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A Never Ending Thanks To Grandparents

Ever experienced being grounded by you own parent only to find out that the terms of discipline had changed? Personally I never did but if you ask my kids, they will attest that such incident did  not happen just once and that they are thankful they have my own mother to run for their rescue. Not that my mom meddled every now and then and even though my kids all grew up with her in the same household she had learned through the years when to let her presence felt and when to step back. Besides she knows how independent and hard headed her grandkids that taking a firm stand had helped a great deal in bringing them up with their feet planted on the ground.

Contrary to my kids upbringing, my grandmother( my dad’s mom) had lived next door  where I only get to see her mostly during afternoons after school and who only visited us when she watched her favorite Sunday TV Mass. My sister and I  would fetch her favorite gardener, Cynthia, also a relative so she could water and take care of her plants This grandma of mine had a green thumb and had lots of roses and bougainvilleas, all lined up in pots. Funny what motivated me and my sister every afternoon to follow her orders was the incentive we got in fetching Cynthia, a ten centavo coin where we can get to buy our choice of candy. There was even a time that this grandma of ours gave me a raincheck for being included on the top five of my 1st grade class. A whooping 200 Php which I gave to my dad so he could keep it and just give me the money I needed each time I bought my favorite candy or bubble gum.

On the other hand my mom’s mom we call Lola Oyang was the independent and proactive grandma who we only visited during school breaks. She chose to stay in her hometown where she grew up that we literally have to take two provincial busses and a ship to get there. And since traveling and having a vacation would entail a lot of money, we cannot visit her very year. I could recall visiting  her place three times, the last one being the saddest as that was the year she had crossed over.

My kids also never got the chance to see and be with any of their grandfathers and just like me, they grew up not knowing how it felt to have a grandfather by their side. Though they do have a grand uncle who they get to visit during Christmas, it never really mattered if they grew up without one. But there were days that they could not hide their excitement and longing when I told them stories about my dad, his lone brother who is still alive and who will return for a homecoming next year.They might have all grown up but the yearning could not be hidden especially with the knowledge that they still have a grand uncle that they would finally meet after all these years.

 At times I ask myself where all the excitement and yearning come from considering they were lucky to have grandmothers who took care and watched over them since they were kids. Perhaps it is the fact that one can never get enough of being loved, appreciated, affirmed, remembered and taken cared of. A feeling of home, belongingness, accepted and nurtured that one will always look forward at the end of the day. An unforgettable, unexplainable feeling that will always remind you of childhood and all the happy and good memories that went with it. An unending smile that lighten one’s face each and every time you think of them.

                                My Mom with my two sisters in law and some of her grandkids

You know what I think of people who have known at least one grandparent in their lives? I think of them as blessed. It takes a lot of undying courage and love to look after ones’ grandchildren despite the  unending battle with age, illness and empty nest challenges. At times grandparents chose to live longer because they know they are needed still, that some broken pieces of their lives needed to be fixed still and they knew that making it up with their grandkids is their ow special way to heal it.

This  Sunday, September 8th is National Grandparents Day. Take time to greet them or any grandparent for that matter. A simple act like offering a seat, showing them directions, assisting them while they take the stairs mean a lot to them. One can never go wrong in thanking and remembering grandparents even in simple ways because they are such a blessing.

Lucky are we who have felt such love from our grandparents.

When You Were Born

You know what  all mothers say when they had their first born? They did not have any clue what to do. From breastfeeding, to bathing, to taking care of a wailing and sick babe so she can be put to sleep. I felt then that I would not survive in all departments, sometimes even wished that you shut up for a short while so I can get some sleep.

(Sam’s first photo,taken twenty years ago)

When you became a toddler, I asked myself not once what planet you came from. When I read you stories, you didn’t let me finish them because you wanted me to hear your version’s ending.You doodled almost every where.You loved watching tv so I was very selective on what shows you should watch. You also became very observant and careful with the words you say. My sister instantly noticed how you did not answer immediately if the question seemed testy.

Your Grandma told me you were very independent, not needing a lot of instructions and doting. In school she can leave you with her students with no fuss while she attended a short meeting.You took your studies seriously, effortlessly that you stood out in every class, in every competition. I remembered that time  when  you asked me what a gold medal looked like. I smiled. At a young age I knew you always aimed for the gold.

We did not always see  eye to eye. Perhaps it was just my age or the generation nowadays.You were completely aware of my rules, respected every one of them because not doing so would mean an argument that you will not win. I maybe hard to live by sometimes, but it was not also easy being your mother.

