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Was out of commission for two days. My PC suffered a bad hiccup. It conked out on me. Thought it was just because I hadn't cleaned it for a while. Nope. There was some internal problem.
Fortunately, by God's grace, I found someone to repair it at least cost. And it didn't take forever, nor an arm and a leg. So... I'm back! And I missed coming here to read and engage with other members.
Ever have an elderly relative that you've connected to from childhood?
I might have previously mentioned in an earlier post that my paternal grandmother grew up with eight siblings. Without a doubt, that clan is huge, just counting up to the third generation (ours).
All nine of them had at least six kids (my Dad's generation), so that adds up to 54 already. Multiply that by at least three, and that's more than a hundred and fifty. So, you can imagine the chaos when the clan holds its reunion. And that was when we were still young kids. I think we're up to fifth generation now.
It was these clan reunions (pre-pandemic it was held annually, or at least every two years) which allowed us to get to know my grandmother's siblings. While many of my cousins would just come up to kiss the hand of the elders (it's called pag-MANO, where you bring the back of their right hand to your forehead, and they bless you), I often stuck around for small talk.
And perhaps since I was my father's eldest, they were quite familiar with me so much so that if I had not made an appearance when we arrive at the venue, they would be asking for me.
My Lola (grandmother) is second to the eldest, so her younger brothers and sisters were fairly young when I was young and most were animated and loved to tell stories or crack jokes. So, it wasn't a hardship to hang around and listen to them recount their experiences amid a lot of laughter.
Their youngest sibling, another grandmother, is a particular favorite among the younger generations. For one, she's very talkative and her memory is astounding. If you're one of those who come up to her and stay around for her 'interview' she'll definitely keep you in file in that huge memory bank of hers.
By remember you, that means not just your name and face but also your voice. Which will be extremely important over time as her eyesight started to fade.
Since I've known her, the lady has always worn glasses. They just got thicker as she got older. It was probably a decade or so ago when her eyesight started to deteriorate.
It was also around this time period when the last of her siblings - the eldest brother - passed on leaving her as the only surviving elder of the clan.
She could still see silhouettes of people, but could barely make out faces unless she leaned in close to your face. But mostly, she recognized people through their voice. And then she'd launch into her five questions to catch up.
Tita Lola - she being my Dad's aunt - was particularly fond of my father. And me. And later on, my niece. There was just this connection between us that was hard to define. Needless to say, she knew our voices and we usually received money from her, especially during Christmas.
Unfortunately, since her eyesight started to fade, Lola hasn't been as mobile. There was always the fear of missing a step, tripping, or bumping into something that can result in a bad fall.
She did fall. And injured her hip. But more than the injury, she was traumatized. And mostly just lay in bed to minimize movement and pain. It didn't help that her husband also turned frail and would be confined to bed as well.
So there they were, spending their twilight years, still together in sickness (and not in health).
The last time I saw Lola was in 2018. It was several months after Dad died. Because of her frail condition, it was decided not to tell her when he suffered a stroke and was bed-ridden until the end, nor about his eventual passing.
Her family was host to the annual reunion. And while we had been able to keep Dad's (and even my sister's passing) a secret up to that point, there was no way she was not going to find out then.
That was another painful moment for me. When I had to tell her after she kept badgering me about the two, I remember her wailing in agony over the loss, and her not being able to see them for the last time. I broke down, too.
It was supposed to be a a fun event, reconnecting with cousins and aunts and uncles, but there was the heaviness caused by her distress after finally being told the truth. We did manage to recover and enjoy the rest of the party. Or at least tried to.
And that was the last I saw her. Prior to being confined to mostly lying down and when my Dad was still alive, she would ring the house and spend a good amount of time chatting with him, or me, and niece. Or we would call her, especially during her birthday. I know she appreciated those phone conversations, and was among the reasons for her being fond of us.
The pandemic only worsened her condition. While she lived with one of her children, the rest of her brood were scattered everywhere. We lived in the other side of town from her, so it was quite a challenge to visit.
From one of her daughters, who lived near us, we learned that since her husband's passing at the start of lockdown, her once sharp memory started to fade, too. Her kids indulged her. And while the stories of the past remained clear in her mind, everything else started to blur.
It was late last week when we finally received the news. Tita Lola was finally at rest. She left quietly. Whether it was old age, and her body had deteriorated, or loneliness since her husband left her, it was hard to say. Perhaps it was simply her time.
I felt a squeeze in my heart when I learned of her passing. The last one was gone. No more elder. They've all gone home.
We will miss her. Sure, it's been years since I last saw her, and that wasn't all happy. But I will miss her chatter, her stories, her questions, and her crackling laughter.
She may have been a frail woman in her golden years, but her spirit remained strong until it wasn't.
I will never forget her voice, and her question when she couldn't make us out as we came up to her: "Who are you?" I didn't have to say my name. When she heard my voice as I greeted her, she already knew.
Death is a certainty for all. Some just leave ahead of us. Yet knowing this, the grief is as piercing even when it's expected. The pain is from the memories. And the love.
You will be missed, and our reunions will never be the same again.