Memory is a funny thing. It is not infallible and are often filled with mistakes. The older I get, the things I remember becomes less than the truth. One day, I may even forget all of it.
My memories of my paternal grandmother are the ones filled with most mistakes and gaps. I have lived with her for almost 3 decades, and I am ashamed to say I don’t truly know her story. I used to think she was the eldest of twelve and that my grandfather was the only man in her life. But I was so wrong, and it was only recently that I’ve learned of the many things she had done in her life.
Nanay (mother), as we affectionately call her, was the eldest sister, and probably the most motherly figure, among five siblings. She was born in the late 1920s, and she would tell us some stories about the war and the terrible things that she saw in her childhood.
She was married once, but that marriage ended for reasons I don’t know. She had been with other companions before she found Tatay (father), my paternal grandfather, who was almost 20 years her junior. They had been together for nearly 60 years until Tatay’s untimely passing in 2013.
Nanay loved babies and children, but wasn’t fortunate enough to be blessed of her own. Still, she found a way to become a mother by adopting her niece (my aunt) and nephew (my dad). She loved and raised them, and when they had their own children, helped to raise us as well.
I was still young when I learned this truth, and it was quite a shock to learn that Nanay wasn’t my biological grandmother. Maybe that’s why we had such a love-hate relationship when I was growing up. I do remember that I loved it when Nanay would compliment my long hair. She would say I remind her of her mother – which was a great praise as my great-grandmother was beautiful.
Even though Nanay and I had many differing views in life, I loved and respected her. She was strict, and probably traumatized me with all her scary stories but I learned a lot from her. She taught me how to sew, how to save money, and how to be sentimental. She taught me that blood isn’t the main point of family; love is.
At 95 years old, Nanay had outlived all of her siblings but soon followed them on May 1st 2021. She had a peaceful sleep in the house Tatay had built, with my parents and sisters. It was an expected ending, yet it was still heartbreaking.
Our family grieves, but we take comfort in knowing that Nanay is now at peace with Tatay and her siblings. No more pain, and definitely no more loud noises (she hated noises).
Sometimes, I wished I could go back in time and ask her about everything her life. But it’s too late now. And while memory is not without mistakes, I hope that by writing these down we would always remember Nanay and how she loved us. She was one of the strongest person I know, and I can only hope that I grow as strong as her.