Two days from now we start nine days of prayer before her death anniversary. In this house where all that’s left are my grandmother, my nephew and his mom, and a whole lot of my own mother’s mementos, I try my very best to manage.
The past week had been particularly hard- my 83 year-old grandmother noticed a lump on her right breast, and after a particularly anxious fine needle aspiration biopsy, it was revealed she had tumor cells. Deciding to go ahead with the operation was a whole new ordeal altogether. She told me she once had a friend her age who underwent an operation, and later died. She never really stated the obvious; it was clear from the look on her eyes she was afraid of what her own fate would be.
Hours before the procedure, I was dressed in my scrubs. My cousin agreed to have me present until her induction, but the lab results and her blood pressure readings were too high that the anesthesiologist did not give clearance. Finally, we decided to postpone the procedure until her vital signs stabilize.
On the same day of her discharge my nephew was rushed to the hospital for fever and vomiting. Now the little tyke is ok, but now our trusty household help became ill. For most of the afternoon I monitored her temperature, giving medication every four hours, and taught her how to do tepid sponge bath to her lower her temperature. For now, I’m the one to serve her food, prepare dinner with Nanay, gather my uniform for tomorrow, and do the dishes.
I’ve never imagined myself to be so domestic, and I’ve never seen myself quite content with what I did.
When my Mom passed away, it was not only a huge emotional loss, but our finances changed drastically as well. My father’s salary was only but a fraction of what my Mom earned as a nurse in the US, and what he sent seemed wanting to cover the bills and living expenses. As the months passed bills kept piling. Once, the electric bill soared to 5,900 because of indiscriminate use of airconditioners. I tried to control the escalating living expenses, but it was hard to put your foot down when people refuse to cooperate.
Then one day things just went from bad to worse: I got into another big fight with my father again. He wanted me to work in Saudi after Nursing school, while I maintained my desire to continue to Med School. With his financial support gone, this household balanced precariously, and was unexpectedly rescued by my younger brother who once wanted to abandon his plans of going back to the US so he could stay here in Tacloban with his son.
With this support, and the support of my partner, this household gets to live another day. We’re slowly atoning for our financial mistakes by making small sacrifices now- no more aircon use, turning the ref off at night if there’s not much food stored, minimizing the use of the water pump…
Suddenly, I know the weight on my shoulder is the price I have to pay for the choices I’ve made. I can be taught the definitions of fortitude, sacrifice, and caring, but I find none more effective learning than the circumstances I am in at present.
I will forever miss a mother's touch; how my Mom always seemed to handle even the most delicate situation equitably and justly. How she chided me and my brothers when we did something wrong, yet I knew deep inside she secretly rooted for us all the way- encouraging us to stand back up when we trip and fall. She was always untiring, and never conditional loving us.
Oh Ma, it’s hard growing through this crisis, but I think you would have been proud of how we turned out. Your sons miss you. We all do, actually. And if the role that I play now, which involves running the household you once ran, turn out to be too difficult- I’ll just remember to take it a day at a time. These are, after all, very big shoes to fill.