As I stood there impatiently, for what seemed like a 10 minute long wait to fill up my Hydro Flask, I thought back to what my reality was like almost 5 years ago. Even writing the title of this post: “POV: 2017,” I had a “damn” moment, realizing that 2017 was literally 5 years ago. I can’t wrap my head around that. In my mind, it still feel like I’m in the year 2019. 2020 at the very latest. I can’t believe such a significant amount of time has passed.
Anyways, there I was, standing in my kitchen on a Thursday night, thinking of all the work I had to do the next morning. The preschool is nearing the end of the school year. That means a lot of things need to get done to close out this school year before we shut down and we go on summer break. I thought about my current position at work and where I stand in my life in general. Even though the next day’s stresses were weighing heavy on me already, I thought back to a time where I couldn’t imagine being where I’m at now.
I thought back to 2017, and damn, it took me back. I had flashbacks of me sitting in that gray chair leaned against the wall of the Kid’s Club at the gym. Those 4 walls of Fitness 19 were my life from 2014 – 2017, and I ain’t talking about working out. I spent 4 hours a day in that little room, I’ll never forget that blue carpet with the colorful crayon pattern that, for some reason, went halfway up the walls. I had made that space my own – bringing in my own movies for the kids to watch so I’m not watching Frozen for 4 hours straight, even though that’s what ended up happening anyways. To this day, I can probably recite every word to Frozen, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, and some episodes of Super Mario Brothers.
I had great memories working at the Kid’s Club – I took care of some awesome kids, befriended their parents, and had a lot of deep talks in that small room with close friends, new friends, and members of the gym. It was also the room my friends and I used to workout in when we felt insecure about being judged by the regular gym goers. I’ve had countless phone interviews for articles I was writing for Xpress Magazine where I sat crisscross apple sauce on that nasty ass ABC mat. It was the job I had while I was in community college, and for a while when I was at SF State. It was the job that got me by, and even though it just barely got me by, given that I lived at home and had no real bills to pay, it was a great first job to have. It reminded me of simpler times, where all I cared about was my social life, school, and having fun.
But clearly, working at the Kid’s Club at my local gym was not my dream job or end goal. When it got slow at the Kid’s Club, I have vivid memories of staring off into space, completely zoning out. Don’t worry – the kids were fine – probably watching a movie or playing amongst each other. But with 4 hours to basically sit and watch kids who have made friendships with one another and waste no time chopping it up amongst each other, it left a lot of time for me to sit and think. At times it felt like that room was my mental prison. I was always thinking of what the next step of anything would be – the next stage of life, the next stage of school, the next stage of my career, the next stage in my relationship, the future as a whole.
Now, I know I said the job reminds me of simpler times, which is true. However, that’s me in the present looking back at it now. Back then, I was equally as stressed out, just in different ways. The pressure of school deadlines, maintaining my grades, a social life, all while being broke as shit was no walk in the park. Looking at it now, I was just at the threshold of adulting, and if current me could give 2017 year old me any advice, I’d say that the current stresses in life would just be replaced with different ones – enjoy the mother fucking process. But 2017 me was 22, in the thick of my school career and on the cusp of trying to get my life together.
I enjoyed my job, but at the same time I knew I wanted more. Obviously working minimum wage as a glorified baby sitter wasn’t my dream job, but I knew there were other ways for me to feel more fulfilled for the time being until I graduated and figured out what to do with me life. 2017 Marinelle felt uninspired, lost, and burnt out working at the Kid’s Club. I felt the anxiety from deep within my soul when thinking about the future. I would sit on that gray chair, staring off into space, and literally wait for time to pass by.
One day, with the usual 3 favorite movie rotation, I managed to sneak in a movie other than Frozen. To my satisfaction, Tangled was playing in the background as I did my routine – kids comes, they play with each other and ignore me, I put on a movie for background noise, and I watch and manage the kids as my mind wanders. I can distinctly remember the next steps of my relationship was heaviest on my mind. At the time, Christian was going from living situation to living situation, staying in the Bay Area solely for our relationship. All first generation Filipino Americans can relate – moving out is a big deal. It’s not just financial independence and venturing out into the real world, it’s also nerve wrecking and a drama-filled topic to even bring up.
