My relationship with my mother was far from ideal. I had too many shortcomings as a daughter. There was some kind of a friction between us.
I wasn’t exactly the type of a repugnant daughter who shouts at or hurls invectives at their moms. I was just quiet and never told her my feelings when I didn’t like something she did. We neither treated one another as a friend nor a sister, like many of my friends did or still do.
I grew up doing chores that mothers normally do in ordinary households like cooking family meals, washing the dishes, cleaning the house, washing and ironing clothes while girls my age were playing or doing their homework.
Early in the morning before going to school, my father would wake us up early so we can go around selling fresh carabao milk or whatever vegetable was harvested from the farm before they went home the previous night. After school in the afternoon, we would even reach the adjacent barangay until all our goods were sold.
On weekend mornings, I would be with either my mother or an elder cousin to sell whatever we could in the little public market in the town. Afternoons are spent washing and ironing clothes.
We had our turns doing things that most ordinary kids at our age then didn’t get to experience. We were probably envious of them.
It just occurred to me later that mother was often not at home because she had to help my father in the farm so they could have a good harvest and earn barely enough to feed and send us to school. We are a big brood of 11: five daughters and six sons born more or less two each apart from one another.
My two elder sisters had to be away from us after graduating in the elementary. They stayed with an aunt who had a fleet of taxis and worked there while pursuing their secondary and tertiary education until they graduated and were able to help send us one by one to high school and college.
My eldest brother had to stop schooling after finishing Grade 6 because my father needed an extra hand in the farm and be able to send two growing sons to high school.
Another elder sister had to stay with a distant grandfather to work and later send herself to high school and college. She did not mind being bullied for her age.
My second elder brother also worked his way through college.
It was a difficult life as we all struggled to survive meal after meal, sometimes with just salt or sugar and tap water mixed with rice harvested from the farm. Other times, we would have bananas or whatever vegetable could be harvested from our and the neighbors’ farms.
Nowadays we would reminisce about those days with laughter. Those reminiscences also serve to remind our nieces and nephews of our struggling past; that the little luxuries we’re now able to shower them with are drawn from the experiences of nothingness when we were at their age.
The adage that says you realize the value of someone or something when it’s gone is true.
My father died in 1996 when I was just beginning to earn enough for my personal needs and have a little extra to give him. My mother passed on in 2008. She stayed with me most of the time after my father died because I was the only child without any in-laws to deal with.
My mother could not have been the perfect or ideal one could have, but she did her best under the difficult circumstances we were in. The realization came to us too late.
In her last few years that she was in and out of the hospital for diabetes and its complications, we tried to provide her with some comfort. When she was no longer around, we felt we could have done more to make her feel our love better.
We missed her simple yet delicious cooking. We missed her nagging, her boisterous laughter, and her squeezing hugs with our nephews and nieces.
Learning our lessons, we now teach and show our nephews and nieces the loving way of treating their parents, of treating their cousins like brothers and sisters.
After our parents were gone, we became more independent, stronger and resilient. We have our own households now and we owe it to our mother for the training during our younger days that we are independent and hard working.
We would not be where we are now and stronger in hurdling many challenges had we not undergone those difficult stages while we were young.
We may not have told our mother how much we loved her; we now show it through her grandchildren. The difficult life we had served as a valuable investment for a better future of the generation next to us.
To our mother dear, and our father, too, we salute you!
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