It was a Thursday; it was Christmas day. Kate and her parents visited her grandmother, a tradition that has been going on since she was little. They brought gifts and food like cake, which is usual since Kate’s birthday is on Christmas Eve. Other family members also came to celebrate. Almost everyone was there to please Lola Pacing. They wanted to make the day special since she’s been showing signs of weakness as a result of old age.
Lola Pacing lived with her husband, Herminio, until his death in 2002. She and Lolo Herminio took care of Kate when she was a baby. They even had a say on the name and the date of her birth.
Just like any other grandmother, Lola Pacing found solace in serving and taking care of her grandchildren. Now that most of them are adults, it’s their turn to give back.
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“Hi lola,” Kate greeted. Lola Pacing was lying on her sofa bed, watching television. It was hard for her to move, so Kate sat on the foot of her sofa bed to face her. Lola Pacing didn’t speak much. She looked intently at Kate, at Kate’s mother, then back to the television.
“Merry Christmas, ‘Nay,” It was Kate’s mother. In her hands were the gifts they bought and wrapped for Christmas. “Nay, ito regalo ni Kate sa inyo. Blanket yan, pwede ilagay sa higaan niyo. (Mom, Kate has a gift for you. It’s a blanket. You can put it on your bed.)”
Lola Pacing smiled. Kate saw in her eyes the happiness and love that filled her heart. She didn’t say thank you, but her smile was enough to make Kate feel better. It’s like a blanket that kept her warm.
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As she was trying to attend to her grandmother, Kate remembered that her lola failed to call the day before. Every Christmas Eve, Lola Pacing would call to greet Kate a happy birthday. She would tell her she has no gift, but only love to give her. Kate is ecstatic every time she hears her lola’s voice. But on Wednesday morning, she didn’t receive any call. Looking back at Lola Pacing, Kate knew why she failed to call.
“Nay, linisin namin ang bahay niyo ha? (Mom, we’re going to clean your house),” Kate’s mother lovingly said. “Para gumanda bahay niyo, para pag may bisita, matutuwa sila. (So your house will be lovely again for your visitors.)”
Kate heard many stories about Lola Pacing from her mother. As a young teenager, her lola wanted to go to school. But because of war, she was not able to do so. That’s why she pushed her children to finish their studies even if life back then was difficult. Kate’s mother considers Lola Pacing as her hero. She saw the sacrifices Lola Pacing had to bear just to send them to school. She washed other people’s clothes, not minding her sore muscles and calloused hands, just so they could eat and live.
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She would wake up early to attend to her husband’s needs and would stay up late just to wait for him to come home. Kate admired how Lola Pacing supported her Lolo Herminio, who worked as company driver at first, then a jeepney driver. She is very proud of her grandparents for raising respectable children even with meek resources. What they lacked in wealth, they filled with love.
“Kumain na ba kayo? (Have you eaten?)” Lola Pacing suddenly asked. She was still lying on her sofa bed, but she’s a bit livelier than when they first arrived.
“Mamaya na lola, pagkatapos nito. (Later lola, we’re just going to finish this),” Kate’s cousin told her.
Something about Lola Pacing that people would notice is her constant question of “Kumain ka na? (Have you eaten?)” Being Filipinos, it is part of the culture to ask that question. But for Kate, that trait of her grandmother serves as a blanket that makes people comfortable.
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Later that day, Lola Pacing asked if she could sit outside. Kate and her dad talked to Lola Pacing and told her different stories. In the middle of a funny conversation, Lola Pacing suddenly mentioned something.
It was not clear since her voice was low. She murmured again.
Kate couldn’t hide the happiness she’s feeling. Her grandmother didn’t forget about her birthday after all. Although she was feeling weak, she still tried to make her granddaughter feel important. It felt like there’s another blanket wrapped around Kate, making her warm with love and devotion.
Little did she know, that’s the last time her Lola Pacing would recognize her.
If there’s one thing Kate would always rewind in her mind, it’s going to be that moment. If there’s a replay button in life, she would choose that scene.
It’s true that grandmothers have invisible blankets which they fill with love and care. That blanket will always keep their grandchildren safe and warm even when they’re gone.
*Paz De Jesus was laid to rest by her family and relatives on March 22, 2015 at Golden Haven Memorial. Her birthday is on January 28. Advance happy birthday, Lola! We love you.
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Sometimes a Jane Bennet, usually a Mary Bennet. Potterhead by day, Swiftie by night.