Every year on this day and on your birthday, I try to remember you. I don’t know whether it’s because one more year has gone by, or because my mind is filled with so much these days – but it just doesn’t come so easily anymore. Sometimes, I need to look at pictures of you, of me and my sisters, of our trips to Balesin, to Baguio, on lolo’s private plane, Myler and San Francisco to remember our moments. But the pictures replace what the memories can’t conjure. Whoever said “memories last forever” must have been talking about short term memory. Because I can’t call you up, can’t access that part of me so easily.
I wrote a book about you, you know. In many ways I regret that it turned into a romance book. I meant to honor your memory, let people know that you shaped my life with all your imperfections. You were a good mom, trapped in a tortured mind. At a time and place where bi-polar afflictions were not yet understood, you lived each day trying desperately to shake off your sadness. I never doubted your love. Because you were always there for me. No matter where you were, what home you lived in, what husband you had, you would always swoop in to save me. I never resented you for robbing me of the chance to have a home. Instead, I painted a future in my mind where my children would always have a stable life, where they would never have to switch roles with their parents. In a way, I’ve done the opposite. Instead of obsessing about perfection because you were so imperfect, I embraced the fact that life doesn’t always go our way, instilled in the children with surety that I can love them with all my heart and show this love to them in ways that were genuine to me. I didn’t try to be the best cook, didn’t care that that I burned most of the things I attempted to bake. Didn’t pretend to like camping or the outdoors, didn’t feel out of place when other mothers would exchange recipes while I worked on my laptop in the middle of a cold wet field or a hot dusty track.
When you lived, you molded my life.
And when you left, you changed it.
Of course, I didn’t know it then. I refocused my pain on my work. I took on the biggest project of my career and its success catapulted me into this new, amazing world. For a while, I also masked my heartbreak by thinking that falling in love was the only way to cure me. The experience shook me, made me fearless, unapologetic. It taught me to fight for who I was and what I wanted out of this short life. I’ve been living a life of truth ever since. Living in a marriage that I want to be in, renewed and solidified. The children have come into their own. Sometimes I feel that I may have over-sheltered them – they seem to only know happiness – I’m afraid they won’t be well equipped to handle life’s sorrows, but I’ll be there with them at least. You also left me with your love of nice things, your wanderlust for beautiful places and people and cultures. I’ve been living those moments for you, mom. I work so very hard and assert my independence every day.
I often imagine what you’d be doing if you were here with me now. For one thing, I know you’d be lapping up the attention of all those book signings – I know you’d be winning people over with your charm, taking care of everything for me. Maybe you’d even be managing my public relations – because I simply don’t have one. And my friends – you would still remember them, mom. The ones from grade school and high school, even the ones from college – they’re still all here! “Loyalty begets loyalty”, you used to tell me all the time. I see it and I live it and the love that I get from others I make sure to multiply in return.
I may not be able to think of our past, but I want you to know that you are with me in the present. You’re with me in my prayers, in my thoughts and in my dreams. When I saw you standing next to me two years ago, telling me “not to repeat your mistakes”, I took your advice to heart. It was the most difficult, most arduous time of my life and you showed up for me. Like always.
And so mom, I guess my point in all this is to let you know that even when you’re gone, I live with your love. I live with your voice and your face and your laughter. No matter how many years have passed and even if I must try exceedingly hard to remember – I am you in many ways. I am you when I walk into the bank or the doctor’s office and distribute gifts on Christmas. I am you when I laugh out loud while cuddling the children and sneaking into their beds to inhale their cheeks. I am you when I stand in the middle of Chanel and calculate my bills in my head to see if I can afford another purse. I am you when I say what I say because that’s what I think. I am the swoony, romantic, forever in love, dance around the house, selfie-taking (if those existed when you were still alive) YOU.
And because of this, you live in me and I in you.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I miss you very much.
All my love, always,