I also knew it was not easy being the eldest among six siblings, who look up to you for almost every thing. Patience, attention and understanding multiplied by six, not to mention three of them were special kids. I knew there were instances that you almost wanted to snap, with such responsibility that was given, yet  did not even ask. And perhaps you knew, that I was not blind enough to see, deaf enough  to hear, the pain and struggle that you went through every day.

(One of my best loved pictures with Samantha)

We have gone a long way. At a glance you seem like an ordinary girl, but by far a lady with so much character. If dysfunctional families were words you have shunned, unconventionalism  was one thing you had embraced. Books, classical movies, music, writing, photography, family, friendships and laughter all make up your world. As you journey through life, every adventure means conquering one’s fears. And you know by heart, that conquering ones’ fears means facing it.

Looking you from afar, sometimes I cannot help but smile and ask where you got that spark, that free spirit. Looking back now, out of the many wrong decisions I had made in my life, one right deed stood out, and that was having you.

(A daughter every mom would be proud of )

Seeing you know and what you had become was all worth it.

And I would not have it any other way.

 

 

(image credits to facebook.com)

Things That Make Me Happy ( A BC Bloggers Meme )

For some happiness, is a state of mind . It can be a place where you can just be yourself without a care in the world. Some people find it elusive while others still do not know what it is. Wether it is a fleeting fancy or an infectious thing, happiness is real. You cannot  find what you’re looking for unless you search for it.

Below are just some of  the things that make me happy :
1. Listening to my kids’ laughter.
2. Sharing stories with my mom and being grateful that she had chosen to move on in spite of all  the challenges she had been through.
3. Writing and getting comments from readers even from other parts of the world that they like what they read.
4. Music.
5. Remembering my dad and how he loved telling me stories on almost about everything.
6. Remembering my simple life as a kid with my family at our old nipa hut.
7. Watching my favorite shows.
8. Running and getting fit.
9. Meeting old friends  where you cannot get enough of the stories and laughter shared in between.
10. Learning new things until you become good at it.
11. Watching my awesome nephew make a name for himself in Philippine Basketball wether live at the hard court or on television.
12. Keeping in touch with my relatives by just a simple message on facebook.com.
13. Seeing my kids’ initiative to be independent including making simple decisions for themselves.
14. Getting a gift from my aunt who is also my godmother at the age of forty and seeing her usual greeting,”How are you  Sarah?”
15. Waiting and knowing that one day, I will be able to see most of my relatives in the US, most of whom I had not seen for a very long time including my one and only sister and her family.
16. Meeting and knowing there are  people who understand my kids’ specialness .
17. Getting a hug from a very good friend who I rarely see.
18. Having me rest to catch up on my sleeping only to wake up with my meal ready to eat.
19. Simple acts of kindness from strangers to friends.
20. Dreaming  that  financial security and emotional contentment will happen any day from now.
21. Eating fruits, veggies, ice cream and almost anything I find delicious with no guilt at all.
As one continue to look at the brighter side of life, happiness will always find its way to those who search for it. A door might closed on you one day only to learn that a window was already open waiting for you to get in. Life anyway consists of many chances and  it is  not really that hard to always count your blessings.
If you are one blogger who love to meet other people and joining memes, you can join BC Bloggers at http://www.mommydiary.net/join-bc-bloggers-here
It will definitely be worth the experience. 

BC Blogger Meme

Precious Moments With Mom

Just arrived from Manila to celebrate Mother’s day with my mom. I never had the chance to change clothes as I was so eager to share  my stories which she took in every word I said. In her hands were my gifts, a Maybelline pressed powder and an embroidered blouse which she liked the minute she saw it. In the bacground were my four daughters whom she helped me raised including the one behind the camera who is my eldest .

Rare moments that I will forever cherish because they are priceless.

 

 

 

(image credits to facebook.com)

The End Of A Homeless Journey

An old nipa hut renovated, a spacious house filled with kidslaughter and noise, a picture of  home  that now  comes  alive only  in my memory.

We never had our own home.The place where I was born and grew up belonged to my aunt, built from her soldier husband’s pension, killed in action during the Second World War. Since my dad acted like a father to her two kids, she had left her house to his care, a token of love and trust when she decided to build a life with her kids in Manila. No signing of papers. No attorney fees required. Just a  simple act of kindness so that my dad can have a place to  start  his own life.

The house had gone a lot of renovations but there were parts of it as well as pieces of furniture that had remained. It also had weathered a lot of storms and earthquakes, of rains and heat, yet it  had stood still, a sign of its strength and antiquity.

