Prose and poetry of my rollercoaster rides and bittersweet valentines. Plus--blogs, blues and bliss.
Friday, May 6, 2011
I CAN STILL remember, so vividly – a distressing and ghastly, but poignant sight… One rain-drenched late September afternoon of my childhood, as I wandered my 5-year-old worth of sensibility at a typhoon-ravaged ricefield from outside my weeping windowpane, many years ago… Claws and talons gallantly hoisted like flaming arrows and spears, a mother hen shields her infant from a tenacious dahongpalay (ricestalk viper). She’s ready to fight to the death—but, no—no deadly fangs or menacing thunderstorm can take her child away, as long as she’s there. I watched in frightened awe as the hen bravely staved off the equally intent ferocity of the snake, and then successfully drove the slithery intruder away. After a few seconds, however, mother fowl shook, fell, and slumped to death. Fatally bitten, bloodied and weak, yet she managed to stand her ground and to protect her little child, to her last breath—till the viper crawled away, blood oozing from its beaten body.
Painfully heart-wrenching, spontaneous, survival instinct. A Mother dies so that a Child lives. I wondered out loud, in perplexed innocence, at that instance—does my own Mother love me that way, too? Will she fight for me, die for me—to protect me from clear and present danger?
MOST OF THE 40+ years of my life, I didn’t really spend with my Mother or with my other four brothers and four sisters. I was always the kid-on-absentia, the incurable loner, deep thinker – always the one who opted to be isolated, physically far but near enough to feel the parental warmth and affection that weren’t necessarily, exclusively directed to me but nevertheless geared toward all of us, collectively, the nine siblings.
Since a child, I always preferred to exist independently from my immediate family—I’d rather travel and live with distant relatives and friends in far-flung barrios, “hideaway” mountain cities, coastal/beachfront villages… Hence, I jumpstarted my journalism career at age 14 so I could always have an excuse to be away. My voracious wanderlust spirit didn’t subside even as I willingly, freely, and deeply immersed myself in my work as years passed by. Yet, I know that I tried my darndest best to spend most summer months and Christmastimes with my Mom and family, either in our ancestral house in Quezon City, a bustling suburb of Manila, or in the many towns and cities that my Dad hustled most of my younger bros/sisters and my Mom—although most times I was somewhere, not home. When I started traveling to the far southern islands of the Philippines, and eventually in other countries—many times, my family didn’t even know where I was. Amazingly though, my Mom always had ways and means to find out.
When the 9/11 tragedy struck New York City, my Mom thought I was stranded in Manhattan, or worse, caught inside World Trade Center—where I was supposed to take the Path Train towards Newark Airport on my way back to North Carolina on that fateful Tuesday morning. It was never my practice to call my family… and at that time, I was (as usual) fighting with my Dad. I didn’t want to communicate…
Whenever she had the chance, my Mom never failed to reassure me that she’s always praying that I’d be safe wherever I choose to be, and I always believed her… Days before 9/11, when she found out from a friend, that I was flying to NYC (from North Carolina) for a gig at CBGB, she prayed so hard for my safety.
Imagine how many nights, how many days, how many years did my Mother pray to God so that I’d be safe, protected, taken cared of… I was always the warrior without a weapon, the madman who discovers purpose in life only when I am healing the wounded, speaking/writing for the downtrodden—and that, I could only satisfy that sublime thirst for life on the dark side if I hit the road. So my Mom was always far away from me, somewhere, praying and praying that God never forsake me.
Deep in my heart, I actually believe—till now—that God or The Blue Sky God/dess is watching over me, all through my triumphs and tribulations, bad deeds and good deeds... as what my Mom told me.
From a very young age, I accepted that, indeed, I was clearly the odd-kid-out in the family. With eight other siblings running around the house, I believed and understood that my parents, especially my Mom, simply didn’t have enough time to pay attention to my rambling inquisitions about life, my grand tales of fantasized adventures, and such and such. My Mom always listened, quietly—although, many times, I insisted that she should listen more to my stories.
My Dad loved cars, electricals, and yardwork – but I chose to spend hours and hours inside the library or in my room, writing my little dreams down on those crazy sheaves of bond papers that my Mom scrounged from everywhere, or I simply fed my small-mind with black&white Christopher Lee-Peter Cushing horrors or Cowboy-Indian movies or Huckelberry Finn stories, almost every night. One persistent wish that lingered in my young mind was that – Mom would, one day, give me more time… just her and me.
