Tuesday, March 8, 2011

For Mama

On the eve of my father's flight, Mama and I stayed up and waited long into the night. We talked of a lot things. The conversation went smoothly at first, but eventually took a turn, not unlike how things are now. Her strength was for my younger siblings who were there, present and silent, but not oblivious. 

When they went to their rooms to sleep, I sensed the flowering cracks in her armor. It reminded me of time-lapse videos of the shifting sky, and of growing buds on plants. It had rhythm. It had grace. I was struck how grace in grief could be that overpowering. I never it expected it to overwhelm me. It was as a quiet storm within the soul: great, and what little may be learned is learned from the eyes. I looked into the eyes whose mold largely influenced my own and saw pain, confusion, anger, and love beyond my form mirrored in her black irises. There were more, yes - feelings and emotions and thoughts beyond the scope of words - both my own, and that of the all the words in the world, but what complex gamut that lay hid in her soul was wholly represented by the saline rivers sprung from her soul's windows. 

It will always pain a child to see a parent in tears. We look up to them, calm, and confident, and assured. It was their warmth that cradled us. It was their embrace that welcomed us when we first walked. It was their arms that threw us into the sky to allow us to feel the thrill of living, and the same ones that caught us ere we fell. It was their fingers that met ours when we first learned to point and align our digits. It was their palms that encompassed our little ones when we first learned to spread them wide. It was their face that surprised us and made us laugh. It was their lips that first kissed us. It was their lullaby that lulled us to sleep. It was their hushed voice that reassured us in the dead of the night when we woke up from our babe dreams. In that moment when Mama's first tears fell, I thought of all these things at once. When she started to cry, I wanted to touch her and tell her how she was loved, despite all my shortcomings as the eldest and as a son. When her sobs gained strength and progressed and her pain and her anguish and her despair became very palpable, I reached out a hand and enclosed hers in it.

It's alright, Ma. Life doesn't stop here.

I was never physically expressive, that was the price I paid for being too guarded. But Mama knew what the act meant, she was my mother and I was her son. Bonds formed from when life first sparks up until one is born are never broken. I will forever be bound to her. She took deep breaths and after a spell, her sobs subsided, and her river-tears dried. 

She smiled. It was wistful.

I smiled back. I hoped it was reassuring.

Sometimes, I wish I never listened to your father when he asked me to stop working. Look where it's got me: I am without a career and am feeling quite helpless, at least for now.

I looked at her and smiled, waiting for the right time to say what I had to say.

You know, Christopher, back then he cried when he pleaded to me for it. He said it was his duty, and that he never wanted me to do what he said was his duty.

A deep breath.

I admit, I was both torn and touched then. Here was a man who swore to secure a secure life for me and our children, at the expense of my job.

She looked at me.

Of course you know what happened: that part of me that was touched prevailed. Yet another instance of the heart overpowering reason. Re-

She looked again. Uncertain.

Regret eats me up now. It is overwhelming, son.

She smiled her sad smile.

From the moment my father left, I've always known it would eventually come to this, that she would say those words. Long has she told me of it, and allowed me view of snippets of her resentment. Funny how regret is like a puzzle: one built over time, whose past is a muddled incoherence and whose present is a vivid image devoid of the chaos then.

Ma, if you never gave up your job, you'd have had no time to teach me. My command of language, with all due modesty, would not be what it is today.

I spoke to her in English, the first language I learned. On lighter days with lighter hearts, we would often joke about how I was better than her at it now.

Ma, you taught me how to draw first.

I grinned. She grinned back.

Well, now, I do admit that I draw better than you, but I'll never forget how you taught me to draw cats and fishes using the figure eight. I'd never have been that fascinated by science if you didn't open up that world to me. I'd never have loved good books if it weren't for you.

I beamed at her.

And that goes for my siblings, too. While you taught them a lot yourself, you've admitted in the past that they've taken after me in my fascination for art, science, and languages.

