My severely dysfunctional family and the woman that keeps it all together
My friends often talked to me about their dysfunctional families. Me, being the private person that I am, would be contented listening to their woes and giving a comforting hug whenever they needed one. Although, inside my head, I would be smiling sardonically. Our family’s story would bring the DYS in dysfunction. My family’s story would put a shame to all those cheesy Mexican telenovelas that Pinoys love to watch. It’s so cheesy that I think if I ever decide to tell anyone, they would probably think I’m making it all up. My Great-Grandparents are separated. My Grandparents are separated. Soon, my parents will be separated. I sometimes wonder if I would also end up separated.
The Paternal Side
For as far as I can remember, my paternal Grandfather have always lived with a different family. He and his other kids would often visit us at home during Sundays. Sundays remained the family day despite the crazy family we had. Technically, his kids are my aunts and uncle, but we played with each other like cousins. Thinking about it now, I’m surprised about how everything seemed casual. They would arrive a little before lunch time, and would mano to my Lola Llena when they see her. The eldest of my Lolo Harry’s other kids is just a few years older than me and I regarded her as my ate. We would play with my dolls up until my Mom calls us downstairs for lunch. My Lola is a bit prejudiced towards them, but she was never rude. She even gave them Christmas gifts sometimes. Last year my Lolo committed suicide. He jumped off the ledge on our veranda in the 3rd floor, right in front of my room, and I was there to see it. He stood on a chair, held on to the railings to balance himself, then he jumped. There was a loud thump, and I remember my dad shouting in panic. My brother called for an ambulance, I ran downstairs. I held on to my Lolo’s head to keep him from moving. The ambulance arrived and he was taken away. I was left there, staring at the blood that spewed from his mouth. I don’t know if it was because of regret or emptiness or whatever excuse he had. For the first time, I almost hated him. I felt it was a selfish move. But that was my Lolo, he loved the drama.
That week almost all of our relatives abroad traveled back to Manila to attend his wake. I tried to make myself unavailable. I offered to be on watch duty in the house instead. I cooked the food at home, to be taken to church, which is then served to the guests. I cleaned the house, and ignored all fears of being haunted by my Lolo’s soul. His memories irritated me. His wake ran for over a week. I only went there twice. Once, because my favorite uncle practically dragged me there. The second time was for the burial.
The Maternal Side
Similarly, my maternal Grandparents are separated too. I remember my Lolo Doroy leaving for Saudi when I was just a toddler. I have no other memories of his besides that. When I grew older and capable of understanding of mature matters, I learned that it’s been years since he made contact with my Lola, and that he has a different family now. My Lola Vacion, being a good Christian, just wished him well and prayed for him whenever she can. A few years ago, Lolo Doroy died. I don’t know how my mom found out, but despite being not in contact for years, Mama and her brothers are still the ones that arranged and paid for his burial.
The Present Generation
Before my dad left the country to work abroad, he was a cop. As an adolescent, I have been aware of his infidelities, although they were pretty discreet. My parents don’t know that I know, but I was mature for my age, many thanks to the hours I’ve spent at home with only my brother and yaya. Being a cop was a thankless job, but it was what my dad loved. Despite the poor salary, my mom almost single-handedly managed to make us graduate in private/exclusive schools. My dad’s salary cannot be relied on. It was barely enough to cover the bills and food expenses. He was also often away. When he’s not out working, he’s probably at home sleeping or drinking and playing tong its with his friends. He was the perfect image of a policeman. But who was I to complain, I’m just his kid. He wasn’t even there when I graduated grade school with honors. He never congratulated me for reaching regionals on the Spelling contest. He never took an active part in my upbringing, yet I still worked hard just to get his approval. On my senior year in high school, he left to work in Italy. Most of his siblings are already established there and has families of their own. He decided to leave because I was going to college and we needed more funds. In another year, there will be two of us (my brother and I) going to college, and there will be even more expenses. I felt proud of my dad because I knew it was a big sacrifice on his part.
Many would regard the Internet as God’s gift to humanity. I used to think so too, until I realized how the Internet played a big part in my family’s destruction. My dad met someone over the Internet. A Filipina married to an Australian. They are having an affair and it pains me so much that despite years of trying to please my dad; trying to get awesome grades, excelling in extra curricular activities, being responsible; he denied having me as a child. There are five of us, and he only declares having 2 kids, to his mistress. All those years of being supportive and being obedient, was for nothing. I have been witness to my Mom’s hardships just so she could be the best mom and wife. It saddens me that despite all her hardships, she still has to endure more pain and suffering. But my mom has a strong faith, and she held on to God like she never did before. We’re all better now. We have learned to deal with the situation and it has brought our family closer. It’s kind of weird, with unspoken words, betraying eyes, whenever we eat together or hear mass together as a family. My dad keeps on telling us that he’s trying to change, but we know better. All those years of keeping up with his lies, while my mom tries everything to cover up his mistakes and make up for his lack of parenting skills.
So, what exactly does this have anything to do with shaping the Filipina image? It would take a great Filipina woman to deal with the kind of problems my Lolas and my mom had to go through. More so, the kind of problems that you get to live with everyday. Everyday is a drama waiting to unfold in our household. It’s also a wonder how my mom was able to bring us up this way, despite the destructive environment we’re in. She always teaches us to respect people, even if it is by default because of age and not of admiration. She always reminds us to have faith, and to never question God’s will. Because of my mom, I know I can take on any problem , any failure, because I will always have my family behind me, and that they will always be proud of me. I even wonder where she gets the spirit to inspire people. Despite the problems we face on a daily basis, she still manages to share a smile and lend a helping hand to other people. Also, I’m writing this as a tribute to them. Recently, my Lola and my Mom had to go through another dirt road. My Lola was diagnosed with colon cancer and will have to undergo chemotherapy. My mom on the other hand, had a complete abdominal hysterectomy because of a ping pong sized cyst that was found in her ovaries. We have yet to find out if my Mom will be needing treatment too. But hey, it’s just another problem that our family has to go through, and although sordidly hard, my Filipina mom can always keep us together.
Author’s note: I know I should be sending this to Ate Charo instead, sorry, I just needed to post this somewhere. – Isel