Note: This is the first of my three-part (Or two? I have yet to determine.) entry. Reading it may spark unwanted feelings. You shaking your head, rolling your eyes or giving out sighs of exasperation on certain parts of this entry (and perhaps, the next ones to come) are completely understandable. Thank you for bearing with me. -T.
My dreams have become rather vivid recently. I take this situation as both good and bad. For starters, I have been the type who would remember my dreams, whether it makes sense or not. I would share some with my friends and family, wondering with them why the cookies would burn if I did not put the toothbrush in the bowl. Sometimes, it would be all too serious. I dreamt one time that I was inside a building, heading towards a door. I opened it, stepped outside, and fell. The falling never ended, and I woke up with a jolt. I shared this with a colleague (who is also a mentor when it comes to interpreting dreams) and she told me that I’ll be losing my money real soon. I didn’t know how to react. She looked concerned, and I couldn’t help but feel that the inevitable was coming. Indeed, a year later, I realized I didn’t know where I spent all my money. I felt stupid. I didn’t know what to do. I was being yelled at for my reckless spending and that for someone so smart, why wasn’t I thinking? I did recover in a few months’ time. But there was that certain feeling that never left me. Fear never left me. And it messed with my dreams.
A year later, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Two months after that, my partner broke up with me, partly in the hopes that she could patch things up with a former flame she hasn’t let go of apparently ever since we got together (And we were together for seven years.). One other reason was–which was also her sole claim–to fix herself. But I wasn’t stupid. Still, imagine my selfishness (Could be thought of as determination by others. But not really. At least from how I see things now.) when I chose to fix my broken relationship, instead of being with my mother.
The absence of someone whom I’m used to waking up with every morning got the best of me. Because the thought of not waking up with her made me not want to sleep any longer. And finding ways not to sleep made me tense inside. Sleeping, indeed, became difficult. My left jaw started to hurt, all because I was resisting something inside me. I was in denial with what’s happened to me. So this became a vicious cycle. For the life of me, I don’t know what my status was with her (She claims, “Why do we need to define ourselves? We’re happy. Aren’t you happy?” No. But I can’t say that or else I’d lose her again.). We lived together two months later, although we were not really together. I chose to be ignorant on certain things. I finally got my wish of having to wake up with her every single day. But I wasn’t happy.
My mom’s first round of chemo therapy sessions ended, and she was up for radiation. Her spirit’s up. She wants to go drive to the grocery, after deciding what she would want for lunch and dinner that day, or sometimes, the day after. She was spontaneous that way. I was spontaneous in my own way, working on a one-sided team that fights for a love that will never come back. There were times that I would be hopeful, because we were really happy spending the day together. Then sometimes, at night, she would lie down beside me, looking forlorn, and then tell me that she called her, but it didn’t end well, and then would ask me what she needs to do. My heart feels stabbed. My dreams wouldn’t dare approach me still.
When my mom’s radiation break ran its course, we came back to the hospital to run some tests to be submitted to her doctor. The doctor said the results weren’t good. She needs to undergo another series of chemo therapy. The drive back home was a quiet one. My mom never broke down in front of me, but when she suddenly opened up, in a small voice, that she was hoping for at least eight years more here on earth, I thought that was her breaking down.
We went to the grocery first to buy dinner. We were supposed to go to the vegetable section while waiting for the fish to be cleaned. But we were in between aisles. It was the first time I’ve seen her so far away. As much as my family are not natural-born huggers, you would wonder why it was easier for me to hug someone who can’t give the same love I have for her, than someone who loved me unconditionally the moment I was born. Sometimes you need to step over the line. Even if it’s just for a hug. I regret not doing anything that day.
The chemo medicine did not sit well with my mother, particularly during her second session. After months of looking well, she suddenly looked tired. After walking four or five steps, she wants to sit down. By then, she would need a wheelchair to get around the hospital. Her stomach ballooned.One of her lungs watered up. She found it hard to breathe. We almost spent our Christmas in the hospital, and just in case, we decorated her room with a miniature Christmas tree, a holiday door tag for the bathroom, and a set of Matryoshka dolls. She regained her appetite. Her cheeks were alive once more. But she never walked like she did back then.
She was driving me to my mother’s house on the morning of December 24. She asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Nothing, I replied. She took it rather hard, asking what’s wrong with me. Why haven’t I shared anything with her for the longest time? I didn’t know what to say.
The day she found out my mom was confined in the hospital, she said she’ll visit the next day and bring chairs. But the next day, her ex called, asking if she could go with her and buy something outside town. She said okay, and that was the end of it. She told me everything the following night, without any recollection of her promise to visit my mother in the hospital with chairs on the side. It took her some time to tell me what happened to her that day. Maybe she’s feeling guilty. I don’t really know. I grew quiet. She asked why I was so silent. I was praying for personal strength, I said, which was true. She started to raise her voice, probably about to say that there’s nothing wrong with what she did because we are not exclusively together. I interrupted her and said I want strength for my mother too. I want her to be better. I want to be better. She grew quiet. That was the day I didn’t expect anything from her anymore.