Her eyes welled up, but I knew they were tears of joy.

Thank you, son, for acknowledging that fruit of my sacrifice. I love you. I love all of you.

I love you, too, mom.

Our vigil ended at three in the morning when we were both convinced that my father would not return then, and so we went to bed hoping he'd return the next day. That hope was in vain.

***

Fourteen years ago, the morning of the 26th of February would have been an ordinary day. Two boys, living in apartments that were next to each other, would wake up and follow their daily routines: rituals of hygiene that would soon be with them for life. 

At nine in the morning, their mothers would visit each other and chat for a while, before Tita Edith would leave Allan at Christopher's house.  Upon the second floor terrace, they would sit side-by-side, each on his own plastic chair before his own plastic table, complete with books and pencils and crayons. The two of them would sit up straight and smile. Their confidence was boosted by the uniforms they were wearing. These were sewn by Tita Edith for both boys. In a few minutes, Tita Fe, Christopher's mother would come out, and with a warm smile, begin that day's discussion. They would talk about and practice reading and writing letters and numbers and words. By then, both boys had become quite good at it, and so this time, Tita Fe would talk to them about the Universe and the Sun and the planets and the stars. Each boy would listen eagerly and would soon afterward be lost within the boundless joy of imagination. Tita Fe would smile as she sees wanderlust blossom on each face before heading back in. 

The boys would soon be hungry, and she knew what both wanted best: hotdogs and hams and eggs. The food she prepared would need reheating, which would take a few minutes.

And that time would be enough.

Tita Fe would think this to herself, aware that time was just is to two boys lost in imagination.

Oh, and I almost forgot. They liked their milk, too.

Tita Fe knew that five year-olds needed milk so they could grow healthy and strong, so she prepared them as soon as she could before heading upstairs again. The boys would be waiting, and there were still a lot of things to be taught.

***

The heart can be as strong as bones, or stronger.

I'll be strong for you, Mama.

Thank you, for everything.

***

Happy Women's Day, everyone.

9 comments:

  1. ohhaithere, clyde. :) don't worry, i'm not feeling emo right now. at least i got that out of my system. as i put it in twitter, i'm: so glad to have a good chunk of chaos untangled after mixed feelings and over-powering emotions are written down.

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  2. This was beautifully written kid. I am touched. I wish I have the command of language or clarity of thought you possess.

    :)

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  3. New reader here. This is very moving. You have a gift. You have a poetic way of articulating the inner workings of the human psyche. I'm hooked.

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  4. Mugen: Thank you. :) I don't understand - you have quite the command of the language yourself, why would you want something similar to mine? It's Angsty. :)) I kid. Seriously,though, you already write in a good way!

    Deus ex: Thank you. I believe I have been influenced by Gaiman and Tolkien, so you can blame them for the 'poetic' way I write. Sometimes I'd like to think that I just get too verbose! Hehe

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  5. Kahapon pa to naka-open sa isang tab ko. Pero ngayon ko lang nabasa. Lol.

    Galing galing talaga magsulat.

    Mahina ako sa mga ganitong usapan, bilang sort of mama's boy din ako. Hay. Ang sakit sa heart.

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  6. Reading stuff like these... I'm not a "touchy" person (I hate being touched, hugged, kahit akbay lang), but reading stuff like this reminds me why I still hold my mother's hand while walking sa mall.

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  7. nishiboy: somewhere deep down, a lot of us are mama's boys. ;)

    glentot: I rarely hold mama's hand. I guess that's something I should start doing. And we're the same! I rarely like being touched, hugged, etc. unless it's someone I'm comfortable with, read: high school friends, family, certain people.

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  8. di ko talaga sure kung naintindihan ko kung nasaan na ba si papa mo, and quite sorry for you Mom.. I think she's in tear because she knows she needs to be the shoulder to provide you and your siblings with care... and I'm glad your there for her to listen...

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