February 24, 2014 § 8 Comments
When I look at this picture, it’s the hands that draw me the most. I stare at my hands, trying to imagine the way I held on to my mother’s arm. And I stare at my mother’s hands, trying to imagine the way she held me closely on that boat. I remember this moment in a way median to almost forgetting and definite clarity. My dad wanted to take a picture of Inay and me on the bow of the boat, and he had instructed me to walk towards Inay. I was paralyzed in fear, and it’s quite evident with the way I forced a smile. I was so dependent on my parents that time we went to Hong Kong, which was my first overseas trip ever. My pictures were all me gripping either my dad or my mom, mostly riding on my dad’s shoulders, probably scared of the new environment and the prospect of getting lost. My parents pushed me to so many uncomfortable positions during that trip, “stand beside the Buddha 6 feet off the ground”, “look down the deep well where all the turtles were”, “ride the roller coaster in Seaworld”, “go up the cockpit and take a picture with the pilot”, “walk down the very wet plank to the open sea on a very windy day”, and what not. Those words I just said suffer from not being able to capture how I really wanted to depict them, but I cannot do more. Those memories are like all memories: swimming in your head. And when you try to fish them out, they run down between your fingers – never to be retrieved whole, but will persist in some form anyway, indefinitely. The chance of their degradation are what makes our fears of forgetting. Moments lived in the past flash in random order. The ballpen I got from the concierge of Omni Marco Polo Hotel, the perfume sticks my mom got as we passed by a department store and asked me to smell, the beautiful jade earrings my mom bought for me, which I regretfully lost 7 years ago in my uncle’s van in Ohio and wisely never told my mom about, the dolphin keychain my mom bought me from Seaworld which I instantly loved so much but accidentally left on the tour bus which made me cry that night but happy the next day because our tour guide found it and gave it back, and of course that morning I woke up in a hotel for the first time and beside my pillow was my first Polly Pocket – in grandfather clock style, with a secret garden at the back. Memories: it is both wonderful and painful to have them. Often times, I think of what being away from home and all her memories, immediately after she died, means for me. Is it helping me heal, or is it delaying it until the day it comes crashing down on me when I finally come home? I continue to live, and I have so much to live for. But at the back of my mind, I have to wonder. I wonder, I wonder, and I wonder. I wonder what it means to lose a mother. I wonder if a mother is an earthly connection that I will still find in heaven. I wonder if I am too young, or old enough, or even too old. I wonder how I’ll know that I’ve moved on.
My mind strays off when I am in the middle of work. Like a strange cat – one moment beside you, and the next moment somewhere impossibly far that you have to ask “how the hell did it get there so fast?”. I think about the numerous times I let my mom down. Like the time I got angry at her for the weird shirt she gave me for Christmas, and the time I got mad at her because she failed to congratulate me when I told her I passed the board exams but withheld the fact that I managed to get a top spot. I think about how I made her wait on my 25th birthday for Skype, because I wanted to blow my candle and eat cake with my new friends. And I think about the times she would look at me as I studied as she lied on her bed with her broken leg, often remarking “busy ang baby mag study” and me sometimes putting my things down to tell her in my baby voice “no” and going to her side, yet at times me just continuing and telling her “I’ll just finish this Inay, konti na lang”. I think of the time I could not recognize her contorted face anymore, because of the pain and the drugs, and eventually because her heart stopped beating while I wasn’t beside her.
I think of Ama and Gab, and how they need me to be strong for them. Yet I can do so little from here, and the reality is, I really cannot do much. We try to ignore the subject whenever we talk. Only permitting ourselves to verbalize missing Inay in textual correspondence – where it isn’t an obligation to reply to that thought. Lingering on these thoughts are not really productive. Even writing this isn’t. I have a ton of things that I have to finish. Yet I chose to stop and write. Because I need to write this down and I want to write this down. Because in writing it, I might find what escapes me every single day. The fact that I look for her everywhere, but in truth, I have to accept that I will never find her. She is in me, yet she is not. It will never be the same.
The other day, as I was rushing walking down from the train station, I found my path blocked by a mother and her teenage daughter. They were walking leisurely and occupying both lanes, and I came to an abrupt stop behind their backs because my pace was like that of the late white rabbit’s. But I did not dare overtake them, instead I waited until the path finally opened somewhere where I could silently diverge out of the lane. I did not want to break anything during that moment. They were talking and smiling – seemingly after a day of shopping. Their connected hands blocked my way, but I gave them the right to do so. I realized it suddenly mattered to me: to protect any bond between mothers and daughters. To give due respect and importance to these unknown sacred moments. And though I didn’t cry, I watched them with slight envy. Whenever I walk down the street, I have to prepare myself to see these images, and I have to be ready that they will always lightly open up a scar.
Another day, another week, and soon another month. I’m afraid this longing will never stop.