A Mother's Love Has No Expiration Date

March 21, 2010

There are a lot of things I do not know in this world but, I do know these and I am sure, that my Mother loved me when she walked on this earth and I love her and I love my children.

The Bamboo Grove. Pigment ink on 12"x9" Bristol Board. Click on image to enlarge.

The following is a re-publication of a previous post dated April 10, 2009. If you have been following my blog for a while, you may see a correlation of some incidents mentioned below with a comment my eldest sister posted on Moleskinerie.com on November 2009. Last week, I went to Facebook to delete my account since I seldom use it. I also do not understand the rationale for strangers asking me to accept them as friends from a mere invitation just because we have common friends. So I set about to discontinue some "friendships" but before doing so, I chatted up someone who asked to be my friend and who I accepted because we had the same surnames. She turned out to be the granddaughter of my Father's cousin, the one I mentioned in the following story. Needless to say, I still have my Facebook account.

A Summer Afternoon

"I am 10 years old now. I will continue attending E.T.C.S. I am graduating this year, and then I will have to go to Sum-ag. My younger sister will transfer and she will be the only one in our family who will not graduate from E.T.C.S. Inday Ched is going to U.P." 

They are my father’s cousins and he is called “Bata Taguy” meaning “Child Taguy” but his wife is “Nanay Maring” meaning “Mother Maring”. They have datiles trees and I am free to climb them any time. 
Their house is about 1000 feet from ours.

We moved here on my ninth summer. There was nothing around us except flat empty lots and rice fields in the horizon that blanket the foot of the mountain and the volcano, and giant bamboo groves. My bedroom window directly faces the cone. It’s dusty because the roads are not paved. I am too sophisticated for this place I think, but Mother easily brings my reality down to earth with a curt reminder of who I am. 

In the summer afternoons after all the chores are done, we walk with her to visit Nanay Maring where they talk about their ancestors and their past and dreams, hopes and plans. I climb the trees pretending not to listen but I am eavesdropping. They say nice things about me and my younger sister and then they compare us. She is well behaved and I am full of mischief but Mother always tells them we are both good. 
We walk back home before dusk so we can tend to the garden and the ducks and chickens.

My younger sister and I follow our Mother or we walk along side with her. Sometimes I run ahead of them and pick up stones and throw them in the air and into the bamboo groves. "TOK!" I like the sound of the rock hitting the bamboo and the bamboo responds with "CREEEAAAHK", CREEEEEAAAHK" as they sway like old women with their backs bent. "CRACK" "SWISSH". There goes a broken dried up branch we called "kagingking". Mother used them as trellis for the climbing vines in her garden. We can hear the giant bamboos creaking as we walk. It's a beautiful melody with the wind blowing the upper leafy branches and the trunks creaking rhythmically filling the hot summer afternoon with what I called the bamboo grove orchestra. 

The roads were lined with giant bamboo groves soaring up to a hundred feet or more up into the sky. They sway and bend and Mother mentions the bamboo’s ability to sway and not break and she uses it as a metaphor for an extemporaneous lecture on virtues. I sometimes just listen but most often say something irreverent or construct something illogical for argument's sake. Yet deep down I listened to every word she said and took them to heart. My younger sister who is the smarter and wiser of the two of us just looks at me and says my name “Ay Inday Ces” she would say, meaning that I sound too foolish and impertinent but being that she is younger she cannot admonish an elder since I am two years older than her! So she keeps quiet. Mother gazes at me and I see her smile. She has the gentlest of smiles and she stiffens her upper lip and narrows her eyes and raises her right eyebrow. She has not said anything at all and I keep quiet and smile with embarrassment. That gaze of hers, so strict and firm yet gentle and full of love, always kept me in check. 

I can’t recall Mother ever screaming at me, I can only recall her laughter, her smile and her gentle voice. 
Many years later as she lay dying on her hospital bed, I sat beside her and rested my head on her lap. She gently ran her fingers through my hair and she murmured, “Why are you here?” I replied “Because I want to take care of you.” She smiled and asked “Who is taking care of your children and husband?” I told her they were okay and my husband was taking care of the children. “You flew here all the way from Texas?” “Yes” I said, and she smiled. “You and your sister came all the way from the US?” “Yes, I said” and added that all eight of us sisters and brothers did. She smiled. “You must really love me. I feel so loved.” So I told her that every one of us loved her from the moment we laid eyes on her when we were children until forever. She did not cry, neither did I. We were just talking. 
My Mother had the ability to talk about deep emotions without the maudlin sentimentality. As philosophical as she was she believed a lot of time was wasted on words, she believed in deeds. So that evening was not yet her last, she ended the conversation with a command and advice. “Go home to your husband and your children. You belong to your family.” I opened my mouth to say something and she cut me short with a gentle shake of her head, and added “You have a different family now, still part of mine but for you to take care.” Mother asked for the date then she said, “It will be your sister’s birthday in four days, you must celebrate it”.

Two days after she died my sisters, brothers and I were mourning as we went to the dining room of the house where I spent my youth. My sister blew her candles and cut her cake. We celebrated my sister’s birthday just as Mother would have wanted it.

3/21/2010. 8:55 AM: Thank you for reading this very long post. I know your time is valuable and if you read this, I take it only to mean that you like me or love me, either way, I appreciate you very much. Now, did you find the five lizards, one spider, two butterflies and one bird? Just asking.

11/11/2014. Today is Mother's 12th death anniversary.