19 years ago yesterday, my beloved Lola left us. It was the saddest night of my life.
A few hours before she passed, I saw her in the hospital. I was with my cousins and we have just visited my Lolo who had surgery and we were about to board the elevator on the way down, and she stepped off the same elevator, on her way to visit my Lolo. We briefly kissed and hugged and I didn’t know that that would be the last time I would see her alive.
In the car on the way home, I was thinking about her. I know my Lolo and Lola rarely were apart and I was wondering how she would cope without him that night. There was this voice inside of me niggling that maybe she would need me by her side. Sadly, I didn’t heed that voice and went to the picket line and then home instead.
I will not go into the details of how she died though the events of that night are as clear to me as though it just happened yesterday. Suffice to say I regret not being around her that day and the thought that I could have done something (although I admit I might not have done anything at all) had haunted me all these years.
She had died of a burst blood vessel — an aneurysm and by the time she reached the hospital, it was too late.
19 years and I still think about that night, and about her. I have lived with her for a few years when I was in primary school (going home only during the weekends) and most of the things I am now is because of the things I learned while living with her. She is not rich but she made sure I always had a hot lunch delivered to my school everyday. She cooked very well and everyone always had a hard time deciding which among the food she prepared is their favourite everytime we had a family get together.
She is very strong, I remember that her house is prone to flooding, and each time it happened, she would lift up heavy pieces of furniture to protect them from the water.
She loved lovebirds and there was a time she had a huge collection of multicolored ones and she made sure they are fed and cleaned all the time.
She also loved dogs. There was never a time I could remember that there were no dogs in her house. But those dogs are well disciplined or they get a whack in their bum with a newspaper. She would tell me stories about the dogs they have had, and she would be really sad whenever she tells of her dogs that have been stolen or died. She knocked on doors asking if they have seen one of her white dogs that didn’t come home, and she learned from one of the people she spoke to that they saw a car pick up her dog and drive away with it.
She loved sewing. I remembered when she made me a blue dress with a matching blue bow for my hair.
She loved music. I often catch her smiling and staring into space while drumming her fingers on the table whenever music is playing on the radio. She also loved those midday TV shows, specially Eat Bulaga.
She loved all her grandchildren. She loved my cousin Allan who used to live with her as well for sometime — I remember her being upset with him each time he did something naughty (which was often), and I remember her heart being broken when he had to leave for America for good. Each time she talks about Allan, there was this unmistakable look of sadness and she would always say she wished she never scolded him.
She loved Coke as much as my Lolo did — everytime we ate, there has got to be Coke. She also loved Pizza Hut and the local roast chicken you buy on the streets called Andok’s.
I have always been protective of my lola. Whenever I accompany her to the markets, I would always be ready to pounce on anyone who might think of doing anything bad to her. I didn’t realize how protective she was with me until one time, in a different market, a sleazy man complimented me. The look she gave the man swiped the smile off his face and made him slink away.
I remember her sharp “Shhhhhhhh!!!” everytime children outside would still be noisily playing in the early evening. She would yell at them that they should be home already because it is getting dark.
She loved playing mah-jong. She would play with her children and her grandchildren. I remember laughing each time we are playing with my aunts because the game would pause for a long time when it was her turn. And after several long minutes of waiting, she would ask “who’s turn is it?” I remember putting P5 in her wallet when she wasn’t looking because she was losing in a game.
She would pray the rosary every night. And when I am in their house, I would join her. She has this serious rosary face everytime she prays.
She would always be the first one to call when it’s someone’s birthday. Always. It felt weird when she didn’t call during that first birthday I had when she was gone. Somehow my birthdays weren’t the same anymore.
I was her first grandchild. She doted on me like all grandmother would dote on their first grandchild. I have always had a secret dream of building her a home with a garden because she once mentioned to me that someday she hopes to have one, as they were just renting the home they live in. The most I was able to do for her was to deliver her grocery bags everytime I received my paycheck. I loved listing down what I would put in the bag, and I would put some treats for her, underneath the more important stuff. And that sadly had to stop when we went on a strike.
How I wish she was in my wedding, and when my daughter was born. That isn’t meant to be, and the thing that gives me hope is my belief that someday, I will see her again. And before I do, I know that she is watching over me. Maybe she’s reading what I am typing right now. And feeling happy that I think of her.
I do think about you Lola Oliva Cabrera de Ynchausti, every single day.