I used to live with grandparents from both sides (mother and father) when I was growing up. My maternal grandparents live just a step away from our house while my fraternal grandparents used to house-hop from one child to another and stayed with us most of the time.
I used to sit on Tatay Piling’s lap and hear his weird stories. I used to help Nanay Inday make her delicious salads and juices (She’s the only one who made me drink pipino (cucumber) and guyabano (soursop) juice). I used to visit Nanay Rosing in the hospital (she’s been sick for as long as I can remember). I used to help feed my Tatay Primo’s turkeys and chickens.
I began living away from them when I had my high school studies in Davao. I could still remember the loneliness in their eyes when I had to leave. From then on, I would only see them at least twice a year – summer and Christmas breaks.
Once, when I was leaving for Iligan (college), my Nanay Rosing hugged me and said, smiling, “Unta, buhi pa mi pag uli nimo diri My” (I hope we’re still alive when you go home again). My heart was crushed at the sincerity of her words. I uttered a silent prayer when I hugged her and said, “Alangan Nay, muadto pa gani mo sa akong graduation!” (Of course, Nay, you’d still attend my college graduation!).
My Nanay Inday and Tatay Primo also used to wake up at 3am just to give their “pabaon”. I would see their room light up when they hear us getting ready for my trip. They would call me from their window and ask me to drop by their house before I leave.
I’d kiss them goodbye and Nanay Inday would hand me her 500-peso bill and point to a sack of rice that I am supposed to bring with me to Iligan. I would look at my grandmother helplessly and wished that she would just convert it to cash (hehe). I’d refuse her offer but she would look hurt and I won’t have a choice but to bring with me the sack of rice.
And during the times when I came home to visit, they would be the ones who would meet me since my parents are usually busy at work. Those were the times when they were still strong and had the capacity to show their love for me.
Nanay Rosing’s wish was not granted when I was in 2nd yr college. I just got a text from my Papa that she already passed away. I went home with a heavy heart on that day. And I thought, at least, I still had Tatay Piling and Nanay Inday to attend my graduation. Tatay Primo already had difficulty in walking because of his back pain so he was no longer a candidate for my graduation.
Unfortunately, none of them were able to witness my college graduation. My parents said Iligan was almost 13 hours away and Tatay Piling could not endure the long travel. While Nanay Inday was in Cebu and had been diagnosed with cancer.
I lost Nanay Rosing, Nanay Inday, and Tatay Piling to different ailments. It was painful to see them so weak, suffering, and dying. Once, when I was having a class in Ateneo during my master’s, I received a text from my Papa saying that Tatay Piling was in serious condition and needed a blood transfusion. So I went home and carried the blood from Red Cross with me.
My heart broke when I saw Tatay in the hospital and it took him a while to recognize me. I didn’t want him to go but my I can’t bear to see him in so much pain and discomfort.
Now, I only have my Tatay Primo. And I haven’t seen him in almost six months. He is bedridden and has back sores from lying on bed, all-day, all-night…And when I came home to visit, his eyes would light up and he would smile, saying, “Salamat My, kay niabot ka. Gibisita ko nimo. (Thank you My, that you’re here to visit me.)” I’d have to hold back my tears and clear my throat and force a smile.
Tatay would feel happy when I cut his fingernails, and proudly say, “Maulaw na ko magpa hinguko sa imo My kay naa na kay Master’s degree. (I’m embarrassed to have my nails cut by a Masters degree holder)” And I’d feel happier to have been able to hold those shaking hands and cut those thick fingernails – something I was not able to do for my other grandparents.
I have been very fortunate to experience the love of my grandparents. I would always miss them but their memory will be kept in my heart for as long as I live.
I was not able to visit them this All Soul’s Day but I know that they are now with the Lord in a much better place we call “heaven”.