We are celebrating husband's 37th birthday this December and while prepping up for an advance celebration, I was in the kitchen with my mother-in-law when she asked how old my husband is as she wanted to validate his age. I answered the number and then she got silent, and said, "So I'm already 30 years a widow". And that kept me silent as well.
As she was talking, I could feel the pain inside her suddenly gruffy voice, she remembered that 30 years ago on the fifth day of a cold December night, her husband succumbed to cardiac arrest. And after that, her whole being was dedicated to working her life off as a soloparent trying to raise three boys, my husband the youngest of the brood.
The thirty years that came after Tatay's death was kept as memories filled with challenges and grief, but there were also many times they had celebrations of a kind, one that would keep them going and going even if it meant not having a father in the family.
And so she raised the kids alone, hurdling the finances alone, as a teacher.
I remember asking my husband if during his younger days, his parents attended PTA meetings and Christmas parties at school, and he would say he had none of those experiences because his Mom had to be in school, teaching other people's kids in order to bring food to their table.
His Mom had to teach high school as a Math teacher, hurdling 2 hours of travel time to reach the barrio that she was then teaching, crossing rivers and mountains in order to deliver the services she is giving. And the kids were staying at home with their aunt, who also is a spinster.
My husband and his youth practically had to be a life without a Mom, because she had to spend her time away from them, busying herself with other people's children, teaching them how to read when the husband and his older siblings had to ease their own way to reading, with the attention and care given by the aunt who was also a busy teacher at an elementary school.
But that is history. What I wanted to share is how difficult their life had been without a Mom. I could feel the pain and the hurt that for 25 years, my husband has never had a Mom at their home attending him and his siblings, attending their celebrated moments. It is only now, almost 10 years that she has retired from public teaching that she went back home, attending not anymore to the sons, but to my kids.
Even with what happened, she has never failed to inspire my husband and other siblings to pursue their education. Even with the meager allowance because they all had to share what little they could get, my husband turned out to be a computer engineer, three years his senior, the second brother became a civil engineer, while the eldest was a marine engineer who turned out to be a Maths teacher too. And while working her ass off, Nanay also had to take care of her career, that she retired a good principal. The best principal, even, as told by her subordinates during the testimonial given her.
The fact that she had to sacrifice her time for her children to give them a good life is what amazes me. The thirty years of being alone, and trying to make amends to the children for the lost time is but a painful journey towards success. I could never imagine myself without having a husband to be on my side while I'm rearing the kids. God forbid, because I don't think I am that strong to withstand the trials and the storms.
But GOD always makes things easy, especially when you pray. I now believe that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and sharper.
My high respects for the Mother-in-Law, who was able to bring her children to the world amidst the sacrifices. I am so glad to have met a woman who has changed the way I believe in life. She has made a wonderful mark in history, etched in my husband and children's hearts. She is a woman of great kindness and love.
And she is my inspiration.