i keep talking about my father here in my blogs, but never about her. it's not because she's not important to me; it's more probably because my relationship with her is less difficult than my relationship with my Papa, more open and loving, more... settled.
it hasn't always been like that.
my earliest memory of her was when i was two, and she brought me to this huge empty white church. she was kneeling down and sobbing on one of the front pews, while i walked around exploring the tomblike structure in awe and fear, ... and when i glanced at her... in innocent bewilderment.
while growing up, she lavished us with her love, with lots of hugs and kisses, and lots of scolding and shouting and spanking, too. my Papa allowed only two expenses in our house -- food and books. so i remember her scrounging around for whatever coins and peso bills she could save up from her grocery shopping money to sneak around to buy us toys, clothes and the little treats children loved.
still, that didn't impress me. i thought that she was only being a mother, as a mother should be. she wore dowdy, matronish clothes made from cheap cloth and even sack cloth dyed in prettier colors, but she always wore makeup and she always smelled good. she read a lot of magazines and listened to lots of classical and gospel music. people -- especially people in need -- flocked to her for a listening ear, and usually, a doleout. my Papa kept criticizing her as being silly, foolish, a sucker for fair-weather goldigging "friends" and too hoity-toity (when she read and when she listened to her favorite music) for her own good.
it continually irritated my father that she could afford to get things done without lifting a finger, making other people do them instead, either through charm, force or manipulation, or all three. one time she got fed up with his verbal barrage, she cut him short with a retort: hoy, if your father taught you to earn a living by using your hands, my father taught me to earn a living by using my head!
we had a general merchandise store in a public market, and my mother tended the store while my father did the purchasing and out-of-town sales, so i always viewed my Papa as somebody exotic, strong and wise and enigmatically attractive, while she was just... our mom.
i hated her when i hit my teen years, though. i felt that she failed me as a mother. i was made to wear her hand-me-down matronish clothes and she treated me like a child, deliberately ignoring my growing womanhood and sensuality. i wasn't taught the womanly things-- taking care of my self, protecting my self, using my womanly powers well; whatever i learned, i learned from observing our maids, or from movies, or from reading, or from teachers i idolized... so it took a very long time for me to come into my own as a woman. i even strongly suspect now that when i got married, i was more like a child in a woman's body than a real woman in the truest sense of the world.
it is only now that i realize that she couldn't have mothered me well, then, as she was virtually not a woman too who has come into her own then.
i think she only came into her own in her forties, when she got fed up with her lousy marriage to my father, and upped and left one week before my 20th birthday.
it took a long while for her to find her way back again to us, her children, and for us, to understand and accept her for what she did, to know her again--this time as a person and as a woman in her own right and not just our mother and slave.
it is strange to realize that while we were growing up, when she gave us all she had, we loved her as a mother but never respected her as a person. it was only when she began taking her life back that we learned to respect her, and this time truly love her, as the person she is.
it is funny too, that while we were growing up, people were saying that im my father's daughter (because I look more like him) and my sister, my mother's (because she looks more like her); but now that we've grown up, my sister and i realize that she has more of our father's practical, pessimistic, controlling and forceful ways while i have more of our mother's naive, trusting, open, impulsive and unpredictable ways.
she is a survivor. she survived a bad marriage, impoverished conditions with our father, the challenge of building a new life in a new place twice over, stage 3 breast cancer (without chemo at that!) in 2000, a triple heart bypass in 2003, and now, thrice-weekly dialysis sessions. looking at her, people comment on how healthy and vibrant and sparkling and gorgeous she looks, more like our sister than our mother; they never know she has these diseases until somebody tells them.
her doctor shakes his head every time she visited him before for her kidney treatment. he's been urging her to undergo dialysis since early 2000 but she steadfastly refused. she'd lug this really huge medical book around with her, and show him the page which lists the 10 symptoms of kidney disease that require dialysis treatment. she kept pointing out to him that she only had 4 of the 10 symptoms, so no go.
one time she told her doctor about this Mayo Clinic experiment for those with kidney diseases, and she said she wanted to volunteer. her doctor dissuaded her from the idea, saying that the chances of getting healed from the treatment is one in a million.
characteristically, in her Scarlett O'Hara way, she declared, well... I could be THE one in a million!
she did proceed to go to the Mayo Clinic on her own to volunteer, too; it was only when Mayo Clinic refused her that she finally agreed to submit to dialysis with her doctor.
still, she continues to love us all in her world, with such passion and fierceness sometimes she gets in our hair and we get into hers.
but i would rather have that, than not have her at all.
that's my Mama-- the one in a million!
and it's her birthday today. : )
i love you, 'Ma!