“Grandmothers are voices of the past, role models of the present and opens the doors to the future.” Helen Ketchum
With all the global tribulations that humanity is facing in modern history today, I decide to dedicate this blog to my grandma, whom I call “ Lola Vita “ , as a breath of fresh air from all the hustle and bustle. To set the record straight, this is a tribute for my grandma but she is still alive up to now. I hope that whoever reads this blog, will find in their heart the importance of family, specifically the grandmas, and what this blog is all about.
Having lived for 38 years and counting, my life revolves around the two strongest women I know that ever exists, my Lola Vita and my mom Nelia. I don’t know, but writing this blog makes me teary eyed. It invokes a web of emotions, ranging from happy to sad and scared. I am always mushy whenever I talk about these two people, whom I look up to the most. I will just make another blog for my mom Nelia.
Let me start my narrative in chronology- from my elementary to high school, post-graduate and the present.
I lived in the province of Agusan del Norte, in the municipality of Buenavista. Our place was quite laid-back. With all the green rice fields, untamed landscape of the mountainside, and the briny breeze of the abundant seas, I could say that people in our place were calm, respectful and congenial. However, my life growing up was not privileged. It was a constant wrestle of what food to put on our table on a daily basis. It was really hard life. But, without my Lola Vita, it could have been a totally different ugly face of poverty. Revisiting these memories of my childhood drew a flashback of hardships and triumphs.
During my elementary years, my Lola Vita had played an essential role, not only financially, but also an icon for my morals and values formation. She had sold anything under the sun. If she taught she can earn a peso or even a cent out of it, then my Lola had definitely found a way to market it. She had absolutely been a jack of all trades. Talking about money, she had been really good at that. She had not earn much but she was able to send her seven children to college single-handedly. My Lolo Cesar( Lola Vita’s husband) died when my mom was still in high school. Today, I kept wondering how she had managed her finances while raising seven children. I am baffled up to now. She really did a remarkable job as a parent and was indeed pedestal-worthy.
Whenever I asked for something, my Lola Vita had not given anything to me right away. I needed to toil and sweat first. I remembered one time, I asked Lola for a xylophone because joined the drum and bugle in our school. She gave it to me; however, the condition was that I needed to dry ten sacks of rice grains in the street. At that time, I pitied myself having to undergo all the ordeals before I can get something I want. I also asked myself why my classmates were able to afford all the materials things they needed without having them to work for it. Nevertheless, my Lola Vita had never failed to reward us all her grandchildren after all the hard work. She had done an exemplary job in balancing hard work and reward. She treated us by going to city in her favorite restaurant, at that time there was no Jollibee or Greenwich. Whenever she brought us to the restaurant, she had reminded us always that she would only pay for one cup of rice. So, if I wanted to eat more, I needed to bring my own rice but I had to hide it in the bag. I graduated 1st honorable mention in elementary. I could remember, during my graduation, Lola Vita was there and standing so proud of what I achieved. Those memories in my elementary had a special part in my heart.
My high school had been fun-filled. This time was different, because I developed my own circle of friends that I pretty much got along. I remembered when my parents had a big fight; I would go to my Lola Vita to asked money for school. She was not hesitant to give me because she knew back then that I was serious about my studies. During summer, as a growing up teenager, I envied some of my classmates because they had things like organizer, nice notebook, and nice lunchbox. I would go to my Lola Vita and asked for these things. She would give me chores to do, and if I could finish it, the she would give me what I needed. My Lola Vita had always been there for me and the rest of her grandchildren every step of the way. My high school had not been completed without my Lola Vita in the picture.
After I graduated college, I realized a lot of things that my Lola Vita taught me and those were not gone to waste. I valued money and I did not squander my earnings. I always prioritized needs over wants. I learned to give respect to the people around me regardless of their position in the society or what their job was. All of these, I paid gratitude to my Lola Vita.
Fast forward to present, today, year 2020, my Lola Vita is 90 years old and physically getting weaker day by day. I am having a hard time reconciling my thoughts that her days are limited. As to when she will still be with us, no one knows the answer. She now has Alzheimer’s disease and she could not recognize me anymore. It torments me so much; that looking back, the person I used to see who is agile and full of life is now lying in her bed staring back at me like I am a blank wall with all her memories erased. It seems like her memories are stolen from her, kept in a void ,and lost in the abyss of a black hole that cannot be retrieved. I don’t know how I could ever repay her for all the good things she has done for me. I wanted to tell her that I am so lucky and grateful, and I love her so much, but it has no use now because she could not even recognize me.
Whenever I go to her room, I would play classic Visayan songs, songs of Pilita Coralez, and that would lighten up her face and started singing these songs. It is a bittersweet emotion because I am happy that she still has memories of these songs ,but ,sad as well that all the memories of me, she already has forgotten. I wanted to teach her about how to use the gadgets and apps like Facebook but she would just stare at me like I am not even there in front of her. My mom is the one taking care of her full-time and I will just take turn when my mom needs to go out and do some errands.My Lola Vita now wears diaper because she no longer can feel the call of nature. It pains me so much every time I ask my Lola if she is okay and she would reply to me that her body aches. If only she could transfer all her physical pain, I would gladly do that.
Just recently, this March 2020, she got confined in the hospital because she is having hard time breathing. She is diagnosed with pneumonia and enlarged heart. As she is in her bed, with all these equipment to her mouth to help her breath with ease, like oxygen and dextrose, it is a a very depressing sight to look at. She could hardly talk and move. We , her family, are all gathered together around her to give her moral support and make her feel that we all love her and we still want her to fight and be with us. Days gone by and she is slowly gaining back her strength. She is back on her feet after being confined for four agonizing days. I thank God for giving Lola another chance to live and spend more time with us.
What makes life precarious is that there are things that we don’t really have control. We are just here passing in this world for a time and it has an ending. I will just cherish the remaining time that my Lola still has for us and up to when, well, only god knows. I just wish there will be a day wherein my Lola could be strong again and with a sharp memory, I would really tell her how much I love her and I will be forever grateful. I will not be the person I am today if not because of her. She occupies a big chunk in my life. Thank you so much Lola for everything and as long as you are still with us, I will always play the Visayan songs you like. I always wanted to see the smile on your face. It is priceless and something money can’t buy.
My Lola Vita is an indestructible bond that holds our family together. She is my angel and my hero.
Written by: Ronald E. Oclarit a.k.a Rhownah