I knew the next steps in our relationship would be to move in together. But I was stressed as shit knowing that I was nowhere near financially able to do so. I wanted to do things the “right way,” and I was incredibly overwhelmed with the fact that we literally live in the most expensive area in the country. I felt like there was no “right way” to check all the boxes to appease everyone. I was stuck, emotionally exhausted, and I felt like my life was at a standstill. I dreamt of the day where I could say that everything building up until that moment was worth the struggle, the fight, the late night stress. I wanted more than anything to be done with school, start my writing career, and live a comfortable life. I had no idea how I would get to that point.
In the thick of all of these anxious thoughts, the song, “When Will My Life Begin,” started to play in the background of the Kid’s Club. I’m a singer – not the best out of the bunch, but that never stopped me. I sing because I like to, not because I think I actually have bars. So like any other day, I sang along to the lyrics. Usually, I would sing the background song while casually scrolling through my phone, not paying too much attention to the meaning and what I’m actually saying. This specific day though, the Tangled sound track hit a little different. Singing the words, “When will my life begin?” hit me. Damn, that’s deep. I felt that shit in my soul. I couldn’t relate more. That’s exactly how I felt in that exact moment in time. I remember daydreaming about having it all together and figured out in the future, looking back to this exact moment. That’s what I wanted so desperately – to know that it was going to get better and things were going to sort itself out eventually. And it did.
I stood there, my Hydro Flask just barely getting to the top, finally. And I remembered that I would’ve never guessed to be where I’m at now back then. I remembered that what I’m living and doing right now is exactly what I wanted just 5 years ago. Sometimes I need to take that step back to realize that even though I’m not exactly where I want to be in life, in my career, in XYZ… I’m still making progress in the right direction. That’s not always so apparent from day to day life, but when you see the picture, you see how far you’ve come. I need to appreciate that life happens in mysterious ways. I can only imagine where I’ll be 5 years from now when I think back to this moment – filling up my water bottle on a Thursday night in 2022.
“This is story 3 of 9 of my Tatay’s Series. This is my way of honoring Tatay’s life and legacy. It wouldn’t be right if I DIDN’T give him his own series and avoided writing about his passing all together. But I’m also aware that this is something I need to do for myself – to put my grief, anger, and emotions all out on the table, instead of distracting myself with work and other things to avoid the reality that he’s gone.” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory
Fuck this pandemic.
That’s what I really wanted to say during my speech. But like I said, it wasn’t the place or the time. I guess I’m at the 2nd stage of grief – ANGER.
I know that Tatay was so blessed and fortunate to reach 98 years old. But I just know his life was cut “short” due to this pandemic. And I can’t get passed the feeling of anger and thinking of what could have been. Pre-pandemic, you could’ve asked anyone in my family – we all believed that Tatay would live long enough to reach at least 100 years old. Other than small complications that come with old age, Tatay was in great health for 98. He complained about his back hurting, not being able to get around like he used to, his memory wasn’t as sharp, but that all comes with the process of aging. If anything, it was amazing what his body could still do in his mid to late 90’s!
When the 3 week mandatory shutdown was called in March 2020, we all didn’t expect that almost a year and a half later we would still be worried about the virus. We knew that the shutdown was looming around the corner, so we decided to go to Tatay’s house for Sunday dinner, even though it wasn’t the week we were supposed to since we go every other Sunday. We were all a little hesitant to go over his house because we didn’t know much about the virus then and didn’t want to put Tatay’s health in danger since he was the most vulnerable. On the family group chat, my cousin joked that we should go to Tatay’s for dinner, the day before the official lockdown, because it might be the last one for a long time. Unfortunately, it was true.
