It’s been a year since you’ve been gone, but still, you are everywhere.
You are in everything I eat.
I judge sinigang based on how yours tasted, and Tin has been left craving for the acidity we’ve tried to replicate this past year. The pot filled with kangkong, which you announce as you prepare the dining table, “o, wag nyo na pagawayan yang kangkong, dalawang tali na nilagay ko diyan“. You always put gabi in it, even though I was the only one who liked gabi in my sinigang.
We also haven’t had any birthday carbonara this past year. Restaurant quality carbonara always tastes bland after being acquainted with your salty recipe for years. Tan even joked that our taste buds are so used to salty, we couldn’t even finish a good batch of carbonara.
C enjoys reminiscing about your glaring favoritism. I have had so many birthday dinners where you refuse to cook the chicken dish until he arrived, and he goes home with chicken-filled Tupperware (of the rest of the chicken dish that you kept aside for him) as well as pans of gelatin. You even have backup chicken in the fridge for whenever we have him over for meals. Maybe all those packs of hopia C liked to bring for you worked its magic.
You are in everywhere I go.
3-day sales and Divisoria have been ruined for me. All throughout my childhood, you have been stern about going to all my classes. The only time I was absent during grade school was because I got hospitalized. As long as I could stand, I had to go. Imagine the surprise a few months into my first job when you randomly convinced me early in the morning, while we’re having coffee, to call in sick for work. We spent the day in the shopping haven that is 168 mall (and Divisoria mall, pre-fire), bought baking supplies, and ate our way through Binondo’s Chinatown. Those were happier times of using my sick leaves, prior to using it because you were sick.
I sometimes wait for the text or the viber message that I know will never come while traveling. We are always in constant communication whenever I go out of town or I fly out of the country. You know my itinerary (you even help me make them), and would often call to make sure I have already woken up in order to not miss my bus or the train or to make sure I have already packed. When I got scammed in Hanoi, you were the first person I called after getting out of the situation. I was so ready to book a ticket out of there and head home, but you talked me into finishing my trip. When I was in Pingxi Station [almost cashless] in Taipei, all I wanted was to be able to call you and ask “mom, what do I do?“.
I see you in everyone.
I try not to be angry. I know people don’t do it to offend anyone, but every time I hear or read someone even just slightly complain how their mom has been nagging them to do this or do that.. I couldn’t help but get jealous. Why do they get to keep their moms and I don’t? I would meet a friend’s mom and she would gamely embarrass her child, and I would remember all the time you used to do that to annoy me for fun. And I realize that no one else is going to make all these inside jokes about my childhood anymore. Because you have my childhood memories.
I can also see you in everyone who has lost their moms or any of their loved ones. I see their eyes sparkle a little less, or that barely noticeable flinch and cringe when variations of the word ‘mom’ gets stuck upon their lips. We can talk about our moms all we want, but nothing will bring you back.
I see you in my siblings, and in how we’ve hopelessly tried to recreate the standard of living you have set for us. I see you through our neighbors’ eyes as they recount afternoons you wiled away outside. I see you in every member of our extended family, as we all cope in different ways.
You are in me.
It sounds like I’m going crazy, but I hear your voice in my head. Not in the sense where we have an actual conversation, but in a way where I would imagine how you would react. And I would wonder if I’m doing you justice. If the voice I remember is your real voice or if the things that I’m doing would be something you would be proud of. There were days I believe I am the legacy that you left behind. But there are more days where I wake up alone at home at 2 PM, and I end up crying my eyes out. I would think this isn’t how you wanted my life to be when you passed on, but I couldn’t help it. I try to be strong most days – I’m the eldest, and I know wherever you are, you are depending on me to be the strong one.
You are in the future.
I was in the queue for an ultrasound that my doctor required when a mother-daughter came out of the room teary-eyed. The pregnant daughter had this bulging belly her mom kept giving adoring glances to, and it sunk in that I would never have that. There may come a day where I possibly get pregnant and have kids, and you would never be the mamita who spoils her grandchildren rotten. There were days where I like to take out the children’s jewelry you left me with the instructions to give it my future children. Heck, I’ll someday get married and you wouldn’t be there to tearfully walk me down the aisle. You will miss so many milestones that are yet to come, and none will pass without us wishing you were there to physically be part of it.
I just hope that wherever you are, you are painless, happy, and, proud of what our lives have come to. 🙂
TEESH || PHILIPPINES