November 3, 2013 § 13 Comments
November 4, 2013
Before I left for school in Singapore, I bought my mother a Chicken Soup for the Soul for Moms & Daughters. I was planning on writing my own version at the back so that my mom could read it and be surprised on a random day. But apart from over-thinking if she’ll actually go through the entire book to figure out the surprise or not, and failing to think of a nice enough plot, I wasn’t able to find the time to write it anymore. So now that I’m spending my mom’s first birthday apart from her, I’d like to dedicate this short narrative to my mother and I’s personal relationship. This might not be able to include or summarize a lot about my mother or the dynamics of our mother-daughter-hood because it is truly difficult to summarize a person like her. In any case, my blog is full of so many anecdotes about her anyway. Hopefully though, I can write about a few things I’ve always wanted to say about her. And on that line, allow me to introduce her in a light I’ve never portrayed her in (at least publicly).
My mother used to be my worst enemy. Just like the usual dynamics of a mother and daughter relationship, we’d argue about all kinds of things. Me getting irritated with her, and her getting exasperated with me. Our arguments would usually have common themes (we’re both stubborn that way), each of which would usually signify a certain era in my life.
I was painfully shy as a child, and so anything that pushed me out to stand out in a crowd gave me terrible waves of nausea and discomfort. In that pursuit of being a wallflower, I was pretty much fine by myself. I could go on quarters not being called by the teacher, and fitting in like the most ordinary thing ever by sticking to the guidelines and following the rules. However, the only person that would commonly upset this state of stealth is, you guessed it, my mother.
My mother has this knack of doing all kinds of wild, crazy, random, technically forbidden, outside-the-realm-of-normal things – AND including me in it. For example, walking into no-trespassing zones, haggling up to 70% off items, collecting flowers and plants from public and private places, insisting on taking us to all these fancy social parties and events that has only her name written on it, buying me clothes totally off tangent to what was fashionable to my age, and bending rules and regulations here and there. If you know the large metal scultptures in Bonifacio High Street, they had an exhibit of their small scale replicas, and particularly that bronze replica of people casting out nets to fish. Well, one of those small fishes are at home. We have an extensive collection of Philippine Airlines & Cathay Pacific silverware back when airlines didn’t know any better. We even have a number of plane blankets. A number of the plants now thriving in our garden are from the La Sallete Church in Silang Cavite where my mom has gathered creeping charlies, and various cannal lillies. The fire tree now standing taller than our house in our backyard was painstakingly grown by her from a seed from La Sallete too. (Picking up seed pods are okay in my book though). The list goes on and on, especially when we’re out travelling. She’s unstoppable at her whims, and there were a lot of times that my brother and I would beg to stay in the car but our dad forcing us out to go accompany our mom anyway with her plans. When I was in grade school, I can particularly recall several times when my mom would go to my school to attend events or get my report card, and her shouting “Tinnie” or “Baby” from the other end of the corridor while walking towards me, and how this would send chills of annoyance down my spine. Being called out in public was practically taboo for me then, and so whenever this happened it usually ended up with me refusing to talk to her until we or she went home. I didn’t know any better then, but I would insensitively tell her sometimes that she embarrasses me with all her weird antics. “Why do you have to do that? Can you not do that?”, I’d ask. But actually, all those weird, mostly adventurous, things that my mom used to do consist most of the funny, endearing memories that my brother and I would talk, remember and laugh about up until now. During those times that I sent my mom home refusing to talk to her because she embarrassed me, I would actually end up inwardly crying and sorry because it pained me to see her still trying her best to cheer me up right before I see her off walk out of the school gate. And in fact, my classmates would usually tell me how surprisingly beautiful and amazing-looking my mom was, because she was and had the aura of a lawyer after all. She’d go to my school all made up and with her pretty suits and high heels, enveloped in the fragrance of her favorite perfumes. I couldn’t blame them, I didn’t look anything like her.
I seldom told her then, but I was secretly proud of her. With my short, unruly hair and excessive baby fat, she was definitely one of my redeeming factors. A living hope that I might one day grow out of my awkwardness. And though that hope will never materialize into reality, I actually take pride in the fact that I have a beautiful mom who I will never be more beautiful than. Even when my mom lost all her hair and weight to chemotherapy, there were a lot of times that I’d find myself staring at her and realizing just how beautiful she is. And I say this not because I’m her daughter, but because a person knows real beauty when she sees it.
My mother looking like a monk with her orange shawl in the Grand Palace, Thailand. We rented a sleeved blouse for her because they wouldn’t allow her sleeveless top. She didn’t like the design so she opted to cover it up with her shawl instead.
