Tuesday, January 09, 2007

week one

December 31, 2006

Sage's nanny leaves. Coming back from a vacation with her in Dumaguete, this leaves a sour and helpless taste in my mouth. I feel betrayed, but what can you do? Finding a new helper becomes priority number one. It does not bode well for the new year.

Later, as we prepare to leave for my mother's house (where we celebrate New Year's Eve by force of tradition), I get a call from my mother. My grandmother, Jacinta, has taken a turn for the worse and has been rushed to the hospital. There will be no celebration.

Suddenly bereft of plans - and with Nikki taking ill - I rush out to secure food (thank goodness for credit cards as I had no cash). New Year's Eve dinner is mushrooms, onion rings, prawns, carbonara, white fish, and roast beef with Sage and Nikki.

It is quiet and I think of my grandmother.


January 1, 2007

Another quiet day punctuated by phone calls from the hospital. The phone calls are erratic because our cell phones and landline are affected somewhat by the chaos caused by the submarine-cable-ruining earthquake.

I try to write, but my heart isn't anywhere near me. It's in Paranaque, it's in the hospital, it's with lola.

In the evening, Nikki and I visit Vin and I walk into a surprise birthday party - for me. Truly surprised, I am happy to be in the company of friends with good food. But I leave my own party early. I have too much on my mind.


January 2, 2007

I turn 38 and feel the weight of age and years.

I spend the day at work and in client meetings (one of them is stunned that I'm at work during my birthday). I like keeping busy.

When I get home, I find out that Nikki's gift to me is a new bed for us. For the past several months my back has been a source of exquisite pain, and the new semi-orthopedic bed is wondrous.

That night, two stories appear in my sleep. One is sad. The other is sadder.


January 3, 2007

I'm at my office when my mother calls me to tell me that lola has passed away. She tells me to inform my sisters, which I do.

I feel numb.

When I get home, Sage looks at me and asks what's wrong.

"My lola died," I tell her.

"Oh no, Dad," she says, embracing me.

That's when I cry.

Later, she whispers in my ear: "It's okay to cry, Dad, but remember that I'm still here and I love you."

Despite my broken heart, I cannot help but be amazed at the words my four-year-old daughter speaks.


January 4, 2007

The wake is held at Funeraria Nacional. Nikki, Vin and I go towards midnight. I speak with my aunt and uncles.

The coffin is there and my lola Jacinta is in it, gaunt, too pale, unsmiling, eyes closed, smaller than life and bigger than death. She's wearing a beautiful dress that makes her look like a Chinese matriach. I find out later that my sister, Maureen, the fashion editor for Philippine Tatler, styled her - but only after a heated argument with my mother.

Even over the dead, my family argues.


January 5, 2007

I take a leave from my office (which functionally means I'm not there but still in contact with clients - most of whom did not call me for work, out of respect) to help out with the funeral arrangements. At this point, there's actually very little for me to do except to speak and give money.

There is a necrological service for lola at the funeral home. Towards the end, family members were asked to speak. We recover memories and share them with friends, family and strangers. When it is my turn to speak, I stand there with the microphone and for a moment the surreal nature of everything strikes me with breathless force and I am left mute.

When the words return, I speak about Jacinta, who at 94 years old lived a life impossible to encompass in the few minutes that I have. I talk about the grandmother that I love, always in the present tense ("Jacinta is...") because only her physical state ha changed. She is gone, yes, but she will never cease to my grandmother. Death does not, cannot, change that quality.

I struggle to offer comfort to the audience even as I need comfort. In the end, I feel an odd sense of bravado, making it through my speech, giving honor to my lola.

The UP Singing Ambassadors come and sing a capella. The songs are old and powerful and true. I remember my cousin BJ who died a few years ago (he used to sing with them) and meet the eyes of his mother. At that moment, we both surrender to a doubled grief.

Only the young are spared the immensity of grief: Sage reconnects with her cousins and stands firmly on the side of laughter which the adults try to shush.

At 1AM, we go home to prepare for the funeral.


January 6, 2007

At 4AM, we are sitting on stone benches at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina.

In the darkness before sunrise, everything is enveloped in tranquility. As we wait for the others to arrive, Nikki, Andrew, Vin and I smoke cigarettes and talk about life and death and spirits and ghosts.

Soon, lola arrives and the service is performed and she is laid to rest under the earth and we are driving away and stopping for breakfast with my family and going home and getting changed and getting into bed and falling asleep.

I do not dream of anything.


January 7, 2007

We are at the wedding of Ruey de Vera, in barongs and suits, with Sage and Nikki in dresses. We would have prefered to stay at home and rest, but Ruey is a close friend and so there was really no question that we'd go.

The wedding is lovely and Sage thrills to the kiss between bride and groom.

Later at the reception, Sage falls asleep as I converse with Karina Bolasco who gestured for my family to sit with her at the "Anvil Publishing/Inquirer" table. She tells me that my collection of short fiction is slated for publication during the second quarter of this year and that makes me smile.

We eat and drink and talk and watch the video and get our pictures taken with Ruey and Joysie but after a while, the fatigue and emotional toil of the past few days just gets to me - I watch my sleeping daughter with envy.

We go home and finally, finally the week ends.

It feels like fiction. In one week: a New Year's Eve, a 38th birthday, a death, a wedding.

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