Today would have been my mom’s 69th birthday. Wow, is that true? Honestly, she didn’t seem that old to me when she died. I forever remember my mom in her prime, either bustling in her garage workshop, working on the next wedding or party, or bustling in her kitchen, cooking up a feast for her next get-together with her kids.
(Ohhh, I miss my mom’s food. You have no idea. I really wish I’d sat down with her at least once to write down her methods/recipes for pinakbet, kare kare, pancit, even her garlic peanuts! and so many other dishes. How did she always cook so much without recipes? Not even a reference book of any kind. I’ve been able to recreate her lumpia, and my sister has developed her own methods for cooking pancit and torta, but man. There’s nothing like mom’s cooking.)
Five years later, I think my mom’s absence in my life actually looms larger than it did when I first lost her and its because of Mike and Chris. I look at them now, and as I hug them and kiss them, I think of how much my mom would have adored them. I can see her squeezing them both as they struggle to escape her surprisingly strong arms, her jaw jutting out, growling, “nang gigil! nang gigil!” Both Trinity and I channel my mom when Michael is being naughty and he inadvertently hurts himself and starts crying, prompting us to ask, “Oh, does it hurt? You want to do it again? Let’s do it again!” (Mike usually runs away, crying, “Noooo!” but don’t worry, he usually stops crying very quickly.) I see my mom in Mike so much, especially when he juts out his jaw — its the same way his lola used to do so. And, Chris — boy, you are lucky, because your lola would have eaten you alive, you are so cute right now.
I think of my mom now as we go through some hardships. I have to wonder — how did she do it? I cannot fathom how she continued to pick herself up again and again after so many setbacks, by herself, no less. I am blessed because I have Trinity, but my mom didn’t have a companion to help her through the continual hard times she got through. That’s what amazes me most — she kept getting through, she kept landing on her feet. Mom, how did you do that? I wish there was a way to ask her, to pick her brain on how she kept going.
Mostly, I just miss my mom. When I lived at home, I used to hate giving her pedicures every Friday night (or plucking her gray hairs; she did color her hair, but instead of maintaining the color continually, she would have me hunt for her gray hairs and pluck them. Not until I was much older did I realize that it was the scalp massaging effect she enjoyed, rather than the plucking process.), but I realize now those things were her little luxuries and I was able to do them for her. In true Filipino fashion, she would always harp at me about my weight, but then give me food to last for days. I even miss decorating weddings with her. I fantasize sometimes about the joint ventures we could have done (a cookbook, a wedding decoration book) if we’d only gotten past our rough times and she were still here.
I wish she was still here. I wish she’d gotten to meet Michael and Chris. I wish I could know for sure that she forgave me for all the dumb things I did as her daughter. I wish I could see her smile and laugh with her just one more time. But all that is selfish, and I know she is in a better place.
As Apostle Paul says, to be absent in the body is to be in the presence of Christ.