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Last to arrive, first to leave

On Saturday noon, this was what I wrote:
How do you grieve the loss of a grandmother that you never really knew?
All right; maybe the last part was a bit of an exaggeration. I did know my paternal grandmother, but I didn’t know her know her the way I know my maternal grandmother and great-aunts.
And now I’m here at the airport, waiting for the departure of the plane that will take me to my dad’s province. Tonight is the last night of the wake, and every one of my dad’s siblings—except for my aunt in the US—and their respective families will be there.
Of course, I’m sad that she passed away. I know how much she means to my dad and my aunts and my uncles and my cousins, especially those who grew up in Leyte under her watch. But to me she’s practically a stranger…I don’t know what I would feel later when I get there and see her lying in her coffin. I’m not sure if I would be able to cry the way I did for Lola Tetel and Lola Tata (my maternal great-aunts) when we lost them.
I don’t know…I was born there but was raised in my mother’s hometown in Cavite, which is two hours away from the country’s capital. All my life, I think I’ve only visited there four times. I don’t know how to speak their dialect and can only understand some of it if spoken slowly. As for my relationship with my cousins and aunts and uncles, saying that we’re not close would be a complete lie because we are—it’s just that we don’t stay in touch often enough to keep updated on the happenings in each other’s lives. Whenever we get the rare chance to see each other, everything is always great and it’s like we’re just picking up from where we left off from last time…at least that goes for those who are in Luzon like us. I haven’t seen my relatives in Cebu in the past six years.
Up to now, I still haven’t shed a single tear. And to be honest, I’m almost fearful that I can’t.

And yesterday, this was what I had to say after the funeral:
I’m at the airport again, waiting for my flight to Manila that leaves in T minus one hour. Travel time not included, I didn’t even stay in Leyte for one whole day. I arrived yesterday in Sto. Nino at close to 6 PM. I left the place today at 3:30 PM.
I didn’t cry when I saw her in her coffin when I arrived. I didn’t cry during the mass at the house while some of my relatives did. I didn’t cry this morning when my cousin told me what happened—how she took two final deep breaths at dawn and then no more.
My eyes watered when we were about to leave the house to go to La Paz. Tears were on the verge of falling when Uncle Frank spoke when we were standing around the casket one last time before leaving the house. I was trying my hardest to blink back tears when I saw my Dad clutching my Mom’s hand tightly as we were walking toward the church.
I couldn’t hold them back when we got to La Paz and practically everyone (particularly my Dad’s two eldest siblings) were bawling and venting their anger on how things turned out.

(A little back story: My Dad’s youngest sibling got into a relationship with a woman who wanted to take over the house that my Dad and all his siblings took part in building (financially or otherwise). It was where our ancestral house stood until they decided to do the renovations. It was where we always stayed whenever we’re in Leyte. It was where I discovered the Leyteño in me (meager in part that might be). The woman was successful in chasing them away and I heard there was even a time when she fed my grandmother spoiled food. Of course, I’m more than a little biased and haven’t personally met the woman. But I know the rest of the family won’t be mad at her for no good reason. There is something about her that’s just not right; I don’t know if it’s greed, but she made my aunt choose sides between her and us.  That was why the wake was held in Sto. Nino instead, because that’s where my grams stayed with my uncle and aunt and cousins.)
I couldn’t hold the tears back when we were inside the house as flashes of memories of good times spent there—within those four walls and beyond—played themselves in my mind in rapid, agonizing successions.

I couldn’t hold the tears back when we started walking toward the church and passed by the streets that we used to frequent whenever we’re there on vacation.
And before I know it, the tears started flowing freely when they began playing the slideshow tribute. Trying to contain them was futile and I felt silly to be laughing and crying at the same time. But in a weird way, it felt good to be crying and laughing, to be sharing the pain with my be rejoicing the 87 years that she lived on this earth with us and for us.

I will miss you, Nanay Consor. We all will. I am sorry I left the most important thing left unsaid: I LOVE YOU. I can only pray now that you somehow felt that I did and still do.
papervoices papervoices 22-25, F Feb 7, 2011

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