Wednesday, July 7, 2010
MY AUNTIE AIDA
Our Auntie Aida was like a mother to us. She took care of us siblings when our parents (the time my Dad was an editor of the defunct Manila Chronicle and later as magazine publisher that often took him outside the country) were away, and even when they were not.
We got the sad news this morning. She passed away in her nipa hut in Iloilo yesterday.
She never married. But she had many children – her nephews and nieces, who I’m sure, are just as stricken with grief as I am.
I think every family has an uncle or aunt like her. They dote on their nephews and nieces, making sure the kids tow the parents’ line, provide a good thrashing when we don’t, and offer an ear and a hug when we need them.
They give a steady assurance to their brothers and sisters who have families of their own, letting them know there’s always going to be someone to look after their children as if they were her own.
Auntie Aida worked at the Post Office until she retired. As I grew older and began dealing with other “public servants”, the image of her working kept my hope alive that not everyone in government are scoundrels.
She had a tremendous work ethic, always dishing eight hours’ worth, sometimes more, rain or shine, through fire and floods, five days a week. I grew up thinking this was how everyone was supposed to work.
Like most government retirees, she died penniless.
My cousins bought her a small nipa hut that baked in the summer and leaked during the monsoon.
Her meager pension was barely enough to buy medicines after she suffered a stroke a few years back.
We send help whenever we can. Even when her needs were direst, she never asked for it.
I was saddened the stroke had slurred her speech, because one thing that I remember most about our Auntie Aida was her rapier-sharp tongue.
She needled an uncle-in-law about his incessant smoking and drinking, and we would get a big laugh watching the tit-for-tat between the two whenever we vacationed in Iloilo.
We had no doubt our Auntie Aida loved her “favorite bayaw” (probably because that uncle was her only one).
Our uncle passed away about three months ago. It tickles me now knowing, they’ll be taking their humorous duels to eternity. I can almost see my uncle’s face.
It wasn’t fun to be on the receiving end of Auntie Aida’s “sermons”. For all her attributes, subtlety was never one of them.
We knew better than to fall into an argument with her, so as we siblings grew older, we learned to surrender quickly, and vow never to repeat the wrong, real or imagined. She made sure we behaved which I thought was silly because we then already adults.
I don’t think she ever told me this directly, but I remember overhearing relatives saying I was her favorite.
It wasn’t because I was exceptionally obedient or good-looking. I think it was a family thing, because I was the eldest son of their eldest brother. But even if I wasn't, I sure felt that way.
In the middle of sleep last night, the wooden back-scratcher that I kept atop the bed’s head-board, fell on my head for no reason. It’s never fallen that way before. It felt like a gentle tap on my forehead. I grumbled and quickly fell asleep again.
This morning, I’d like to think that Auntie Aida just wanted to make sure I knew she didn’t go without saying goodbye.