MY MOTHER didn’t have a profession or a career, although she managed to get to the freshman year of a Law degree and she once worked as a part-time travel agent and unsuccessfully managed a family business or two. But she was always obediently and attentively watching my Dad, whatever my Dad ventured to frolic on or dabble about. Her life was simply Dad and the kids…
In those years of insecurities and vulnerability, a profound and beautiful sense of tenderness and forgiving humanity continually exuded from my Mom’s heart. She was a martyr, the self-sacrificing Wife and Mother who will always sit there by the porch, patiently waiting for the Husband and the Children, coming home from work and school, with a ready smile and caring touch. She was always there beside us kids, all of us, whenever one is sick… never mind if it’s just a slight summer fever. So much so that having a fever or flu was something that I actually hoped I always had—so that my Mom will surely be there beside me.
I remember those days and nights, when I was a child, when she tenderly wiped my forehead with lukewarm cloth all through the night, waiting for my temp to fizzle down… It was the same attentive, patient Mother who spent days and nights—for more than a month—sitting beside my bed in a Jersey hospital after a surgery in 2000. The same warm hands, the same soft voice. In those moments, I never accepted or allowed visitors. I preferred to have her, all by myself – for, after all these years, finally—I had her to myself.
BUT THEN – despite all these, I never thought my Mother understood my language or spirit or my dreams. But does it matter? All I knew was, like a loving Mother, she supported EVERYTHING that I did. She never protested or even tried to control my decisions—even though, many times, it meant that she had to worry endlessly for the safety of my well-being.
My Mother has always been a Catholic Conservative but she never pushed her religious convictions or even her personal beliefs on anything—she was a follower, she was for something that makes us all kids and my Dad happy, it’s as simple as that.
I remember one day, when my brother Alberto (17-years-old at that time), came home with a drunken prostitute and declared, “She will be living in our house from now on.” My Mom simply said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.” All my sisters vehemently protested but Mom pacified them all by saying, “That makes your brother happy, please understand him. He loves her...” When three of my other brothers got into all kinds of trouble, from drugs to neighborhood brawls, she’s the one who instantly encashed money and bailed them all out, no questions asked. In her old age, there were many instances that she even lied to us about buying her medicines… she kept money all year long so she can readily buy birthday and Christmas gifts for her growing number of grandchildren. After her heart bypass in Philadelphia in early 2002, we tried in vain to convince her to stay more years in the US so she’d get better medical treatment… but she always whined and was constantly sad because she said she couldn’t stand being away that long from her grandchildren in the Philippines.
I remember when the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos’s soldiers raided and padlocked our newspaper office in 1982, and I (against the soldiers’ order) decided to remain inside the building to make sure that no “bad documents” will be planted by the military that could be used against us… my Mother stood vigil outside. I was very young, and I haven’t even had a clear grasp of the danger that I just got into. But she waited and waited outside, with a rosary on her hand… I can remember the tearful sight of my Mom—scared, tired and relieved—when I finally emerged from the building and into her waiting arms…
I never thought my Mother’s incessant tears, and low, meek voice were proofs of defeat or fragility. She is the strongest woman—deep within—that I’ve ever known in my life. It’s primarily because she had the most potent of resolve to love, and commit to it, like it’s all that matters in this life. Without that love that was freely and selflessly given out to us all her children – without that indefatigable, unswerving love for my Father, we don’t have a family at all. We wouldn’t survive the hard times—all nine kids—given all of my Father’s miscues and mishaps.
When my Dad worked in Saudi Arabia for almost ten years, only visiting home one month each year, my Mom stayed faithful to him and responsible with all of us. My other brothers and sisters recall that there was never a day or a span of five or six hours straight that my Mom was away from their sight. She was always present around the kids… she wouldn’t even have a 30-minute afternoon coffee with a male friend.
That strength in my Mom’s beautiful vulnerability and staunch loyalty are the power that melded us all—because it was coming from sincerity and honesty, not from practical reason, but from sheer love and devotion, straight from the heart. For me, that is the Force that should stay within humanity—a love that can’t be swayed or broken or crushed. Love is strong, real love isn’t physical so it can never be broken or destroyed… My Mother had that kind of Love – which makes her an embodiment of true human strength.
MY MOTHER passed away on Aug 6 in a Manila hospital—around 1 or 2pm in Asheville, on a “Bonfires for Peace at Pritchard Park” day. Almost at the same time, last year, she slipped into a coma following an almost fatal stroke… On both occasions, the rain fell all over downtown Asheville like fresh tears from heaven, halting my “beautiful madness.” My brave and courageous Mother survived more than 12 months of physical pain, emotional sacrament, spiritual misery—to assure me that, when she’s finally gone, her strength will envelope my journey and my dream should be, will be realized. That’s what she told my eldest and middle sisters Tess and Alma months before she finally went away.