With the people that had lived before and to those who had gone, either to greener pastures or to the other life, the house symbolized more than an edifice. It reminded them of their childhood, of the things they used to do and now only remembered, of the simplicity and the tranquility of life, free of demands and stress. A place where  one wanted to come back over  and over again.

Through the years passersby will admire our house for its uniqueness and space, its wooden floors always inviting one to lie down and retire after a tired day, the sliding windows wide and safe enough to sit on its sills while enjoying a shared story. The dining table, long enough to hold a mini feast while  the adjoined window faced  what used to be a bamboo fence and a star apple tree that had to be chopped down so that a basketball court can be built.

(One of the very few photos left of our old home)

Space. Comfort. Inviting. These best describe the home I used to live.

It was a nook that was enveloped with sadness when my father spent his last days and where his remains would lie before he gets buried, not to the nearby chapel, telling my mom that he had a home to return to. An abode where we heard the sound of his first grandson’s wails a few months after he was laid to rest. And a place that was filled  with laughter, squeals, yells and songs when all us had our own families and get together during the Holiday Seasons, the loudest coming from my seven kids.

I thought it would never end.

But the heavens had  different plans, it seemed.

Our home was built in a place whose inner circle had venoms, jaded people who go way back. Rooted from several generations in the past, incurable even with countless prayers, church visits and novena intentions. I always thought that miracles do happen, even to the most hopeless situations.

I was wrong.

Small talk started even before I was born. Legally it was not rightfully ours. But of what use is the law when one can manipulate it for ulterior motives. When one’s self worth is defined by endless back stabbing, spinning tales enough to believe in and when generosity all too often is masked by getting something in return.

A week after the house had been newly painted and refurnished, we were told we had no reason to stay. My dad had long been gone but that was the less painful part though hearing it directly, literally from the horse’s mouth would confirm it. Sadly, this time it did not come from a horse, but from my dad’s blood relative. We had no choice but to leave.

Our neighbors who had become my parents friends’ were saddened about what they have learned and witnessed. Since our house was located in front of the chapel, nobody had missed that day when we had moved. They still cannot believe that a nipa hut which had been the only home  our family ever had would be the cause of envy and hurt. My mom  kept her emotions intact long enough, until we arrived at our new apartment. It was only then she let the tears and herself go, still finding it hard to accept that we were driven out from our own home.

A few months after we had moved, we were told our house had been torn down. Less than a year from then, three lives were lost and one of them was my brother. It was like watching a tear jerker movie  only this time it happened for real. It was hard to believe that what the house used to represent was now  turned into a tragedy, hurting not just one family , touching not just one’s soul to its very core.

Our lives may never be the same. An old friend once told me loosing ones’ home is like letting go of  one’s roots, the pain goes much deeper. And as I try to shield my children from it all, fate  chose  to do it differently. Though it would be impossible to find the same comfort  that our old home had given us, I know that I will not leave this life homeless. And in time my children and I will again find our lives secured, happy and content in a place we can  really call our own.

Of Bicycles, Friendships and Fort Stotsenburg

Anybody who loves history would know that Clark Airbase used to be called Fort Stotsenburg. Situated three miles west of Angeles City and eighty kilometers north of Manila, it was not just the main base for the US Cavalry in the Philippines but a place of opportunity not only for Kapampangans but for people who  wanted to earn a living in other parts of the country even then.

We often heard stories from old people that life before was very hard. Money was scarce and that kids were  encouraged to help their families financially. Children’s rights advocates were unheard then, so is child labor. It was the time before Pearl Harbor.

In my dad’s family, two of my uncles enlisted in the Military. An aunt worked for the Bases’ laundrymat and my dad worked at a bicycle shop. He also became a houseboy to some military families.  Our family hails from Lubao which is the last town of Pampanga, just a few kilometers away from Bataan and Olongapo.

My dad ‘s family was dirt poor. He was orphaned at an early age and grew up without  a father.Though he was a product of a third marriage and had three siblings,  he also had half brothers and sisters which really did not matter even then. Grandma tried all sorts of jobs, so she can feed her kids. Dad once told me that they would have cooked rice and salt for their meals. He and his is youngest brother  Pinong, whom he was really fond of,  would add some water on the cooked rice,  so it would have some taste. These were days when they were lucky. Some days were not. And my grandma could not help but shed a tear, while they were gathered together at the dinner table. That was enough for my aunt Afric and my dad ,who was the second eldest in his brood, to leave Lubao,  and try his luck at Fort Stotsenburg. And true enough he did.