Sunday dinners at Tatay’s were postponed until further notice. When the shutdown kept getting longer and longer, I started to get a bad feeling about how this would effect Tatay and his health. Obviously we stayed away because we wanted to protect him at all costs, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do. In my opinion, being surrounded by family often, getting up to do usual routines, and getting out every once in a while is what kept Tatay young. It kept his mind working, it kept his body moving, it’s the reason why he made it to 98. But literally over night, all of those things changed. He went from being around family consistently, to just being at home with my step-grandma, Tita. Both of them cooped up in the house to keep themselves safe and healthy. And I hate that it happened this way.
It was around July that my family started visiting Tatay every Sunday. A little over 3 months of not seeing him. Except these visitations were nothing like our usual Sunday dinners. Most of the time, it was just me, my dad, my sisters, and occasionally my mom stopping by to say hello. There was no official gathering, no other family members, and not even enough time to catch up. We would come in with our masks on and try to social distance as best as we could. We just wanted to see Tatay and let him know that we’re not neglecting him because we don’t have time, but because there’s a deadly virus going around that’s easily transmissible. In the beginning we would stay tops 2-5 minutes. A quick hello, dropping off food, and seeing how he’s doing. We wanted to make sure that we were being safe about it and not staying too long to protect him.
Tatay’s house used to be so lively. It was the house to be at for family gatherings, and there was never a dull moment. His great granddaughters ran through the house, screaming from the top of their lungs with excitement every time they were present. “Tatay’s house,” to the kids was a place to play with your cousins, scream your heart out, and eat your weight in Puto. It was the house that always had America’s Funniest Home Videos playing since Tatay didn’t have cable, and it was the only thing everyone could agree on. It was the house where you brought your laptop to finish your assignments because school’s the next day, but Tatay’s house on Sunday is mandatory. It’s the house where all your dietary plans go out the window because everyone brings bomb food for a potluck. That was Tatay’s house.
Entering Tatay’s house during the pandemic was the exact opposite – quiet, untouched, dull. It’s a depressing thing to replay in my mind – how we would doorbell, greet Tita, take off our shoes, and head straight up the stairs to Tatay’s room. We would peak in to see if he was asleep, but would end up going in and waking him up to say hello anyways. 95% of the time we visited him, he was in his bed resting. We would stay far from his bed when we greeted him, being sure to wear our masks, not touching anything, and not “blessing” him to be safe. With his old age, not having family gatherings for months to stimulate his mind, on top of wearing a mask, there were days where Tatay didn’t know who we were.
“What part of the Philippines are you visiting from?”
“What day is it?”
“When can I go back to the Philippines?”
“Why are you wearing a mask?”
Explaining the pandemic to Tatay was not an easy task. Tita, my dad, my aunts and uncles – everyone – would tell him why we have on masks and why we can’t have family gatherings for the time being. No matter how many times it was explained, I don’t think Tatay ever really got the severity of it all. He was starting to show signs of dementia, so there would be times where he remembered that a sickness was going around, and other times where he just didn’t get it. And because he couldn’t fully comprehend the pandemic, it broke my heart to realize that there was a possibility that he believed we all just weren’t visiting him. It’s a thought I tried to avoid the whole time we visited him during the pandemic because it made me feel overwhelmed with sadness.
His many questions would be asked on loop throughout our short stay every Sunday. It was sad to see his mind slowly going. But I didn’t know what was more sad – when he was speaking nonsense, or when he was fully aware of everything around him. Seeing what mind state Tatay would be in every Sunday was a gamble. Was he going to be happy? Was he going to remember us? Was he going to ask for people who have passed on already? Is he going to bring up the Philippines – a very touchy topic that nobody wanted to bring up in his presence because of how bad he wanted to go back… the list went on. I would feel sad when he would ask questions that we just answered 30 seconds prior, because it was a sign that his memory was going. He was slipping away and there was nothing we could do about it.
But I think what was more heartbreaking was when he was completely aware of where he was and the situation at hand. There were some Sundays where we would go up straight to his room and find him in his usual spot – his bed. We would ask him how he is and he’d sound depressed. Saying how he’s bored at the house, there’s nothing to do, he can’t go anywhere, and he just wants to go back to the Philippines already. We had to explain to him that he’s not the only one feeling those feelings. Everyone around the world were getting pandemic fatigue as well. We let him know that my mom and sisters were working from home, nobody really leaves the house except to do necessary things like getting groceries, and even if we wanted to go out, everything is shutdown anyways.