I didn’t want any gifts from her. Material things are not equivalent to promises made, and promises broken. And so when she pressured me to say something on the way to my mother’s house, I screamed. I WANT MY MOTHER TO BE WELL. I WANT MY MOTHER’S CANCER TO GO AWAY. CAN YOU GIVE ME THAT? It was her turn to be quiet. I didn’t ask why.
She gave me a skirt with a vintage design. She picked it out with her little sister, she said. The skirt reminded them of me and my style. I thanked them both. I wore the skirt on New Year’s Eve, which I spent with my mom and my sisters. My sisters cooked two of the many staple holiday meals my mom would always make. They weren’t quite there yet, but all tasted promising. My sisters and I were downstairs, watching. My mom was upstairs, praying. She was always praying. Today I wish I have gone upstairs that night to lie down next to her, and prayed alongside her.
It was New Year’s Day already. I went upstairs and kissed her, wishing her a happy New Year and told her that I love her. She said she loved me too.
My mom was confined yet again on the first week of March, to have her stomach drained. Her new chemo medicine, although still not effective, was still better as compared to what she was taking before her confinement last December. She looked healthy. She was smiling when I stepped inside the room. She asked me if I had dinner already. She was very talkative. I was happy that she would just be in the hospital for a short period of time. After the procedure, she will stay in the hospital to regain her strength a bit, and will be sent home when the weekend comes.
The procedure took place on my birthday. She sent me a text message, wishing me a happy birthday and that she sends her love. I thanked her and told her I love her too. I wasn’t able to visit her that day. I was preparing for what’s in store that evening. Two of my sisters bought me a ticket to watch Wicked as a birthday present. I watched it with my older and youngest sisters. It was wonderful. We didn’t know our mother had a heart attack that night. In bed, my ex, thinking I was asleep, complained out loud why I wasn’t being intimate with her any longer.
I went to the hospital the very next day. She had oxygen now. Her bed was elevated. She can’t breathe if she lie flat on her back. She waited for us to call the night before, because she didn’t want to spoil our evening. My mom recounted the incident. She woke up because she wanted to cough out the phlegm blocking her chest. But she couldn’t. It felt solid and boxed up and then suddenly, she couldn’t breathe. Family members inside the room started calling for help. One of my sisters was with her when it happened. The sight of my sister frozen in the corner of the room, not knowing what to do made my her fight for her life. She uttered that last part in just a single sentence. It was one of the greatest love stories ever told.
My family didn’t know the status of my relationship, except for my younger sister who was dealing with her own relationship troubles at that time. Upon discussing our situations over dinner, she asked me if we were both overstaying. I was thinking I am, but I didn’t say anything. I told her I was trying out Tinder, and found a guy interesting but I wasn’t really sure. She encouraged me to meet other people as much as I can. I don’t know what I’m still holding on for.
Eventually, my mother was sent home, and Tinder became nothing but a distraction. It distracted me from my undefined status with my ex, because it comforted me that I was still wanted. Chatting with guys was fun. But it took a lot of time from me and what I need to do with my life. It stole the time of which I could have been spending with my mother, even if it just consisted of her taking a nap, asking for a glass of water, or food. I was a mess. I was vulnerable. I am neglecting my mother. I deleted Tinder, and bonded with my mom. This became a rare occurrence, because with her finding it hard to breathe, I didn’t want her to talk that much.
We talked mostly about her work. I never knew anything about her before she became a mother. She was everywhere. She worked for the government, she worked on publications, and she worked on film productions. She met people. People met her. Movie stars asked her out, foreign journalists made a pass at her. Of course, she only knew about such proposals once her colleagues teased her about certain incidents that took place. She was focused on what mattered most: the work that still needs to be done. Her dedication, it seems, encompasses everything.
We would sometimes talk about her life with her parents and siblings, the Marcos Regime, listen to different renditions of “If Ever I Would Leave You”, or Sir Anthony Hopkins’ “And the Waltz Goes On”. Sometimes, when she takes a nap, I would watch Sons of Anarchy (with my aunt, who is also taking care of her), only to find out that she’s semi-watching too, even narrating to me what I’ve missed when I needed to go downstairs.
She would ask me about my life, too. She asks me about my ex and her family. I answer, but filter everything that’s got to do with me being in a grey area, an open secret. I didn’t want her to worry.
Friends and family came to visit her in April, her birth month. She gets tired easily. She hasn’t gone to visit her doctor since she was discharged from the hospital mid-March. She stated reasons. She couldn’t breathe. She’s too tired. We let it pass. Her back began to ache. She couldn’t sleep until I massaged the pain off her back. I let her sleep most of the day by then, as the pain keeps her awake at night. It’s hard to sleep for me too. Depression, like my mother’s pain, seeps in at night, taking over what should be the night’s dream.
But dreams do come back, when the child in you wakes up. Mine did one sunny day.