The Sky wept that day… My Mother knew all through her almost 70 years of life on earth, that nothing will stop me from pursuing what I set to pursue. I was always the odd-kid-out in the family, who opted to “run away” and seek my peace in humanity—in turn, I turned my back on my family. Yes, indeed, it took Divine Intervention, like the benevolent rain, to stop or make me pause from my neverending journey, to tell me, “Please, remember, you have a Mother…”
A Mother will always be—ever be—around to nurture, nurse, heal, reenergize their children, no matter what, in whatever course in life the kids choose to venture… Right or wrong, a Mother stands upright and brave to their children’s choices. My Mother, for once, never questioned why I had to take to the hills and commune with the underprivileged, why I had to leave my people because I believed it’s only in America where my calls for peace and justice will be heard. Even though she couldn’t comprehend what was it in my grandiose lunacy that keeps me going, she always said, “Be careful… I am proud of you.”
When a copy of an article (at the Mountain Xpress) written about me reached her in Manila, it was like I “came home,” my sister Alma told me. My Mom’s brain halted by medication, a tube stuck to her neck, nevertheless her heart was very articulate—she ran her fingers across my photo in the article and pressed the magazine to her chest, and muttered, without words, only her lips moving, “That’s my son… my son.”
MY MOM WAS a Mother more than a parent—her sincerity was more of devotion than responsibility, commitment than a duty. She was more of Wife than a partner—her love was eternal and ethereal than reasonable or effective. She was there, always there, to fulfill an obligation—not because she made an oath to society’s conscience, a-front the watchful eyes of religion, but it’s because she made a vow to a boundless, selfless humanity that gives without necessarily receiving. Blind and upfront even in the face of apathy, defeat, and utter vulnerability… she exorcised enough strength and power from her resilience, stubbornness, and unswerving faith to keep the Family and Marriage alive.
It is hard to pin her down because of her faults and mistakes—that are often judged and written off as stupidity and martyrdom—because her honesty and loyalty towards her choices in life are simply beyond human deduction and “educated” sense of logic. She’s like a freefalling leaf that flies and floats and wafts, depends on how the wind chooses to blow and ebb but patiently and persistently negotiates her choices of destiny with whatever situation is handed down to her… In other words, she’s not a fighter, she is a lover—her armor is her vincibility. Because of that, she survived the turbulence and cruelty of a perpetually threatened motherhood and marriage… it’s all about faith, it’s all about that unflagging belief that life is a gift, not a privilege—some God-given garden of roses that should be nurtured and caressed than watered and sheltered.
Such is a Mother. She is the inspiration, the Muse that makes us believe that Love is still possible and Family still exists. She is the Nurturer of Dreams that makes me believe that even my most quixotic madness has a destination, someone who believes in her child’s madness even though she couldn’t understand it… For, how am I supposed to understand the bond that connects a child to the mother—that was forged right from conception in her womb and carried there for nine long months, then delivered to earth with fresh blood and sweet pain? And when the umbilical cord is cut, that streak of tears running down her face as the baby screams the first cry of life—that is magic, that is love, that is the world. How am I supposed to experience that? It’s beyond me, beyond my limitations as a man…
A song says, “The time between meeting and finally leaving, sometimes is called falling in love…” For my mother, falling in love is eternity, it will only grow and grow, it’s ceaseless, it’ll carry on, on and on. She has fallen in love with Life and it stayed in her heart until the heart’s mortal beating stopped… Because of that, her Spirit will never leave this Life.
ALL OF US, within, is a child, and there will always be a time when the child goes home, looks around for warmth, for peace, for quiet—of a soft touch, a comforting shoulder, a kiss. All these will only happen, will only be possible because there is always a Mother whose hand are always open, whose heart is always ready to welcome us home, waiting… No questions asked, no words are necessary—a Mother will always be there, waiting.
So wherever I am, whenever, whatever happens… I will always be home in my Mother’s spirit. And I will always be taken cared of. I am very sure of that. Although I haven’t had the chance to fully thank her before she left… The Blue Sky God/dess is always there around me to relay my message, to bridge me, to link me up whenever I need to, wherever she may be—and The God/dess will bring me home to her heart and then I’ll let my Mother know that I thank her for letting me live in this world… a beautiful life, a beautiful love.
I’d like to heal within the glory of your love, the wisdom of your memories. Mom, thank you for making me, thank you for giving me the gift of life.
[--by Pasckie Pascua, written few days after my mother, Georgiana Ravanzo Pascua, passed away in the summer of 2005, at age 68]