12 05 2010

MOMMY, MY maternal grandmother, once told me that I will always be her second favorite grandchild.  I vividly remember her laughing at her own jest.  Nobody would ever want to play second fiddle to anybody – but if I were to someone in her eyes, it didn’t bother me at all.  Besides, she never made me feel second to anyone.

As a kid growing up, I have only fond memories of our times together.  All my summers from when I was in elementary, all the way to high school, were spent with her.  We’d vacation together – anywhere her children would take her, she’d bring me along.  There was that first time we took the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo.  And throughout the long walk, she would make sure I wouldn’t go hungry.  She bought me all the roasted cashew nuts and sticky rice cakes I could handle.  My goodness, I was stuffed!

Food has always been a part of our travels.  And I would always be amused that whenever the service at any restaurant was really sloppy, Mommy would tactfully confront the dining manager and in some occasions, tug me as we staged our own “walk-outs.”   But at Savory, The Aristocrat, and in a number of hotels, that was never the case.  On weekends, she would take me to the movies and I couldn’t help but smile looking at an old, faded picture of us in front of the old Quad Cinema in Makati – back in the day when they spelled it Q-U-A-D, with each letter corresponding to a theater screen.

She has lived a full life that has spanned close to nine decades.  She has told me stories about the Second World War, the Japanese occupation, and the freedom of Manila.  She told me how a bayonet pierced through the roof of their house, missing my uncle by a hairline.  I felt the fear that she experienced when she escaped the attack of Japanese soldiers who barged into their house, not noticing that she had hid behind the imposing Narra wooden wardrobe.  I was so glad she survived all of those.

Now that she is much much older, and now that I am no longer the kid who would just tag along, we couldn’t spend as much time together as either of us would wish.  But still, I do my best to make her feel that I love her very very much.  I’ve never had a problem telling her, “Mommy, I love you.”  And the best part about saying it is that I know in my heart I really mean it.

On my birthday in 2008, I took a leave from work to be with her in the operating room as she underwent her hip replacement surgery.  Just a couple of days before that, she was the first face I saw in the crowd, applauding so enthusiastically, as I managed to breeze through a difficult passage of Jeffrey Osborne’s song “On The Wings Of Love” at my first cousin’s wedding reception.  Grandmother truly could be someon’s biggest fans.  When I walked my way back to the table, she had to kiss me to tell me I did good with the song.

Eversince that operation, though she obviously would refuse to be confined to the bed or a chair, she hasn’t been as mobile as I remember her to be – the first to rise in the morning, and the last to retire to bed at night.  But she has never compromised her outlook and view in life.

As the whole nation trooped to the polls last May 10th, we were rushing Mommy to the hospital after fainting and throwing up.  I took my cousin’s text message calmly and was just praying on the way to their house.  Mama, my mother, couldn’t come with us as she herself had been sick for a week – something that we would usually keep from Mommy as she would always worry.  Mommy and Mama are very close.

I sat at the backseat so that I could attend to Mommy.  Ever the gracious lady, she looked at me and asked in her weak voice, “Higa ako sa yo ha.  Masama pakiramdam ko.”  (“I’ll lay onto/upon you.  I don’t feel fine.”).  I smiled and said, “Of course Mommy, that’s why I’m here!” – I was trying to still be upbeat, saying it in a sing-song manner.  I could sense her asthma kicking in as she was gasping for air.  Even though the car was racing through traffic, I was feeling very impatient.  At the Emergency Room driveway, I flung open the car door and asked for immediate attention.  The ER shift at the time knew me and my brother as they had been the same ones who attended to my mother’s case a couple of times.  But this one – I told them – was for Mommy.

I know how much Mommy hates everything doctors and nurses have to do to attend to patients.  I just kept whispering to her ear that it would be okay.  She was holding my hand the whole time, and I was holding hers.  I would kiss her in the forehead and on the cheek whenever I thought she would feel pain – when blood was drawn for tests, when the dextrose was given to the vein.  She wanted me even in the X-Ray room before any tests could be done but the hospital wouldn’t allow it.  She conceded to the nurses provided she could see that I was right outside the door before it was closed.

She opened her eyes after a while, looked at me and said, “Buti nandito kayo.”  (“Thank goodness you’re here.”).  I smiled and said, “Of course naman, Mommy.”  That’s the one thing that I have always loved about Mommy, she always expresses her appreciation even for the smallest things.

Though she is still in the hospital, I feel thankful that she has managed to survive this episode.  One of the things I pray about everyday is more time with her.  As I had told her from recent visits, I would want to do my share to actually help take care of her.  I love her.

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