Life is a Box of Chocolates

… it’s sweet.

I had a very tiring day. We just came home from the funeral of one of my lola’s cousins, Lola Dalen. They’re almost close relatives but not quite. See, they’re the rich side of the family, my mom’s. They’re like my second- and third-degree relatives. Is that how it’s called?

Anyway, she was 96. And before she died she suffered a stroke and had to stay in the hospital for more than a couple of months. And more than two decades before that, she had to wear a pacemaker. As a child, I knew her as the lola with a battery in her heart. I thought of a robot when I learned about it as a child. But she was no robot, she had the heart of gold. She was a sweet Lola.

When Nanay was still alive, we often visit her at their house. But when Nanay passed away, the visits became rare and eventually it became years since the last time I saw her, and that’s when she was hospitalized two months ago. By then, she couldn’t open her eyes already because of the paralysis the stroke left her. It was sad, and I felt a bit guilty.

Although she was a very nice Lola, I still feel intimidated when mingling with her sons and daughters, except for one hippie uncle. So it was really understandable why I was never close to them as my Nanay was to them. They’re rich and I’ve always felt intimidated by that fact.

Anyway, we went there last night with an uncle, one of my Nanay’s brothers, and a second cousin from La Union. Sa probinsya, uso ang walang tulugan kapag last night na ng lamay. I hesitated for a moment when they decided to go. Sabi ko, hindi naman uso ata ‘yun sa mayayaman. And I was right. Almost everyone left the funeral home when it stroke midnight, so we ended up spending the night with Lola’s sons who chose to stay. Well, I actually didn’t strictly stayed at the actual wake, Tatay and I slept in the car. One more reason pala for going there last night instead of this morning for the funeral: the distance. Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, we live in Manila. Good luck sa traffic.

Although, it was a very uncomfortable sleep, I could say it was worth it. Even if I still felt intimidated around them, most of my cousins are friendly. One, Kuya Chitz, a curator (curator! how cool is that?!) at the Lopez Museum chatted with us as he simultaneously fussed with the positioning of the flower arrangements. He is cool. He’s an artist. And I even got a gay second cousin!!! Sorry for the exclamation points. I think he’s the first gay relative. Sorry naman. At least, an openly gay. Na-excite ang lola n’yo.

So, there. It was a sweet gathering. Lola, I cannot agree more when the priest at the funeral mass said she had a well-lived life, bidding goodbye to this earth at the very ripe age of 96.

I’ve never liked funeral masses. I always find myself at the verge of tears however distant I am to the departed. But I couldn’t help admiring the sweet homily of the priest at the funeral mass for Lola. It reminded us that we’re just saying goodbye for now to Lola, we’ll see her again at the afterlife, where life will be sweeter.

And sweeter did my life went this afternoon so soon after the funeral…

Because Uncle Peding and Manong Paran had to go back to Aringay this afternoon, we decided to pass by another cousin of my Lola in my mother’s side, Lolo Ruben. I also haven’t seen him in a long time because, okay, lame excuse, we couldn’t remember how to get to their house in Marikina.

See, I love this Lolo of mine because he’s funny. S’ya ang bingi kong lolo. Since time immemorial (at least, mine), his sense of hearing has always been bad. I’ve always known him as the Lolo who never fails to make me smile because I had to cover my ears as a child as he talks really loud, and he curses a lot. “Putang ina” is his trademark expression. He’s a really funny man. I distinctly remember one of my birthdays, I think it was the 7th, when he made the effort to come to the party on his own and he was late because he got lost. The way he told the story over and over again whenever we visit him in the past was so sweet to my ears. To me it meant he would always remember me.

But when we went to their house today, he doesn’t remember me. He tried to, but he really couldn’t. It was a bit sad. But he said, Kilala kita, eh. Hindi ko lang maalala ang pangalan mo. That’s good enough. There’s no sense of shouting my name to him because he really couldn’t hear us and we were told he doesn’t want to wear his hearing aid.

I kinda know why he said he knows me. It’s because I look a lot like my Nanay. In fact, I was christened “Beb” by the hippie uncle at the rich side of the family tree today. My Nanay was known as “Bebs”.  That’s kinda sweet.

Back to Lolo Ruben, ang aking Binging Lolo…

He’s really a comic relief. When he asked when my uncle and cousin are going home and they told him we wouldn’t take long, he quipped, “Eh, putang ina. Pumunta pa kayo dito, uuwi din pala kayo agad!” He hasn’t changed. His hearing is gone but he’s still the funny lolo I enjoy seeing.

When we finally bid him goodbye, he slid something in my hand just like he used to do when I was still a child. It was a 500-peso bill. I tried to give it back to him but, yes, he uttered a curse again.

He may have not remembered my name, but he’s still my funny Lolo Ruben. He made my day sweeter.

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