One Sunday Tatay was giving us an ear full about how he’s so bored, frustrated that he can’t do anything, and all he does is just stay in the house. “What kind of life is this?! / Anong klaseng buhay ito?!” He would say bitterly. Again we dived into the conversation that it’s a global pandemic, that everyone around the world is cooped up in their house with nothing to do, everything is shutdown everywhere, and it’s all because of a deadly virus. We told him that’s why everyone is wearing masks, why we were wearing masks at that exact moment to protect him, and that the virus could spread without you even knowing it. Typical Tatay sighed and let all the things my dad translated go over his head. He continued to complain – which he had every right to do especially since he didn’t get what the pandemic actually was. My dad went downstairs to help Tita with packing things for the Philippines, so it was just me and my older sister with Tatay. One thing about Tatay, he will give you a mouth full and be stubborn as can be, but when it comes to his grandchildren and great grandkids, he eases up and doesn’t give us that side of him.
“So when you’re at home, you’re doing nothing too?” Tatay said tenderly in Tagalog, as he laid in his bed. He was no longer irritated.
We reassured him that we were bored as hell at home too. We told him schools were closed, everyone was working from home, everything is shutdown, and “lahat” (everyone) around the world is doing nothing. We let him know that his current reality was one of many. This seemed to make Tatay feel a little better, even though my dad had just explained it moments before. I laughed and quietly told my sister, “misery loves company,” to make light of the situation. But it was true, we let him know how boring life is during a pandemic, and let him know that yes, it did suck. He found comfort in knowing that he wasn’t the only one. I could see it in his face – his change of heart, his anger slipping away, his face expression now replaced with a look of pondering. I always wondered if he asked that for reassurance, or if he wanted to know if the pandemic was as serious as we were telling him.
We continued to visit Tatay every single Sunday, and when he got vaccinated in early 2021, we felt more comfortable extending our visits from 2-5 minutes, to about 15 – 20 minutes. We would sit around his bedside and try to make small talk, show him animals on our phones, or show him pictures that would entertain him. We would still have our masks on, and he would still ask why we had them on. One week it would seem like Tatay’s health was super weak and declining, then the next week he would be playful, in a good mood, and seemed to be aware of what time frame he was in. He had his good days and his bad days. Even on days he didn’t know who we were, Tita would tell us the many stories about him asking about us. He would ask Tita the same thing: “Where is Roland and Beth? Where do the kids sleep? Are they cold?”
I wondered what time frame he believed he was living in since he used to live with my family and I until I was about 7 years old. Pre-pandemic he would occasionally ask me where I sleep at home and if I get cold. I never really got why he asked that, but it obviously it seemed to be of some importance to him since he asked that question often. When we would visit Tita would tell him, “Do you know who they are? Here’s your grandchildren! These are your grandchildren!” He would smile and laugh, a little embarrassed that he didn’t know who we were. I would show him pictures of us when we were really young, to jog his memory, hoping he’d recognize me in the pictures.
Little by little, Tatay’s health started to decline. When it was apparent that his health was declining rapidly, the family decided to resume Sunday dinners again. At this point, it was May 2021, a year and 2 months of not all being at Tatay’s house as a family. The damage of not being around everyone was irreversible, he was slipping away. Tita would give us little updates every Sunday, and it all happened so gradually. It started with his memory, then he didn’t have much of an appetite, then he only ate because he was forced to not because he was actually hungry, then he couldn’t walk up and down the stairs all that great anymore, it quickly turned to him not being able to get up and walk by himself, and on his 98th birthday was the cherry on top of the “fuck this pandemic” cake. My aunts and uncles decided to start taking shifts to take care of Tatay throughout the week because he didn’t have much time left and needed around the clock care. Up until that point, Tita was doing it all.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling of believing in my heart that this pandemic cut Tatay’s life short. It robbed Tatay of his last years here on Earth to be spent mostly isolated, it prevented him from going back to the Philippines, and I personally believe that it stole a couple of good years he still had left in him. This is where my anger stems from. Fuck this pandemic. It took my Tatay away prematurely, and I’m pissed. I understand why we had to stop family gatherings to protect him and his health, but I hate that we weren’t there to keep him consistent company. I hate that we couldn’t hug him, take off our masks, or be in close proximity without feeling like we were putting him in danger. I’m upset that he left under these circumstances, Tatay deserved better than this depressing pandemic as his last 2 years.
