take a bow

“We die, rich with lovers and tribes; tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have kindled and swam up like rivers; fears we have hidden in, like this wretched cave”.
--Katherine, from the movie “The English Patient”

an aunt just died. went home for the province for her wake, spending most of the time at our not-quite-ancient ancestral house. She’s the second one in the brood of nine to take the final bow in this greatest show on earth called life. She’s a terrific cook. I’ll miss her delicious ginataang gabi. My fond memories of her doesn’t stop at cooking, though. At a tender age, she has piqued my interest for history; she’s the family historian, you know. The research-like quality that went into her recounting of our family tree, going as far back as their grandparents always amazed me—who married who, who has had an affair, and with whom; the gritty stuff that would make showbiz moles in Showbiz Central seem tame hehe. She used to run a piggery on the back lot, when I was still young and our family were still living near our ancestral house. I’d be tirelessly following her routine for the day, the curious child that I was—cleaning the pens, feeding the pigs, even to playing the nurse come birthing time for mama pig. You could say my early career in detective work did not end there. I’d even shamelessly follow her to her room where she was caring for my paralyzed uncle. Realizing in adulthood that she might have been pissed off with me, following her around like that back then, she never showed it if she were; she was careful to explain why my uncle has to be taken cared of, in simple terms that a nosy child could understand :). She led a difficult life, but she was a real strong woman.

Then she suffered a stroke. For four years she did not leave her sickbed. It pains me, every time we visit her, to see a very different person from what I so fondly recall in my childhood. Maybe its sadistic of me to even expect a bit of smile from her lips, knowing how hard its been for her; but somehow I’m still missing my old auntie tita—the one with the easy smile every time I follow her.

Late in the afternoon of Thursday, I received a forwarded sms from my sister telling us that our aunt passed away. Earlier in the week I originally scheduled a one-day leave from work hoping I’d get to spend a longer time with my family in the province. It seems its gonna be with the whole extended family after all. I spent the whole of yesterday in our ancestral house, talking with cousins, uncles and aunts--every little nook of the house bringing back certain memories that I halfly remember from way back. It was late in the afternoon when she was brought and finally arranged in the receiving room of the house, resplendent with embroidered curtains, carpet and bright lights from the funeral service. When the men who brought her opened her coffin for the first time, I looked and saw a familiar face. Older maybe, but the familiar, easy face. I uttered a silent prayer thanking her for the memories.

Rest in peace, auntie.


RONeiluke, RN said...

i am so sorry for your loss...

i give my condolences :(

it's really weird na mas madalas akong nakakabalita of someone that had taken a bow here in the blogosphere than anywhere else...

peace out!

gentle said...

thanks ron.

Anonymous said...

my condolences. you're really lucky to know her. maybe even luckier if she really had compilations of family stories written slash or hidden somewhere in your ancestral house. i'm into this genealogy thing, and sometimes it makes me think how far can i really dig my history. just call me if your suddenly interested. be willing to share a hobby. :)