolo met almost 60 years ago at a skating rink somewhere in downtown Manila. She was some fair, Southern belle who loved socials and the zest for life, and he, a farmer’s son  who would quote Kipling, trying to make his way as a lawyer in the big city. The whimsy of their first moments together is a legend buzzed about among us cousins, and enjoyed too. “The moment I found out we had the same birthday,” said Lolo, “I never let her out of my sight.”

Reminds me so much of that saying,

If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. ” (Rudyard Kipling)

And Lolo and Lola love a good story. Sigh.

You need romance like that, don’t you? Lolo was always the sentimental, romantic type; Lola the vivacious, saucy, and effervescent offset to her husband’s quiet contentment. In their elderly years, Lolo gradually became the more fragile (he had lost a portion of his stomach due to starvation as a soldier during the WWII Bataan Death March, of which he is a survivor), and Lola was famed for her vibrance and energy. I guess that’s why, while Lolo was in hospital some months ago, I felt a giddy, teenage-girl delight when I visited them one afternoon: Lolo had been admitted for another cardiac episode, the most drastic kind as of late. Lola had been pretty rattled, and wouldn’t leave him at all. And so, it was no surprise for me to find them close together: Lola cradled by Lolo as he was wired to an oxygen tank and a heart monitor. They looked like a couple of newlyweds cuddled in a new and exciting embrace, yet in reality they were wizened by the years, and marked by a mysterious brand of love I have yet to experience.

During their birthday dinner, Papa prayed for them: for more happy years, for strength and grace, for added joy, and a load of other good things. All good things. And as the ceaseless banter between my dad and his siblings and my cousins and I went on (as in the usual Cosio fashion: LOUD), Lolo would be quietly taking it all in from his seat at the head of the table. Every now and then, his hand would clasp mine, and Lola would come around my end of the table to give me the “lola sniff” as she held my hand up to her cheek. Those are the things that never change.

I would say Lolo’s and Lola’s secret to living well, most of all, has been in the comfort of their love, and how they value love. I have a small, newly acquired understanding of this enigmatic love between two life-committed lovers. I see it in the flesh whenever I see my grandparents. Goodness knows how things would have turned out if Lolo never survived the Death March, or if Lola had never ventured to Manila back in the day. Perhaps what’s made them live this long and this vibrantly is that they know the value of each day and seize it.

“Smile often. Laugh a lot.” Wise words from some 80-somethings. I’d take their word on it.