In the late 1980's, my mother and I relocated from the southern part of the country to the National Capital Region. It was a 12 hour travel via bus.
I would hear her tell her friends and relatives that she transferred to the city for a career move. She was determined to be promoted. In my heart, I knew she did it in order to forget the pain and shame she endured from a bitter separation. Yes, we were abandoned by my father not long after their marriage.
She proved to be the best employee. She was the first to arrive and the last to leave her workplace. Even on weekends, she was not home. She had to earn her masters.
Given the circumstances, I had to adjust. I did my part to be of help. At the age of 10, I learned how to cook and clean the house. I followed a routine of activity day by day, all alone in our apartment.
The apartment we lived in was two-door. Apartment A was occupied by a very kind and friendly family. We occupied the Apartment B. While I stayed alone at ours, it was safe for children in my age.
Each early morning as she left for work, she would wake me up, and that marked the start of my day. I would go down to the living room. I brought with me all the things needed for the day like my school uniform and bag. I would clean the house, eat breakfast, wash the dishes, take a bath, change to uniform, and study while waiting for my school service.
In the afternoon when I arrived home, I would change to comfy clothes and would eat snacks or my leftover lunch. Then I would go to our neighbor (apartment a) for a chat or a game. After an hour or so, I would return home to do my homework.
In the evening, I would cook for dinner and clean the house while watching TV. Again, I would open my notes and review our lessons while watching TV. Then I would eat dinner alone if Mommy was not home yet and finally sleep.
One early morning while I was eating, my neighbors' dogs barked. A man was calling for the matriarch. It went on for several minutes and he was not attended to until I finished my meal. I knew them to be late risers even amid a deafening noise.
I got up ready for my bath but I instead went towards the door. I opened it just enough to see the very early visitor. It was Mrs. Zey's only brother. He and his family lived some two blocks away from us. They frequently came at any time of the day. One would hear one of his sons or him calling by the gate even at midnight.
The pot blew its horn. I proceeded to take a bath.
The school service shortly arrived and I left for school.
When I had gone home, I hang around at Mrs. Zey's. As I sat down, I remembered Mr. Key. I immediately informed her that her brother came by the early morning and that they were still asleep. She looked at me in disbelief. It seemed to me, she was skeptical of what I had said. She had me describe what his brother was wearing. And I did.
She stood up, went to the kitchen weeping. Her eldest child patted her consolingly on the shoulder but she was crying too. I got perplexed but I had no idea of what the trouble was. As emotions subdued, she started asking if I had not heard about what happened to her brother. Of course I did not, I just arrived from school. But their actions gave a hint that whatever it was, it was something terrible. I felt uneasy. Seeing them like that made me tongue tied.
According to her, her brother suffered from a heart attack at 10:00 the night before. He was pronounced doa in the hospital.
That baffled me.
That very morning was warm and calm. He stood leaning on the gates, his left hand firmly gripped at the gate opener, his smile seemed to say some good news. His voice was loud and clear. All about him was very real. I had not felt different, no goosebumps, not a tinge of being afraid.
It was an experience close to three decades ago yet it was still very clear to me until today. My questions has not been answered yet. Why did he show me his apparition? Was I just in the wrong place at the wrong time of his visit?