I’m simmering in my anger and just letting myself feel whatever I’m feeling. I find myself thinking of alternate endings, what it would be like if COVID was never a thing, if the pandemic had an ending, if we continued with Sunday dinners despite the shutdown, if he had made it back to the Philippines before COVID, would things workout differently? Would there be an ending that I would be satisfied with? I don’t know. I just know that my family and I went into the pandemic with X amount of people, and we’re coming out of it with 1 less… I know there’s no use in dwelling on what could have been. This is the reality of it all. For the time being, I need something to blame.
Blue carpet with colorful crayons that not only was on the floor, but also covered 40% of the wall. TV to my left, doorway with a half door to my right. If I look straight ahead I see the random column, also covered in that blue carpet.
This was my view for 4 years. I got my first job at the Kids Club in 2014, and it closed down officially June 1, 2018.
The start of this year, I got a new job at a preschool/ daycare, but I still worked at the Kids Club on Saturdays. Even when I had a new job, I couldn’t fully cut ties with my “roots.” There were rumors of the Kids Club closing, but I honestly didn’t think they would follow through, or if they did, it would be waaaayy after I graduated and have a Journalism related job. Wrong.
As I worked my last Kids Club shift, I started reminiscing on the last 4 years. All the people I met, all the parents I got close to, all the children I got to see grow right before my eyes, and the memories I’ll never get to relive. CHEEEEEESEEEEE. Yeah, I’m being cheesy as hell. But let me break it down…
This job was my new start in 2014. I was on my second semester in community college, I got myself out of a toxic relationship a month prior to getting hired, I just declared my major as “Early Childhood Education,” and this was my first job. Not only my first job ever, but also related to the field I wanted to get into. It was the start to my beginning.
When I first started working, the group of co-workers there were like my family. Even though we all went our separate ways, there’s a couple that I keep in touch with often and send non-stop memes to. I met so many people while working in the Kids Club. I noticed that I got close to a lot of the parents. On many occasions, I was the listening ear. Though I was (still am) young, many mothers looked to me for advice, to vent, to tell about their day or life in general. I built a lot of friendships with the mothers that used the Kids Club. I’ve heard their stories, I’ve heard their struggles, I’ve heard their side, I’ve heard (supposedly) the other side, I’ve heard what they’ve been through, I’ve heard the nasty drama they went through, I’ve heard their insecurities, I’ve heard the deepest parts of them that they so eagerly wanted to reveal and felt comfortable revealing to me.
I’ve always been all about the tea and beef. 🐸☕ Ironically, I try to avoid drama within my own life, but when it’s someone else’s drama I’m like YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, SPILL THE TEA RIIIGHTTTT NOWWWWW, UPDATE MEEEEEE. I guess I’ve always been interested in other people’s lives, but not only in a nosey way, but also because I want to help somehow or give some type of input. A mom from the Kids Club would tell me all the time how she valued me as a friend because how wise I am for my age, and how I keep it real with her regardless of how she would react.
I’m realizing now that maybe this job steered me into the path I’m at now. I knew I ALWAYS wanted to write. I declared “Early Childhood Education” as my major, but I felt like I was settling. I love kids. I’ve always been good with kids. So 18 years old, fresh out of high school, in community college with an undeclared major, I’m like…. fuck it, just declare child development because you know you’re good at it. But deep down I knew I was taking the easy road – Not saying at all that it’s an easy job. I still work with children as I work towards my degree, and it is no easy task. But for me personally, I knew that I chose to play it safe because I was too scared to actually follow through with writing.
But how would I make a living off writing? What if it flops? Who even cares what I have to say? What if people think my work sucks? What writing major can take me further and open up more than one path?
