Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Remembrances of My Late Mother

More than meriting title to being quiet and mum as a clam, my mother was truly a woman of very few words. She spoke little. Thus, I doubt I need spend time calculating the conversations we had had as adults. We had very few, and each one went like telegraphic exchanges between two frugal individuals.

In hindsight one can easily recall how those few incidents came about. And thus the task of retelling is that much easier. But they definitely created lasting impressions. How else to explain my very vivid recall.

In one visit and from out of the blue, she framed her conversation in one sentence. And it simply was a curt admonition to take care of my younger brother, and spoken in the vernacular. As was usual with me, it went in and was soon replaced with more urgent mundane matters. But during moments of lull, that statement would come back to occupy my wakefulness. Why the admonition and why me? The mind started racing looking for rationales and answers. As very young kids, all nine of us grew up in that old house along Del Mar and Victoria Sts. The house sat fully on exactly 100sq.m. of land, leaving nothing but the sidewalk to separate it from the two streets. And we counted on the kind graces and forbearance of two aunts who owned the two lots on the other two sides in allowing our little horde to use their free spaces for our purposes. One lot was initially vacant and the other occupied by a house of another aunt. The vacant lot was there to serve as our free space – for a while at least until a house was also built on it.

Nine precocious kids grew up in those cramped and eternally-shuttered quarters in the middle of a busy poblacion, two blocks away from the town plaza. As a small kid my younger brother had assigned quarters in one bedroom on the ground floor which space used to serve as my father’s law office. This he shared with another younger sister. And from all indications that served as some kind of sick bay since the two siblings took cadenced turns being treated with all sorts of ailments – wheezing coughs, fevers, urticaria or hives, bad colds, etc. So most nights one heard the unmistakable sounds of the ailments as one passed through that section of the house, with my mother serving as relentless and indefatigable Florence Nightingale to the siblings in distress. And this went on till early adolescent years.

That younger brother was the first to go a couple of years ago among the nine siblings. Was my mother gifted as prescient or armed with clairvoyant tendencies to qualify her to make such dire predictions? I doubt that. It most probably stemmed from maternal instincts honed from many years and countless instances of service to enable her to make prudent observation and judgment on the physical make-up of her sizable brood. After all, she exhibited the same personal dedication and selfless passion in taking care of all nine of us.

Years later after having married and living away from her, another short telegraphic dialogue transpired. She had received a letter from two distinguished Jesuits, very well respected locally, Frs. A. Cuna and J. Fuentes, regarding a Cursillo course participated in by her youngest offspring. She was being asked to write a confidential letter to be delivered to the above Jesuits. Imagine that!

What does she do? She calls for me and almost demandingly asked for me to write that letter. Why me? The year was 1972 and I was deep into raising my growing family and coping with the burdens of working in a busy bank. So naturally, I balked. No words from her followed, except that I was left holding the letter from the priests.

Without further instructions, and without any ideas suggested on what that letter would contain, I knew that she had expected to receive that letter before it was due. Rummaging through old files, I chanced upon these two letters stapled together. Suggesting without a doubt that the letter required of her was written and submitted on time, and penned by me.

Was she so sure that the ideas that I would put on paper would be the same ideas she had in mind and held in deep trust? I do not recall having to retype anything regarding this letter.

Maybe it was like this. How could revisions be necessary since I was simply being used by her as her instrument?

Thus, more like that most perfect model of a mother who said to the wine stewards at Cana: Just do what he tells you!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bi-coastal Life

Last Sunday afternoon after a nice warm bath, I flopped my tired aching body to a nice soft sofa to face my friendly news gatherer – the TV set connected to a local cable company. With remote firmly clasped and electric fan quietly swooning in the background, I was ready to travel.

Held the notch on what is called locally as the Bloomberg Channel. A lively live debate was underway. Splashed across the screen in front of the portly moderator who stood behind an imposing lectern was the statement: California Is A Failed State. Huh, what? I almost lost consciousness. California, home to Hollywood, Apple, Facebook, Intel, Google, Yahoo, the most populous state in the union, among the top ten largest economies in the world taken separately, the most innovative, etc., a failed state?

Anyway after intently listening for a few minutes, I was getting the picture. There apparently is a proposition, or a ballot initiative put forth by the voters, that seeks to declare that the state indeed is a failed state. Probably to be voted upon during the next local elections this coming November. This whole process is uniquely California, an enviable model in its exercise of “direct democracy” - when the people themselves take a hand in governance.

Across one side, the negative side to a debate, I recognize the 3 panelists. – erstwhile CA governor, Gray Davis, who was unceremoniously ousted during a recall election that saw the start of the Arnie reign; Van Jones, of late an Obama appointee who had to decline due to some pretty incendiary statements made by him in his prior life, and Lawrence O’Donnell, an MSNBC anchor noted for his caustic anger against anything conservative.. All decidedly liberal in political orientation. And on the other side, the affirmative side, they had 3 panelists who were not known to me. – a lady editor of a popular website or group, a male economist, and another male panelist who had served in some administration. All who I suppose declared themselves as conservatives.

With a huge enough live audience who asked questions directed to all panelists, the overall discussion was interesting, friendly and civil so that my guess is that everybody walked away from it learning more about the attendant issue.

Of course, the issue itself has been dogging California for a long, long time, way past Grey Davis’ administration. People have been noticing the slow decline of the California economy and the shameful neglect of its government in stemming that downward tide. People have complained of recurring huge state deficits, too many regulations in its economic life from business to the environment, businesses burdened by too many taxes and regulations that they were leaving in droves, cities were deteriorating politically and socially, the latter in the form of unabated homelessness on city streets, infrastructures like roads and bridges were crumbling due to neglect, etc. Etc. Of course add to that, the still teetering housing situation which continues to hit the state harder than others. As we speak some areas have already lost more than 50% of home values pegged from 4-5 years ago. And still spiraling down with no bottom in sight.

But that is not my point. Personally, the issue for me is old hat, yesterday’s meal.

But because I am a naturalized citizen and continue as a resident of California, I am directly impacted by what happens there. While now spending some time in the old homeland, still one cannot ignore the realities there because pretty soon I will be back there for a spell. Most likely spending the same time when the local elections will be held.

What is astounding is that I can live 7000 miles away from it and still vicariously participate in its critical affairs at the flip of a switch, while at the same time still having my ears attuned to the local events that also daily affect my current life here. Straddling between two coasts without loss of any real time! One of today’s wonders!

But how shall I vote on this issue? That is not a “consummation devoutly to be wished”.