I’m Finally Grieving

MY cousin one day posted on Facebook an old family photo of my dad’s family, circa 1960’s [years before I was born, though].  It shows my grandma and grandpa, all their grown up sons and daughters, and in-laws.  My dad, the eldest of the brood, looks really young and dashing, and my mom, very pretty and fashionable in her classic dress.  All of a sudden, I was hit by a great pang of longing and the floodgates open:I burst into tears, literally crying buckets and  I couldn’t seem to stop.  My mind conjures hundred of memories of them, reeling like old movies–my dad taking pictures of us kids, my mother watering her rows of red and white anthuriums; my dad playing, and singling along to, his favorite Sinatra songs, my mom cooking dinner after dashing home from work; my dad fixing some broken appliance, his perpetually broken eyeglasses perched on his nose, and my mom sewing me a dress for a piano recital.   There were many more sad and happy moments I recalled within those long minutes I was slumped on that chair sobbing my heart out.  And interspersed with these bittersweet recollections is the regret of taking for granted their presence and the many times I wasted being angry, resentful and rebellious, to them. But there is also the feeling of relief that finally, I could grieve their passing instead of ignoring and bottling up my sorrow all these long, lonely months… :((

60

[My dad, in a dark suit, seated beside grandma, and my mom, in a printed dress, standing behind him]

Intimations of Mortality

There are lines, deep and symmetrical, etched upon her face.  I trace each and every one  with my eyes:forehead, cheeks, mouth. I see a  face so like mine, save that it is withered and worn by years of sacrifice and selfless giving.

Her eyes have turned gray and unfocused.  They see through me and beyond. Once they were dreamy and filled with hope. But not once in my foolish and carefree youth, have I looked upon them to discern what I might have meant to them, nor to see the pride they held for me. I do not remember them crying, only glinting with iron strength.

Her trembling hands, gnarled and wrinkled, with their long and tapering fingers, smooth a handkerchief carefully, delicately.  They once wielded power with a pen; they wrote me indecipherable love letters, too.  I remember the noise they created on the piano, discordant notes echoing now in my memory.

She is thin and stooped.  There is no sign of that ample bosom I once used to bury my face in to hide my fears and uncertainties.  Her legs are bowed and wouldn’t support her anymore.  Once they brought her to dank and dirty marketplaces, brought me to department stores to provide me my needs and whims,  to once hilly suburbs to negotiate and acquire ownership of properties  I now inherited and live in in relative comfort.

Her voice is faint and hesitant.  It is tired.  It once sweetly sang me lullabies; used to soothe my pain.  It once rang with authority, rose with temper, shouted in argument.  I would never hear it humming softly with the ancient sewing machine again, nor call me sweetly for some errand or to dinner.  There will be no more of those lazy afternoon conversations at the dining table while partaking her favorite tibukhay recipe.

I leave her quietly as she goes back to sleep, back to her childhood memories I have heard her narrate to me a million times.  I once listened to them in exasperation and helpless amusement as their plots got embellished year after year.  But now they have become so dear to me, as if they were mine, as if I lived them with her.

I leave her lying there with her toothless smile lingering in my memory, with the singing of the nearby birds faint in her unhearing ears.

Time and Tide

Time flies indeed. It seems just yesterday that these little women sat around me, a captive audience to my endless tales of far-away lands, conquering heroes and grand romance. Now they have an audience of their own–young eager faces who will one day remember them with the same fondness and nostalgia. Thank you girls for the happy thoughts and wonderful memories…you have truly inspired me.

A Place To Be

I CREPT downstairs and tiptoed soundlessly across the yard, dashing outside the open gate into the dusty, stone-covered road. Heat waves sent electric shocks up my trembling knees. I ran faster until I reached the top of the hill. Without hesitation, I rushed downwards, rolling into the soft, dry carabao grass. Brushing dirt from my knees, backsides and elbows, I advanced toward the dense undergrowth. Abruptly, I was plunged into the darkness.

The thick rows of trees were still and the crackle of dry leaves echoed faintly into the gloom as I stepped on them. I heard the distant sound of running water. A filter of light escaped the protective roof of leaves and illuminated my path. As the light grew stronger, everything was bleached in black and silver. The trees thinned, making way for the wide expanse of water.I flopped into the soft bed of moss covering the bank. Across the mist was a jungle of coconut trees swaying slightly in the breeze. The murky, still depths rippled as a cow bent its head to the water and drank. A loud squawk cut the silence and the cow lazily raised its head, droplets of diamonds from its muzzle causing more ripples. A responding screech followed, and then another and another, until the noise rose to a wild crescendo as I became a captive listener to nature’s symphonic orchestra.

At last, the frantic beating of my heart slowed to an even, normal tempo. I opened my eyes and turned my head to the sound of Rofel Brion’s soft voice.

Wishing Wells and Wishing Spells

“Pssst. Open your window. I got something to show you.”

“Another trick again?”

“No. Just come down quick.”

“I can’t. I have to take a nap.”

“Don’t worry. Yaya is listening to the transistor.”

“If I get caught again…”

“You won’t. Come down now.”

***********

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll know soon enough. Hurry.”

“Uh-oh. Are you taking me to the river again? My dad will kill me!”

“No. At the memorial park. They built something new out there. It’s really cool. You’ll see.”

***********

“What is it?”

“It’s a well, dummy.”

“Oh.”

“Here.”

“Coins?”

“You’re supposed to drop one into it and wish.”

“What should I wish for?”

“Anything.”

“What are you going to wish for?”

“I won’t tell. You shouldn’t too.”

“Why not?”

“Coz it might not come true. Close your eyes tight and repeat the spell after me then say your wish silently. Wish really hard, ok? Let’s do it together now. Here. Hold my hand. Ready?”

“Ready.”

***********

“You think my wish will be granted?”

“Sure.”

“Great. Let’s go home now.”

“Not yet. I’m starved. There’s a funeral. Let’s go ask for some snacks.”

“But we’re not dressed for a funeral this time.”

“They won’t notice.   Everyone will be too busy reviving the relatives.Come on.”

“Wait up, will you?”