These days, majority of young people prefer to live away from their parents and elders, either to pursue higher education, for a better job or just for the heck of it. But here I am, recalling how it was when I still enjoyed the comfort and protection of my family. I miss them all. I miss the clan dinners every weekend, the frequent beach excursions on Sunday mornings and attending mass and other occasions together. I miss strolling in the park, little cousins and nieces in tow. But most of all, I miss the men of our family, especially my grandfather.
“Find a man who will love you the way I and the rest of the men in our family love and value you. Never settle for anything and anyone who makes you feel inferior, worthless and trashy.” This was my grandfather’s message to me on my 11th birthday, which also coincided with my elementary graduation. I was the class valedictorian in our village’s public elementary school.
Eleven years after, here I am, with three failed relationships and a job I love too much, living away from my family and the place where I grew up. But still, every night, before I surrender to sleep, my grandfather’s words echo in my head. The memories of how I coped with my last failed relationship would flash like an old, gray movie clip.
Like all of those who have had their hearts broken, I put up a strong front when I told my ex-boyfriend that it’s over. I went home smiling. The tears only fell like Angat Dam being opened when, over dinner, Tatay (my grandfather) asked about my relationship. I just couldn’t stop crying. In between sobs, I told them that it was over. I think I ruined every one’s appetites that night.
After dinner, I took a long walk in the rice fields. I remembered how my grandfather and my uncles would carry me piggyback, or sometimes on their shoulders, so I wouldn’t get muddy during the rice planting season. During harvest time, I would get plenty of scoldings for playing in the hay and among the rice stalks, and chasing carabaos and cows.
I sat down on the rice paddy and allowed the tears to flow. I looked at the sky and asked, “Why all these heartaches? Why me? I grew up deeply loved and cared for. And all those I had relationships with, I loved truthfully and deeply.”
I felt somebody sit beside me. I looked and saw my grandfather. I thought, “He is old now. His hands are knobby and his graying hair attests to his age.” He put his arm around me. Like a weary soldier returning from battle, I lay my head on his shoulder.
“I wish I could take away the pain that you feel, hija. But in order for you to grow and become stronger, you have to endure the pain and learn your lesson. Look back on the past not with anger and bitterness, but with a happy heart. Your pain will pass, the agony will ebb, but remember that our family’s love for you will remain and be stronger than ever.”
I didn’t say a word. I just hugged him tight. Before he stood up, he said; “You are a strong woman, hija. You have in your blood your parents’ strength, your grandmother’s wit and tact, or the lack of it when necessary, and of course, my heart, hija. You have a heart that will continue to love, over and over again, despite pain, despite failure. You are, after all, my granddaughter.”
That night, in the middle of the vast rice field, under the moon and the star-filled sky, I felt reborn, rejuvenated, and totally free.
That night, as I watched my grandfather ambled towards our house, I made a vow. I will take care of my heart. This is, after all, part of my grandfather’s heart.
And so, here I am, coping well but missing my family badly, especially, my grandfather. #
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