At the bicycle shop, dad’s boss was an American, thus he learned his English firsthand. Day by day, my dad did not only  earn a living, he also earned a teacher and a friend. The American would teach him the basics  of  his work and my dad would follow. Day by day, he learned to forget how lonely it was to leave his family in Lubao so they could eat regular meals, choosing not to be a burden instead. My aunt Naty who was the youngest, once said that he once took her and uncle Pinong to the bicycle shop as a treat. He bought them bubblegum which were too big  for their small mouths to chew, that they could not even open them to speak. And my dad would laugh at them, because he knew his siblings were overwhelmed not only with  the taste of candies but of the stories that needed to be shared for the short time they were together.

When Pearl Harbor broke out, life became chaos. It became survival.  Dad was trapped in Angeles City where as his family in  Lubao evacuated. It may have been months, maybe years. Most people were not mindful of counting how long the war will last then , but how soon it would be over. My dad’s family thought he was already dead. They lost track of him. It was very painful but each of them hope, that one day they will all be together.

It turned out that  dad’s boss hid him.  Perhaps, in a way,  the American felt like a father, protective of his son and his welfare. He too, wished that both of them will survive. After a long time, when the war  was nearing  its end, and it was safe enough to come outside, my dad had to say the inevitable. He told his boss, that he need to go back to Lubao. The American, was hesitant to let him leave. He  told my dad that he may not find his family anymore, that they may have not survived. He even offered him to have a life in the US, adopt him as his son, so he can have a better life. He was so touched, not only by my dad’s sense of professionalism  but his love for his family as well.

But my dad declined.

He told him that he will always be grateful for his kindness but he will try to pick up the pieces of his life, or of what’s left in Lubao. And that he can never leave his family behind.

It was then that the American let him go. I am not  sure if he even helped my dad  assemble a bicycle so he can get to Lubao much faster. In a way, the bicycle was not just a gift,  but a bond,  a reminder of a friendship that will never be forgotten.

The trip from Angeles to Lubao was a painful one. My dad let go, not only of an opportunity but a dream that could have changed his life.  Still, he chose to be with his family, if he will be lucky enough to find them.

After passing many towns,  destroyed by the war, asking around about his family, he finally found them.  They had all survived. The emptiness that he felt so long  suddenly was replaced by happiness now that he is back. The pain of waiting was all worth it.

This story was a product of the bits and pieces of  stories, randomly told  by my mom , aunt Naty and sometimes by my  dad. Now I know why we  he  named his kids  with American names. Now I know why we grew up  watching mostly American shows, even documentaries in which I am  now thankful of.  Maybe this explains why, when my dad had a bicycle for a  gift,  took  good care of it even to his last days.

Perhaps, he remembered, how it felt to have a father and how he found a friend during the time of war.

And just maybe he remembered, his humble beginnings, at  a place once called Fort Stotsenberg.

(image credits  to wikepedia.com)

Laughter Prone Kids (And Everything in Between)

My mom often tells me that perhaps my kids and I should live in the mountains, free of neighbors except for Mother Nature who will always understand the noise my kids create everyday which she added “might be too much for the human ear to handle. ”

Every time  my mom says this, I feel like I am raising monkeys that have been trapped in the zoo for a long time and are dying to get back to the jungle. Sort of the Madagascar characters which my kids enjoy watching. Perhaps they can relate or perhaps they just simply laugh easily. Not that we do not talk about serious stuff like school, saving money and staying healthy. Nor do they get undisciplined each time they cross the line, does not do their assigned tasks or act too smart for their age. Like any ordinary family, my kids and I go through with the same struggles and triumphs. Being a single parent and having 7 minions to raise is tough work to the 7th power. One will easily lose her sanity by just thinking what meal needs to be prepared that will fit the budget and  look delectable still. Or by keeping yourself healthy while three of your kids have the flu, worst one of them is confined in the hospital. Or just by simply having the time to take a shower, comb your hair and grab a bite before you head for work. Crazy as it may sound but at times it would help if one remembers to breathe in between before  getting caught up again and overwhelmed by this daily routine.

Life itself is already crazy as it is. Stress can be easily displayed if you are burned out by a lot of things which can make you flare up by just a simple task not properly done. And the first people who takes the heat are the ones we care about. Sadly these are our families, our children, our friends. And since  kids live what they see, it would be helpful if we  can learn to channel this positively, though it may be hard at first. And learning how to laugh, even though for a short time really helps. Laughter is free, uncomplicated and never gets old. It  not just makes you look and feel young, sometimes it makes you think that this world is not as tough as it may seem.

So if you happen to hear some kids laughing like it seems there’s no more tomorrow, do not  hesitate to hear them out a second time. Perhaps you might even care to join in and eventually found out why.

Literal Mom