During my adolescent years, these arguments would become two way. She annoyed me, and I annoyed her as well. The typical teenage drama phase. There were a few times when we didn’t talk up until a week, neither of us wanting to bend down first. During my 2nd year in high school, I could recall numerous mornings when I’d walk out of the car without saying good bye because my mom and I had an argument. I don’t really recall now what we would usually fight about, but I guess it was due to not only my over sensitivity, but everyone’s general stress level. I had my issues in school, and she had her issues at work. That was around the time we had moved to Cavite and had to wake up 5 in the morning everyday for my brother to make it to his 7:00 am class. My mother would usually be the last to wake up and the traffic made things worse when we were running late. Those toxic mornings lessened down a bit when we finally got a house in Makati after two years, leaving only Mondays and Wednesdays (we’d go home midweek too) as the most likely time to set off both our tops. I had a lot of issues in school, but my mom certainly had a lot more to deal with. She had just started her solo practice then and was practically always busy at the office. She supervised everything from the housekeeping to the book keeping, constantly fumed up with and making up for her secretary’s inefficiencies. On my third year, my mother was diagnosed with a relapse of her cancer and all this she took up bravely by going to chemotherapy on a Saturday and getting back to the office on a Monday. There were bad times when my brother and I would wait at our grandfather’s house for my mom and dad to get back from the hospital. There was one particular night I remember that not knowing if we’d be able to go home that night to take our uniforms from Cavite, I washed my blouse and my brother’s polo clumsily under the tap, and sleeping with my brother with the rest of our uniforms on. Right before midnight, my parents did arrive, with my mom having a blood drainage bag hanging from her side, all of us going home after and going back to Manila the next day as if nothing happened. I remember asking my father what exactly was happening, and him reassuring us that everything would be fine. Those times were certainly tough for my mother, but when I look back, she rarely broke down in front of us and she never stopped working. During her strong days, she’d stay back as late as 9 or 10 in the office, sometimes even until 11. Even when she was weaker, she’d stay back until 8. That was when I took on the role of cooking because my mother, who had previously done that, couldn’t make it home early enough anymore. Despite her illness, she was able to be successful in her solo practice, and managed to overcome starting again when her newly renovated office burned down. She carved her place in arbitration and family law. She even had numerous TV interviews then. If only she didn’t have cancer, she might have achieved a lot more. But then again, if she didn’t have cancer, she might not have been pushed hard enough to actually realize her full potential.
When I was in college, the frequency of our arguments had become less than that during my high school. But of course, they were still naturally there. She’d tell me how to do things and I’d tell her how to do things as well, with both of us insisting to do things our own way. But because we’ve both grown up and learned from each other along the way, we were now more open to each other’s opinions. It was then I learned so many skills from my mom, when I actually started to stop resisting and start listening. Skills like doing the marketing, making all kinds of lists (from expenses to things to bring on a trip), running an office, doing the laundry, training the maid in household chores, cooking better, seeking education, thinking out of the box, traveling, being more outgoing, and so much more. And though we still argued back when I was in college, age had given me enough wisdom to still listen even if I was sometimes reluctant. I hadn’t realized it, but I’ve inevitably become more and more of my mother as the years passed by. By the time I finally graduated, all of my achievements I could directly or indirectly attribute to her.
Although my brother and I practically grew up with my mom having cancer for the major part, we had more than a great childhood thanks to our parents. Yes it was probably hard, but all the wonderful memories we have make the difficulty back then seem less. All the good times can easily foreshadow all the bad times. And a big reason for that was how strong and brave my mom was all throughout. A lot of things have changed since then though. Recent turn of events have led to the fracture of my mom’s leg. If before, she was patient enough to do with walking with an unfashionable cane at times, she now has to bear with using the wheelchair. My mother has always been an independent woman, and being reliant on other people to lift her up, sit her down and push her around was a change that she would understandably have a difficult time to accept. But my mom has proven her resolve time and again. She has graciously accepted that for now she will not be able to walk, and has learned to make the most out of her situation. She has occasional bouts of sadness, but she has never given up the fight. I honestly cannot fathom half of whatever my mother has gone through and still goes through. I am sure there are a lot of days that she asks God why she needs to undergo all of this. But from everything she continues to teach me and my brother, I know there are more days she takes comfort in her faith that God’s purpose is bigger than her plans. Being far from her during this time that she needs me the most makes a lot of my days here uncomfortable. If you ask if I ever feel guilty for leaving at this time, the answer is yes, every single moment. But I know that doing my best here somehow gives my mom the strength to be strong. We used to always argue how she’d unnecessarily broadcast all my brother and I’s achievements to everyone. I’d accuse her of bragging and she’d tell me it was her right to be proud as a parent. With everything that she has endured and done for us, I take back what I said because she truthfully has more than the right to have done that. After all, it wasn’t simply me and my brother’s achievements, but her’s and my father’s as well.
I love my mother very much. She’s the first person I pray for when I wake up and the last person I think about before I sleep. And I guess, my mother still is my worst enemy. She’s the worst person I can be enemies with. Because being angry with her is the worst thing I can do.
Thank you, Inay, for everything. You always inspire me to do better and to be strong in my own battles. I’m sorry for all the headaches and heartaches I caused you before. I’m also so sorry I’m not right there beside you now, with longgie and fatty woodie, lying down on our sofa with my jade pillow. I was going to send this tomorrow, but because you need to go to the hospital, I’m uploading this now. :) Happy birthday to the best mother I can ever ask for. I love you and I miss you every day. :”) Eat cake for me! :)