my grandfather who doesn't know me
It had been the family christmas dinner I had in my life with the largest attendance. And in spite of the situation, it had been one of the most memorable for me. Of course, having it at my grandfather's wake didn't make the celebration outright merry but the presence of almost the whole family around made it feel so overwhelming that it didn't matter to me if we were served only small portions of the spaghetti with a loaf of bread to make it enough for everyone. I'm glad no one protested when I requested for another serving. What also made it different from the past christmases is that I took part in preparing. I made a refrigerated cake and I'm just too pleased that everyone liked it.
My grandfather's funeral this afternoon had been, like his death, very peaceful - emotional, yet very peaceful. I played the part of the photographer using Aunt Nancy's camera from the house to the church and finally to the cemetery. For brief moments, I joined them in the parade of following the funeral car, as in tradition, which made me feel glad that I have been assigned to take the pictures and gave me an excuse to keep my distance. The tenacious feeling of the moment was less overwhelming when I'm either far ahead or far behind the crowd. I was very anxious not to cry along with the others.
Lolo Ipe had a strong reputation of being a strict disciplinarian. I doubt if any of his grandchildren had really been close to him because of that. His always-disarming presence and firm principles had earned himself high respect from others and his penetrating stare tells you he's not the right person you can ever mess with. I don't remember myself having even a light chat with him that I recall being jealous with other kids who had close ties with their grandparents when I was younger.
When they got back from the States, after Tita Linda, my mother's eldest sister, died, my grandfather was already diagnosed with Dementia (not Alzheimer's as I was corrected) along with other diseases. He didn't seem to be able to recognize me and never seemed to care about my presence. He also seldom speak. I would take my pictures with him and he's emotionless face would just stare at me after. Mama even told me that he doesn't even remember them - his own children. But something out of the ordinary happened that had me convinced otherwise.
Behind those sternful looking, whitish eyes, I felt certain that he was still the same person he had always been. In one of the visits we made to our relatives long ago in San Fernando, Camarines Sur, I was being teased by one of the elders for being too chicken not to take a shot of a hard liquor he and his drinking mates were offering me. Lolo, who was sitting behind him and who was witness to what was happening suddenly spoke: "Tigilan mo yan, apo ko yan." Everyone around looked stunned.
"I've always believed that the heart can never forget
what even the mind sometimes fail to remember."
- SCARS OF MY WRECKED SOUL, December 11, 2006
With my cousins Hansel and Karen at my grandparents house, morning of the christmas eve.