But working at the Kids Club also made me realize that I was in the wrong major. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the kids, but something in me was like, you know… this is a great job for now, but you know that you’ll feel unfulfilled if you stay in this major because you’re too scared to take a chance with something else…
So I switched…. And I switched….. then I was undeclared…. then I switched again. And found myself in journalism. I’m glad I took many classes to see what I really was into. But for me, I always had to have a plan. Where would this major take me? What other opportunities can it get me if I don’t get that particular job I have in mind for this major? But at this point I was like: bro, this is the start of my 3rd year in community college, I need to transfer already. Yeah, Journalism, yeah, writing, sure, ok, DECLARED. I think I declared journalism as my major before I even took classes on it. I would over think every major I went into (and switched out of), but it’s funny that the major I stuck with, was a no brainer. I didn’t want to over think because I felt like I wasted a lot of time doing that. And partly, I was tired of switching. I wanted to pick something and transfer out already. I figured as long as it’s writing, I’ll figure it out. I was always uncertain if I was on the right track. And if I’m being real, there were many times where I was close to switching back to Early Childhood Education because I was afraid of the unknown.
It probably wasn’t until transferring to SF State that I realized this was for me. I realized journalism didn’t mean only hard news. Journalism was anything that I was interested in, with sources to back it up. People think journalism is just writing and doing breaking news, but it teaches so many other skills that can really take you down multiple paths. I realized that I’ve been doing journalism all along. My interest in other people’s lives and wanting to know their emotions / situations were pointing to journalism this whole time. In the beginning I wanted to write for entertainment, made up stories that I concoct in my head. But the more classes I took, I found myself wanting to use my work to put out a message. I wanted to inspire, to inform, to make some type of difference in the world even if my audience are a few individuals. What I wanted to do was right in front of me the whole time.
When I think of the Kids Club closing I get sad. I feel like it was such a big part of my life. I did a lot of growing and met a lot of people there. 4 years, I did a lot of thinking, self reflecting, crying, laughing, stressing, etc, in those 4 walls covered in blue carpet with crayons.
The Kids Club will always remind me of our love story. That was truly the beginning. When Christian and I first started talking I’d be trapped in the Kids Room while he worked front desk. I’d look forward to those “bathroom breaks” he’d take, and I would so happen to be standing at the door so we could talk. 😂 I fell inlove with my co-worker, and we have the gym to thank for it.
I knew I wouldn’t be working at a gym daycare forever. I knew this day would come, where I had to let go of my first job. I’m such an over thinker that I can’t help but look at the last 4 years like a movie. All the things I went through, how much I grew, all the shit that happened in those 4 years, it’s crazy!
Just the thought of knowing that the room doesn’t exist anymore makes me sigh. Time is changing and time waits for no one. It’s like the end of an era almost. I guess the universe has a way of forcing you to move on and do better things in your life. I was always hesitant to find a new job or move on. It seemed like everyone I worked with found better opportunities but I was too afraid to find mine. I was afraid of the unknown. I didn’t want things to change because if it changed, that means I’m back to square 1, taking a chance on my decisions. And I didn’t want to do that. But at the end of the 2017 I knew it was time to start another chapter. I found the job I’m currently in and started January 2018, while still working the Kids Club on Saturdays. Not 1 month into my new job, and talks about closing the Kids Club started going around. And here we are 5 months later and it’s closed for good. I felt like it was meant to be. That the universe was like “bruh you ain’t neva gonna leave, we gotta close this shit for you to leave.” 😂😂😂😂
Change will happen regardless. My last shift, most of the parents took down my number for future babysitting. I looked at the walls, covered in drawings. Some of the artists of the drawings have moved away for years already. I sifted through the DVD ruins, and got the movies that I brought throughout the years. My “Kids Club” movie was over.
I told Christian that we had to take a picture inside since that room had so much meaning to me and our relationship. We got one of the new workers to take our picture, *snap* *snap* *snap*, 20 snaps later and our Photoshoot was over. I turned off the lights and closed the half door behind me. That’s a wrap.