I’ll be writing about my Lola Menang (my maternal grandmother’s sister-in-law) in a future post, but first a background on my grandparents. I’m one of those unfortunate people who never got to spend much time with grandparents due circumstances beyond my control.

My maternal grandfather died a couple of years before my parents got married. According to my dad, I would probably get along with him best among all my grandparents. I am the grandchild who shares his love for books, languages, crossword puzzles, and anything else to do with words. He made my mom and her siblings read newspapers in Spanish. Some of them hated it but my mom liked it, and I would too had my lolo lived longer. But I would also probably be the one he would scold the most. He was very strict, a disciplinarian – and I am the second brattiest among his grandchildren (another cousin takes the prize for this). Physically, I inherited his height and slight frame. Lolo was studying to become a doctor when he met my lola. He married her, raised their family, and never finished medical school. He became a shoemaker, specializing in children’s shoes. We still have some of the shoe molds and the sewing machine to this day. He owned a rifle and loved shooting in the hills of Antipolo. He was a tall, handsome man who was quite popular with the ladies (even had an illegitimate child). During World War II, he and lola, together with their brood of then 6 children (which later on grew to 9), evacuated to Antipolo. Later on, he had a hand in how my parents met. He was also a smoker, which eventually led to his death due to lung cancer.

My maternal grandmother migrated to the United States, along with my three spinster aunts, when I was still a toddler. She came home to visit in 1981, when I was 5 years old, and again in 1983. She was here when Ninoy Aquino died and I remember how tears flowed from her eyes. She was already ill with diabetes and heart disease then, and was even confined for a time at the ICU of the Philippine Heart Center. She went back to the States shortly after, and sadly passed away on January 4, 1984. My lola was a simple country lass from Antipolo, where she met lolo when he went shooting near their place. (Side note: Our house still has the tiny hole that lolo made when he accidentally fired his rifle) She didn’t even reach high school so she couldn’t read and write very well, though she improved in her later years. What she lacked in education, she more than made up for in loving and caring for her family. She was ‘Nanay’ to everyone. In fact, I’m the only grandchild who calls her ‘lola’ since, sadly, I’m the only one who never had the chance to build a relationship with her.

I am the only one among the cousins who never really knew our grandparents. My older (by 10-15 years) cousins grew up with our lolo and lola, and same with my same-age and younger cousins, who all grew up in the States with lola. Now, my grandparents are buried together, and my mom is laid in the plot next to theirs. I’ve always liked my grandparents’ epitaph: “But for peace their hearts were yearning, and now peace laps them round“. I knew that they had a rollercoaster life so I thought that it was very appropriate. I had it memorized even as a child, though I always forgot to ask where it came from. It was actually originally “But for peace HIS heart…” when it was still just my lolo buried there, and it became plural when my lola joined him. Several years ago, while opening boxes of old books stored in our house, I found a poetry book owned by my mom and quickly skimmed through it. As if by fate, I stopped at a certain page and the epitaph just leapt at me. It was a tweaked line from this poem of Matthew Arnold, entitled “Requiescat”:

Strew on her roses, roses,
And never a spray of yew!
In quiet she reposes;
Ah, would that I did too!

 

Her mirth the world required;
She bathed it in smiles of glee.
But her heart was tired, tired,
And now they let her be.

 

Her life was turning, turning,
In mazes of heat and sound.
But for peace her soul was yearning,
And now peace laps her round
.

Her cabin’d, ample spirit,
It flutter’d and fail’d for breath.
To-night it doth inherit
The vasty hall of death.

I felt warm inside when I realized that my grandparents’ epitaph had my mom’s touch.

All that being said, I’m still fortunate that my dad and my relatives have been generous in sharing stories about my grandparents. In some way, I feel that I know them beyond their names and faces. Surely not as much as my cousins do, but it’s better than not knowing anything about them at all.

Advertisements