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Monday, January 30, 2006

Like the air

May 2005

Like the air

Weeks back, Mother's Day was celebrated. I wasn't able to pen down that time a tribute for all the wonderful moms worthy of recognition. I felt guilt for being immersed with my passion for the great outdoors, negotiating the Rio de Cagayan in a familiarization tour, forgetting all about this article I had to submit before hie-ing off to northern Mindanao.

I flew out of Cebu without ever handing in this story intended to exalt the purpose why moms are given to us. Middle of last week, my mother quipped while we were having lunch: "Twenty-three years na si nanay sa yuta."

I counted back the years. Yes, May 18 was my grandmother's 23rd death anniversary. I moved on to retrieve this file and determined to have this on print. This is for my mom and my grandmother and for their potent influences - my mother with her great sense of humor, generosity, and passion for reading; my grandmother for being a woman of sensibility and substance.

"Gikan kos Santo NiƱo, mora nako shag nakita nilaray padulong sa hagkanan. Gikan kos San Jose, mora nako shag nakita sa hagdanan," my mother went on.

And then tears began welling in her eyes. Obviously, she missed her mom, and that going to the places where my grandmother used to frequent gives her the chance to relive all those precious moments in time.

"Mother's love is like the air. It's so commonplace you won't ever notice it till the supply is cut off."

I wonder how many of us appreciate our mothers and show this appreciation in ways they feel or sense. It's true that we are often guilty of taking our mothers for granted and accept their love as if it were our right, without giving them anything in return.

Take my case for example. There was only a single tear which dropped from my weary, burnt eyes. My heart ached for a while. And the aftermath was a single tear - a manifestation that somehow, in my mother's moving out, I got hurt.

She blew her nose thrice or more, that I wasn't able to give a count but then I was sure she did cry. She had suffered a lot, but I knew she would suffer some more and that she would endure a bucketful of pain because she is willing to love unconditionally.

If onlys were uttered, but one could never change her destiny. Not even a river of tears could. That's maybe the reason why only a single tear dropped from my eyes. They were just too tired to give a damn. All I wanted to do was to go back to sleep as the sound of her footsteps faded down the wooden stairs.

She went away to work in Manila in the hope of sending us - her three children - to school. My sister was completing at that time a degree in elementary education. I was struggling with my journalism studies, while my brother was a graduating high school student.

Our momentary separation gave me the feeling we are parts of one beautiful tapestry ripped into a thousand segments. She said her "bye" tenderly. It sounded more like "I love the three of you". Her farewell played once more that lullabye she used to sing when my days revolved around a course flour-cloth hammock and the milk overflowing from her taut breast buds provides salvation at the strike of hunger pangs.

She carried a travelling bag on her shuddering, weary shoulder. This person who bore me had all the reasons to sacrifice time and her very own life - we are family.

In all her pain, she made me strong. She has always believed in the Divine Providence, in love being absolute, and the beauty of life thriving like lotus on murky waters. You'll never get to know she suffered. For she did it, silently!

With the parting was the message: "Hold on." It means more than holding on to something physical. It's holding on to a lot of things beyond what my mind could conceive. She wrote after some time though, and scribbled: "Elaine, be good. You're firstborn. Do your part. You have to trailblaze to clear the path for those next in line. You are weird, but I do miss you."

Am I worthy to be missed? Often, she would tell me I have an attitude problem. That I must change it before it would eat up my system. But I hated her demanding so much from me just because I'm firstborn. I was struggling that time to weave a life of my own - resisting to embrace conventional wisdom. Most of her words weren't taken seriously. Advice fell on deaf ears.

But when she left us behind once, I did miss her scoldings! I did realize that mother's love is like the air. I had never known it was there, till she went away and the supply temporarily ran out.

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