Born: 1944, Cabantuan City, Nueva Ecija
My mom would tell her story in very few words. She is not one to elaborate on her experiences. She is a lady known for being direct, who mostly keeps to herself. She also has dementia, and has fewer and fewer words to share about most things. What I share are my memories (and lack thereof) of her story. In a picture of my mom and myself as a baby in front of a Christmas tree, I don’t recognize us. I don’t remember the moment. I don’t remember migrating at two years old. She never told me what it was like to leave her home and transition to a new place. As I was growing up, she worked often (she was an accountant). When she got home from work, if she wasn’t cooking or cleaning up, she was either watching The Home Shopping Network or singing karaoke: Celine Dion, Bette Midler, and Whitney Houston. She didn’t do much else beyond those activities. My mom told me that she would not have moved here if it weren’t for my siblings and me; she was “fine before,” and it was because of us she thought to leave. Looking back, I realize this was a very big sacrifice on her part, especially since she spent most of her time here in the US working with little time for leisure. She also barely went back to the Philippines for a visit. In a rare show of emotion, I once found her sitting up in bed, teary-eyed: “I miss my brothers and sisters.”Through the years, she provided for me as much as she could, even as I grew into an adult, and even if her gestures seemed impersonal to others. In college, she sent me checks for groceries, but without anything else inside. A check in an envelope. Memo line: Grocery. When I moved to Seattle for grad school, I called her three days in a row my first week in. By the third call she asked, “Why are you calling me? Are you homesick or what? Did you eat? Good. OK I love you bye.” When I finished grad school, she smiled big in our photographs together, hugged and smell-kissed me. I can’t recall if she had any special words to share with me on that day. It wasn’t her style really. Today, she is spending her retirement back in the Philippines as her dementia progresses. She gave a lot to be here in the US, returning to her home in declining health. But I hope that her story can continue with me, in whatever fragments, and through whatever I manage to accomplish here.