She appears before me in the dark. Shredding through sleep, she forces me to look into deep, endless tunnels that reveal flashes of her face. Silver hair. Wrinkled brown skin. Laugh lines and smiling, mahogany eyes. Tribal marks that have been forever etched into her skin. These are my few and fading memories. I try to look away, but I can't. She holds me fast with the iron grip of remembrance. Her cries shudder through me, for we both feel loss. We realize once again that Time has robbed us, and its greedy fingers took her away to rice fields and huts. The mountain air reverberates with festival tribal beats, and it is here she waits for Time to steal us as well.
This was a short writing originally done in honor of my lolo (grandpa) when he passed. However, earlier this week, I found out through a long distance phone call that lola has passed as well, and I decided to rewrite it to fit her. I feel a weird disconnect about this. She was never someone I was particularly close too, seeing as how the language barrier prevented any real bonding. But that doesn't mean she is any less to me. I respected her, despite the vast differences between us. She was a tough woman who lived a hard life.
Also, she was always...there. Whenever I visit the Philippines, the first thing I associate with these trips is the old woman I know will be sitting on the couch, wrapped up in layers of clothes, dozing off, and occasionally waking to regale everyone with tales from the past. She could go on for a long time, talking and talking in that unfamiliar language, and I would pester mom to translate. I still feel a sense of loss at not knowing everything she said. If I could, I would sit by her side for hours just listening to the amazing stories I know she had - if only I could understand! But I never did, and now I never will - not in this lifetime at least. That opportunity has been lost.
I still remember the one time she visited us here in the States, along with lolo. My favorite memory is one where my young self was squealing in delight as we had a beanie baby war. I ducked behind living room furniture and bombed away with my little stuffed animals, and that spunky old woman winded up and threw them right back at me! Ah man, I'm sitting here smiling just remembering her rasping laugh and excited chatter in her foreign language. There was also a time when she observed me discover a dead bird on the sidewalk. Instead of squealing and running off, I stopped, and gently scooped it up (with gloves on, don't worry) and buried it in a nice box I made. She never forgot that, and apparently, when she returned to her homeland, she told others about how sensitive and thoughtful her American granddaughter was.
I may not have understood her very well, but I could swear she was the most intuitive woman I've ever known. She understood me even though she didn't speak English.
She taught me you don't need to speak the same language to make a connection.
So this is for you lola - the woman I never understood, but learned about with my heart.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.