I have always loved how her name twirls in my mouth: Adoracion Ramirez Concepcion. A person who grew up loving poems especially when they rhyme, her name has that particular rhythmic pull on me.
To us grandchildren, she is Lola Cion. (Or Lola Ton, as how my cousins call her before when they still can’t speak properly).
She had always been an epitome of strength to me. Just like a wall, it was never easy to push her. She would always stand up to what she believed in. Whether it was wrong or right, or black or white, she would manage to make it appear right. She would make it right until you start doubting yourself and admit, that yes, Lola was right.
She is fearless. She is fearless of no one. People fear her. I fear her. My friends is Grade School fear her. Again, she is just that one wall of disbelieving stubbornness that will make other people stay away. She will not let herself be hurt.
When I was growing up and there were a lot of us grandchildren that she had had to take care of (her children had to work), I saw how she made sure that we all get a chance to eat. Money had been so hard to come by before. My aunts worked, but now I realized that they were really not earning a lot. There were a lot of times before that our rice canister made the noisiest of all sounds – empty can, no rice. I remember, she would leave the house at 1 in the afternoon and come back at 4pm with some 5 to 10 kilos of rice, a bag of fresh fish, some vegetables and a few pieces of bread for us grandchildren to share. When asked where she got the money? She will always say she went out and ask from another daughter, or from another relative.
This situation happened a lot of times. I knew. She always told me. I was the eldest among the grandchildren. I basically took care of the household with her.
That was when I told myself that this situation will not last forever.
Nope, we were not so poor. We still managed to celebrate Christmas, Fiestas and especially New Year’s Eve. December 31 is Lola Cion’s Birthday. They were our favorite time of the year. Always happy!
Nope, We were not very poor. We were just situated an inch or so below the average income earner’s line – maybe a few ciphers away the poverty line. This was where I learned to just always smile. Remain happy. Positive vibes. (One trait that I have that drives my husband crazy. Smiling during tough times. He thinks I am crazy and literally begs me to stop smiling and do something. Europeans.)
I left my beloved Zamboanga to work and earn more. I wanted to give her, my deceased Lolo Mario and sister Anging – lives – that are not as challenging as the ones that we had before. I worked to support them. I conquered my own self. I never complained.
I was alone.
Before I left for The Netherlands to start my own family, she wept. She screamed “You and Anging were the only people who loved me!” She told me she was afraid to lose me.
My cruel self said that she was afraid to lose her financial support.
My grandmother had always been both selfish and selfless. I was mad at her for wanting to know exactly how much I earned before. She gave me the feeling that she wanted that every centavo I earned should be sent back to her. She would complain if the money was not enough.
I am mad at her if I hear my sister say the same story to me. She is provided food, medicines, extra food, etc. But she still wanted money for herself. And I think we know where she takes them.
She gives them away. Selfless. Her theory: since we are the ones who are doing good in our lives and earning well, we should help.
I was/am mad at her for failing to think about how hard my sister and I work. But deep inside, I know, I really do not care. I love her so much that I was a slave of my own self. My sister is a slave of her own love to our “dragon” of a grandmother.
Now she is there, not feeling very well in the hospital. And I am here, so far away.
I am afraid to even think of the worst that can happen. No, it will never happen.
She is a strong woman. She will live long enough to see her great granddaughter Zoë! To not only shout out with glee when listening to Zoë’s voice over the phone. I would love to see her being hugged and kissed and embraced by my daughter. And to introduce my child to the woman who sacrificed a lot to take care of her Mama.
I will still have that chance of taking her with my family for vacation. I have always imagined of giving her that chance. I will have that chance.
Who I am now is mainly the results of how I was brought up by my Lola Cion. She was very strict, very controlling. She didn’t care when she hit me infront of my Music Teacher and classmates before for not wanting to come home when she already called out for me 3 times.
Yes, she was that woman.
She is a woman of strength.
She is my Lola Cion. And I love her so.
Lola (Tagalog) – Grandmother