Everyday I woke up at exactly 6:00 am. I laid there for about five or ten minutes trying to wake my brain up. Before my mom could come in to yell at me to wake up and get ready for school, I got up and went to the bathroom to start another day. After all the breakfasts were eaten and homeworks were finished, it was time for school. I arrived at school at precisely 7:10. I had ten minutes to get my books, walk around, and socialize before the school bell rang. That was how my morning always went.
Everyday at exactly 2:15 pm, my mom pulled up at the curb by the tree and waited for me. After me, she had to pick my brother up from school. My brother and I seldom got the chance to go to the same school. We were three years apart, not too far apart but not close enough. We only went to the same school once. He was in forth grade and I was in seventh. It was one of those school that went from K-8. He didn’t like the school and my parents didn’t have enough money to afford sending both of us to private school. I grew up before my brother did. I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not.
After school, we all went to a mentoring program. A college student was assigned to each student that came. They were there to help us with our homework. The mentors were cool. I liked mine. She cared about me a lot. I talked to her about everything from school to home life to my social life. I even talked to her about my crushes, my ambitions, and forlorn dreams. We developed a bond. When school wasn’t in session and the mentoring program was on hold, we sent letters and cards back and forth to keep in touch.
That was how my afternoons were spent after school.
Every night, Dad came home from work at around 6:10 pm 6:15 pm. Any later than that, my mom would start going crazy. That was something none of us would want. She was true to the phrase: When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. That was how she was. She was the force that made us smile and the force that made us sad. She was the center of all of us. She was the bond, the glue, one thing that held all of us–my dad, my brother, and I– together. She cared about us more than anything in this world. All three of us knew that without a spec of doubt.
Put on a coat! Wear your hats! Those were the typical commands she would give, but my mom told me more than that. She told me about her worries, her fears, and everything that was bothering her. She talked to me about her misunderstandings with my dad’s family, about the good and bad side of my dad, the troubles she got herself into during the childhood days, her regrets, and so much more. I remembered them all.
I raised you like your grandma raised me, she always told me, Your grandma was an amazing woman. I remember every single thing she had told me. Now, I tell the same to you.
My gramma. Mom spoke about her a lot, and she missed gramma even more. When gramma died, she was heartbroken. I still remembered that day. Dad picked me up from school. He was late. He looked strange.
Grandma is dying.
Those were the words he said to me. I said nothing.
My whole family met up with a few of my aunts and uncles. Together we all drove continuously. Still, we were late. I still remembered. When we arrived, everyone was silent. Gramma laid on the cold, hard bed unmoving. Mom cried. I didn’t; I was only 8.
The funeral was long. It was my excuse to meet with all my cousins and eat special food. My gramma died. I shed no tears. The funeral was quite fun in my opinion.
It wasn’t until I went back to school after all was said and done that I showed any sign of grief. I remembered my friends asking me why I had been absent. My eyes just swelled up, and I replied to them through tears that my gramma had passed away.
Look what you did, Francine, I remembered one of my friend yelled at one of the girls, you made her cry.
Gramma, I didn’t remember much about her. All I knew were glimpses of my childhood and what my mom told me about her. She told me all the time how Dad was the only man my gramma approved of.
Do you know why your grandma only liked your dad? He might be an orphan, but he got brains and manners. Do you know of anything that your dad can’t do? That’s why I listened to your grandma and choose to marry your dad.
That was only when she was happy with Dad. When she was upset at him, she pulled out all his faults. I remembered their fights. They were explosive. It was like two quick witted general duking it out at each other. Even as a little kid, I remembered some of their fights vividly. There were some scene I could never forget.
I was about three. As little as I was, I could tell. I was always an observant little child. There were things I was oblivious to, but there were certain things that I picked up very fast. They were fighting again. I knew that. I thought they were threatening to split up with each other. My mom came to me after they got tired of arguing.
Theresa, my mom said, and I looked at her with those small innocent eyes that every three years old had, If your dad and I split up, you will stay with me, right?
I nodded. What else was I to do? I was just three. The fact that I understood what she just said was something not many three years old was capable of.
A while after mom, dad came in.
Theresa, he said, and I gave him the same look I gave mom, If your mom and I separate, you are going to stay with me, right?
Just like I did with mom, I nodded. I remembered working in my mind what I was going to do if they really did decided to split up and I had to choose. I wasn’t going to. At three years old, I decided I wasn’t going to choose, and I decided to tell them that.
They didn’t split up. I didn’t have to choose. Neither of them knew what went on between me and them.
Every weekend, my whole family piled into my dad’s old silver Plymouth. We drove around aimlessly looking for places to explore and things to see. There weren’t much point to our weekend excursions. They were just a way for us to spend time together, more correctly for my dad to spend time with his family. Working from six to six, he hardly had any other time set aside for his family. Also, those excursions were the best times I had ever had with my family. Those were the happiest days of my life. The same could be said to the rest of my family. I hadn’t seen any of them smile wider or more genuinely. Those were the carefree days, before calamity struck.
It started I guess when my mom had an asthma attack. My mom’s health was never all that well. Her asthma was always shaky. One night, my dad led her out of the house. She wasn’t looking too well. Then again, she never looked too well. Minutes turned into hours. They weren’t home yet. I got a phone call from dad,
Go to sleep, he told me, Your mom is in ICU.
That was all. I was worried, but nothing could have prepared me for the next day.
