It took a lot of courage and thought to type this all down. I kept on thinking about what was more fitting and what was the right thing to say. Music truly helps, as I was listening to Landslide, it was only then that I was able to start formulating everything that I wanted to say.
For the past couple of days, things have been hectic for my family and I. It all started last Monday, or Tuesday, when I received a text from my Aunt asking me to see my grandmother. Mama hasn’t been feeling well for the past couple of weeks. It would either be because she would have a low-grade fever or would have trouble sleeping. As Mama’s health goes up and down sporadically, I just shrugged it off and thought that since she’s older, she’s more prone to these things. I didn’t think that this would be a red flag, warning us that her time is almost up.
Mama is somewhere between the age of 92-96. We don’t really know her exact age as she’s very secretive about it. She’s basically the Madonna (the entertainer) of our family. She subtracts a couple of years and says that she’s actually younger than her real age. It’s one of the funny things we talk about Mama who’s a comedian in her own right. For my cousins who are older than I am, they were able to know her more because she had a hand in bringing them up during their younger years. I really got to know her when I came back from the States and stayed with my aunt.
Mrs. Valeriana Yasay is a chameleon. She has so many quirky traits; and I feel that the many quirks that I’m known for, came from her. She was always this mysterious and scary character for me growing up. She wasn’t really fond of children, and I’d remember the times she’d spend with my brother and I, before my family migrated to the US. I even remember talking with my Mom stating that I didn’t want to kiss and hug her because she was mean and that I knew that she didn’t like me. I also said that the only apo (grandchild in Tagalog) she liked was my brother because he looked so much like Papa Loloy. Of course, my Mom would say that it’s not true and that Mama loves me very much.
When I came back from the States, I was lucky enough to spend more time, getting to know her and actually experiencing what it was like to have a Lola.Whenever I would be bored or would want to escape the wrath of my Aunt, I would always go to her room and talk to her. I thank the Lord for letting me have those moments. I was able to get to know her more as a person and as my Lola.
Mama is a bit of a racist. Hahaha. She never really liked watching movies with African-American people in it, and other things as well. She would always say, in Tagalog, “You didn’t get anything from your mom! You got everything from your Dad! You’re Chinese! Chinese! Chinese! Chinese!” To that I would reply, “You say my Mom is very beautiful, and I’m beautiful, so I got that from her, and she got it from you! So you’re wrong!” She would always laugh out loud when I would answer her back with that. We would always have that debate though.:) Sometimes, I would also ask her about my Lolo, who according to her, was the love of her life. She would tell me stories about how they met, and how she was flattered but didn’t really like him at the start. She would tell me about another love of hers that she was supposed to get married with, but he was killed by the Japanese during the war. She would always laughingly tell stories about her many suitors, and would always be proud by saying that she was a very beautiful mestiza from Camiguin. She would also boast of how she was so business-minded and knew how to handle things efficiently.
I saw the proof of a mother’s unconditional love with Mama. It would be evident in her relationship with my Mom. My grandmother and mother have never seen eye to eye, and even if my mom had issues with her growing up, Mama would always make it a point to ask about my mom. Mama though never stopped asking about her and would always tell everyone (if I’m in the room) about my ever so charming and beautiful mother. She would always talk about my Mom and be sad that my Dad never really became the man that she hoped he would be. Despite the gap between them, she would always offer a dozen of novenas for my family.
Mama is known as the ULTIMATE TERROR. Surprisingly, she’s not really like that anymore now. My Aunts have often remarked that she was never really that soft-hearted and that maybe with age, she had warmed up more. Mama’s efforts as a better grandmother was always a wonderful surprise.
One thing that I could never forget about her, is how much she loves Ito. When Ito and I got together, my aunties were still apprehensive about the thought of me having a boyfriend. See, I was never really allowed to have one. However, when she met Ito, she fell in love with him and vice versa. Mama would always look forward to his visits, and would laugh up a storm when he would be here. He, in turn, would patiently stay and talk to her about a lot of things, tease her and make time for her. He would also make sure that he was properly dressed and in a good mood when he would see her. It never really did matter to her, because his presence was enough. One thing that she would always remark on is how he reminded her so much of my Lolo, which is one of the reasons why she always liked him. I think this helped my Aunts warm up to him, and eventually accept him as part of the family. I never really told her that he and I were no longer together because I knew that it would just break her heart. It hurts when she couldn’t remember any of us, and yet she still remembered him.
It’s so hard seeing her now in pain. She doesn’t really talk, is very restless and terrified to be left alone. She is now talking about deceased suitors and friends visiting her. We fear, I fear, that they’re already picking her up for the journey of coming home to Him. I’m most scared about the fight that will happen between Heaven and Hell. I know though that He would never leave her, and that He would send his holiest angels to guide and back her up in this war. I do wish the best for her. I just can’t help but be sad and a little selfish about her wanting to stay just a bit more. She lived a long life though, she was able to see her children have children who in turn had children of their own. I know she’s really lonely now, and I guess it’s really time for her to be reunited with her amigos and amigas in Heaven.
To my ever so loving Mama, I will miss you so when the time comes. I know it will be painful going in to your room, expecting that you’ll be there. We will no longer have anyone to tease about asking for cows, getting gifts from Rustans, or about giving you a higher allowance. I will miss the pandesals, ensaymada, torta and other treats from you. No one will ever say, “saba! sige ka saba! ngisngis kaayo boses mo! sige na, matuog na ko!” and then laugh afterwards quite like you do. I will no longer be able to count your freckles and ask why you have so many. I will always remember how I should pick mangoes and other fruits to make sure that they’re sweet enough. Thank you for trying to be like a mom/lola for me when you knew I was having such a hard time being away from my mom. I will remember your smile that would always light up a room and will surely do remember how to, “pick up men and play hard to get.” Haha. Every time I will pray the three o’clock habit, I will always pray it with gusto and will offer my intentions for you to our Heavenly Father.
I’m sorry I was never able to go to Cagayan de Oro with you like what we talked about, but I promise I will make time for that now. I will visit the places that you loved and grew to love with Papa. I will find someone who makes the same leche flan like you do, and I will ask the Aunties for your old recipes. I will make sure that Auntie Baby will always have someone in her life, and that I will never leave her alone. I will always pray for you, Papa and your many amigos and amigas in Heaven.
I will not say goodbye yet, until He has decided that it’s time. So for now, I will still tease you, try to make you laugh and make sure that you are always comfortable. I love you Mama. Thank you for being one of the best people I have ever met and loved in my life. 🙂