Most of my friends grew up with grandparents on their side. They would wait outside the school for their Lolas or Lolos to pick them up. They would go to church on Sundays with their grannies on their side. They have those stories they can share, they have those memories they can remember. That I don’t have.
My Lolo from our mother’s side died before I was born. My mom said I have his intellect. He could have been proud of me for being the only apo who attended college in UP. He could have been proud of your achievements in school, says my mom.
My grandparents on my dad’s side were living in Zambales and we rarely go there. Our Lolo died when I was young, we were never really close but his death was the first death I’ve experienced in the family. Seeing my father cried broke the tough kid I have inside. It was hard. And had it been my way, I don’t want it to ever happen again.
I have two living grandmothers left. One’s about 4-hour drive from home. I saw her less than a year ago. The other’s on the other side of the world, about thirteen time zones away from us. And as long as I can remember, I have only met her once.
1995. I was 6 then. My parents hurriedly woke us up because we’re going on a trip. But I have school, I resented. Mama told us she already took care of that. So we went to Manila to meet our Lola and Uncle Medy and Aunt Cecile and our cousins. When I first saw them, I didn’t feel anything. What would you expect a 6-year old boy, who was deprived of sleep, feel. Besides, I barely knew them.
Aside from those occasional calls, Balikbayan boxes, Christmas and greeting cards, I hardly knew Lola. She was in the States even before I was born. I have seen her pictures though and she looked like Mama. I have heard her voice and she sounded just like Mama. She would talk to me in Ilocano and I would pass the phone to my mom for translations. And she has always loved sending us letters.
I have read her letters and they were beautifully written. Mama told us she excelled in English when she was studying. My Lola was the class salutatorian and who else is the valedictorian but my Lolo. Great genes, if you ask me. And I only got to know her in a short time she was in the Philippines.
Almost two decades passed by and she never came back. There were plans – us migrating to the States, them going back to the country but those plans didn’t materialized. But still, we have always tried to be in touched with her. Try is the only thing we could because we knew it will never be enough.
I regret growing up not seeing her around. I regret not taking care of her especially when she was tired or ill. I regret not having her around during birthdays and graduations. I regret not having to spend Christmas and New Year with her, how small our family looks like during mini-reunions. I don’t have that Lola who’ll tell us our family’s history beyond what our parents’ memory could hold. We don’t have that Lola who’ll tell us how silly my mom was when she was growing up. But she provided for us and she sent us to school so who am I to fret. And I’ll be forever thankful for what she did for us.
Last night, I had two Lola’s present. Today, I was left with one.
I love you, Lola! I hope I made you proud.