I walked in the doors of the hospital finding my ways through the corridors. Finally, I saw her. She was unconscious. There was a tube going down her throat. There were all sorts of machineries around her. Tubes and needles were sticking out of my poor mom. The shock went through me like a lightning fast gust of wind. I broke down. There were no words that could be spoken. Tears streamed down my face. It was something that would sear into my mind forever, lest I lost my memory.
Mom didn’t like the hospital. When she regained her consciousness, all she did was asking when she could go home again. I remembered once I took watch over mom so that dad could go home and rest. In the middle of the night, she called,
Theresa, where’s your father?’
At home, I told her.
Call him! She commanded me in a low, raspy whisper, Tell him to bring me home!
I don’t think he can do that.
Just go do it.
I did as I was told. Dad told me I was nuts. I told mom what he said. The next day, I was relieved of my watch duty, and dad took post once again taking care of mom. Mom eventually got better.
She’s a fighter, one of the doctor said. They weren’t sure if she would survive. She did. Mom was a fighter. She fought for life, her family, and everything else she stood for. She was a mother, and she would fight anyone and anything for the well-being of her family.
After the asthma attack, we never thought mom would be entering the hospital again so soon. There were signs. They appeared one by one after our vacation was cut short. We were in palmy Hawaii. Second day in our vacation, mom wasn’t feeling so well. She thought it was the weather combined with the jet lag. We flew back.
Things got worse.
She started having pain now and then. There were no doctors to go to. The medical insurance company was giving us a hard time. We were without it for a few months. So, we settled for over-the-counter remedies hoping that they would fix things.
They didn’t. Mom’s pain was getting worse. No one could be certain what was causing her pain.
When things were finally settled with the insurance company, mom finally got her tests and x-rays. It was cancer. No one blinked.
Deep down everyone knew. Or maybe it was just me. I knew, sort of.
The doctors did what they could: operations, chemo therapy, radiation, and the whole nine-yard. It was too late. They didn’t catch it in time. The tumor was already in its last phase. They said she only had three months to live. Mom fought, again.
Treatments helped her live as long as she could. One month, two months, to six months, a year went by. At the beginning, things were going alright. Mom would take her medications as prescribed. Dad quit his job to stay home and took care of mom. Life went on. Things worsened.
The cancer attacked. We fought back; it didn’t do any good. Mom got worse. Somehow, through it all, I still had hopes that everything would blow over; everything would be alright in the morning. Yes, the world would right itself again when I opened my eyes, just like it used to.
Every morning, I woke up. Mom was still sick; Dad was still wearied from taking care of mom. No one talked to each other anymore. We just went on our daily lives like nothing was wrong. We were putting up a front hoping one of the other two would take it and feel better. It didn’t, but that was how we dealt with grief, fear, and everything else. I couldn’t deal with it.
Every night, I came home. I locked myself in my room. I wanted to escape, get away from everything, the present. I was home less and less. Home wasn’t that place of comfort anymore. It was a battlefield.
Every time I see mom going in and out of the house, she was getting worse. She was permanently at home now. There was nothing the hospital or her doctor could do for her anymore. Mom was dying. Still, she fought.
It was getting more and more difficult for her to move around. She couldn’t do her walk around the neighborhood anymore. She was confined to walk around the house. I could still remember her saying,
If I don’t stop, if I keep on fighting, soon, I’ll be able to walk around the neighborhood, and then soon, I’ll get better.
Yes, dear. There wasn’t any confident in Dad’s voice.
I was hopeful.
Soon, she couldn’t walk at all. Mom was confined to the bed. My aunts and uncle visited more often. They knew, too. I didn’t want to believe it, but deep down inside, I, too, knew. Denial, it was how I deal with things.
Soon, she lost grip of reality. That was when I knew. That was when I couldn’t deny the truth any longer. I remembered it all too well. Dad had some important errand he had to run. I was left alone to watch over mom.
Just give her water, Dad said, It’s all she needs right now.
It was all we could do for her. Time was running out.
Water..my mom said. I gave her water.
Fancy, she said, Where’s mother?
I stared at her. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Fancy, she repeated, Where’s mother? When is she coming home?
I tried to hold in the tears that was forcing out.
Mom’s right here, I told her, You’re my mom.
Fancy was her closest sister.
Mom slowly eased back into sleep. Dad came home. I ran out the door. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I cried all the way to work. That was the week before mom died.
I remembered crying endlessly through out the funeral. I never stopped crying.
Life went on. Life had a habit of doing that. When you thought the world should stop, it just kept going. The sun rose, and then it set. One day at a time, it just kept going. I went on with my life, but there wasn’t much of me left go keep going on. Part of me slowly died with mom during that year. So did the rest of my family. Home has lost that homey feel. It was still a home, but it was more than that. It was a battlefield, a battlefield after the war and all the battles were fought. There were no victories. Neither side won. Either side lost something dear. Still, life went on.
How do you go on when everything you knew is going askew? How do you go on when there’s nothing left in you? How do wake up and make like everything is okay when your mind and heart say it is not?
Everyday I wake up, brush my teeth, comb my hair, and go to work. Every evening, I go back home keeps my dad company for a while, and then lock myself in my room again. Every night, I ask God is there an end to all this pain and suffering?
So, now, every night I go to sleep hoping that God will soon give me answer in the morning…
hang on for a moment
the world’s gonna change
everything’s going askew
the normal has just become strange
so strap on your seatbelt
and prepare yourself for the ride
because it’ll be for a long while
but you just gotta flow with the tide
changes will and have always happened
of that you can be sure
but when change is this sudden
everything you know, just become obscure
the world can turn upside down
in just a blink of an eye
you can’t trust anything except
that things will always go awry