I think the late 70s was the time when my mom was happiest. Well, who was I to know all these things as I can’t read minds. But consider this. She was living all alone. She made a living doing hair care and sewing dresses for other people. One night she dreamed that her brother (my father) was drowning. And he needed. A huge wave was carrying him away. Without much ado, she packed her bags and travelled several kilometers until she reached the remote part of the mountainside. Let me remind you that in the 70s, transportation was really difficult in these remote places. So she had to walk on foot to get to us.
I was on a corner, almost turning blue. I was very sick. “What’s wrong with him?” Mom asked my mother.
“He is very sick. We tried everything but he is not doing well.”
No one mentioned the inevitable that I was dying. They were waiting for it to happen as they could not do anything. I could not blame them. They were drowning in poverty. Taking me to the hospital was out of the question. There’s a possibility I won’t make it during the travel.
“Boil water for me.” She instructed my brothers and sisters. She’s not the type who gets panicky in intense situation. I think as children of the Second World War, they’ve been through all sorts of horrible things to ever get shocked. She was in her mid 40s and this was 1975. I was 6 months old. A baby.
Mom was a good with herbs. Poverty taught them as siblings that there’s always a solution for every problem. She spoon-fed me with the natural medicine she made. Wrapped my fragile bony form unto her so her warmth can get to me. She held me even when she slept and had to endure my puke, pee and all sorts of stuff.
I recovered my strength slowly. By the ninth month I couldn’t part from her. I cried whenever she was away. So my parents decided to give me to her care. I know it’s not because they love me less. But because they could not do anything. They believed that sending me away to her would help me.
And it was a right decision they made. I think with all the terrible family issues that plagued us (because of me ) that was a decision I could not fault them. My biological mom was spiteful. I think I got a bit of that in me too. I think I got all negative stuff from my biological mom after all. She hated the idea of her sister in law ‘middling’ with their life. My mom loved to sew. So she sewed clothes for my brothers and sisters. They were naked when she arrived because they could not afford to buy clothes.
Because of her decision to bring me up, she summoned the confidence to call her younger sister Emily who was teaching at a University at that time. She made an offer to cook, clean, sew and do all sorts of ‘home’ stuff while Aunt Emily works. Then mom brought my cousins along. Aunt Emily complained at first but mom said that helping my cousins go to college, it would be a good thing as they will be able to stand in their own feet when the time comes. Though Aunt Emily wasn’t earning that much, my cousins were smart so they were able to get free education while being Working Students at the university.
We lived in a little room annexed to a big house belonging to distant relative. We didn’t have much. But it was a happy house. My cousins were always listening to the radio while washing clothes or cooking. Mom was doing the ‘man’s job’ lifting heavy things. My aunt also helped her when she got the time.
When mom wanted me to have my afternoon nap and I keep on crying she would just put the radio beside me. And she told me that it would calm me down and I sleep.
Looking back, with mom gone now, she made a family out of us all. Otherwise we would not have one. I remember one afternoon. I think I was 5. We were both outside taking a bath in the rain. I was running around when there was a flash of lightning and then a badass thunder.
“ Mama! I was running to her.” She held me tight and we were covered under the canopy of the coconut leaves she laid on the side of the bamboo wall so no rain could get in.
“ It’s just lightning and thunder. It won’t harm you.”
And I believed her.