05 May 2011

Maybe Next Time

It's Mother's Day this Sunday. There's a lot I'd like to be able to tell my mom or my lola, but time always gets in the way.

There's the time I spend away from them, long stretches of it here in Metro Manila while they go about their lives back home in South Cotabato. Then, there's the time we do get together, always so brief and bittersweet that I'd rather not say what I'd been waiting to say while waiting all that time to see them first.

For instance, it's Easter, or Christmas, and we are happy together, so I'd rather not ruin things by giving the real reason I've stopped going to church. So, I save the discussion for next time, hoping I'll have the balls to say something by then.

In "Atonement," by Ian McEwan, Cecilia Tallis is frustrated at how, no matter how much she feels she has changed in her time away, she reverts to her old role of daughter and sister when she is back among her family. They treat her and expect her to act the way they always have, but it's no conscious effort to hold her back; they simply weren't witness to all that change. How are they to know she's changed if she doesn't act differently? How is she to act differently if they seem so happy that she's still the same?

Martin has asked me to look at a captain's biography he's helped write, and the more I read, the more I want to know my lola's life story. I want to do the same thing for her: sit in her bedroom on the first floor, surrounded by all those old photos and books, turn on a recorder, and ask her all those questions so that I can work her story out of her answers--what was your childhood like? Who did you meet? Where did you go? Who did you love? What did you want? (Were you like me?) The lightness of her frame when I hugged her last, just last Saturdady, makes the task seem all the more pressing. I was supposed to do this last Christmas, when I had at least a week to bother her, but she was sick and needed rest. I guess it has to wait again till next time.

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