My late maternal grandmother has shared to us her superstitious beliefs. Every time we would walk down the stairs, she would tell us as children to do the sign of the cross so that the 'unseen' wouldn't push us down the stairs. She taught me to not close the bedroom door if there's an infant/toddler inside because the 'unseen' might lock them in. She taught me to pray before taking a bath so that the unseen wouldn't drown me and now, my four year-old would do the same, though I didn't tell him why. And despite all of their arguments, my mom agreed when it came to these things.
My grandmother had two children: my mom and uncle. My uncle devoted himself to teaching and never got married, so we, the 11 kids of Mom, are her only grandchildren. Since my grandfather died in 1982, Gran left their hometown and would stay either with my uncle in Manila or with us in the province. She and Mom argued a lot, because Gran has her favorites: my eldest sister, my second oldest brother and the tenth child (I'm the eleventh).
When my eldest sister returned after eloping with her boyfriend, Gran suggested that the couple rent a flat near my uncle's (in Manila). So they did. Gran lived with uncle and my sister and her partner were just next door. Gran didn't like my sister's partner, but she was excited for her first great-granddaughter's arrival. To make the story short, Gran took care of my sister's two children. My eldest niece died because of thalassemia at the age of two. My sister's relationship with her partner went rocky. It came to a point when Gran would scold him always. A year after the death of my niece, my sister's partner was killed at work, so there's just my sister and nephew. My nephew and I are six years apart, so, during summer vacation, I would go to Manila with Mom and stay with them. My nephew always wore red shirts. According to Gran, red keeps the spirits away. One time, my nephew and I were playing and Gran was sewing. I heard her say: "Pinatawad na kita. Pumunta ka na doon sa paroroonan mo." (I forgave you already. Go wherever you will/have to go.) Then, I saw her looking at the empty space by the doorway, as if talking to someone.
Years later, when I was older, she told me what happened that day. My nephew's father was there, but after she told him to leave, she never saw him again. That time, I did not take her seriously. I was ten, you know. Also, I never told anyone about the horrible faces I was seeing at the foot of my bed.
Gran's second favorite was my brother, J. J was the only one who wasn't able to finish studies among the 11 children, because his thinking was so slow. He had to repeat third grade two times. Then, he stopped and helped Mom and Papa earn money. Gran loved J so much that I would get jealous when he's sick and being taken care of Gran when she's with us for a vacation (or she decided that she misses her grandchildren). J was in his late 20's already, but Gran would still assist him when taking his medicine and give him her supply of food. In 2001, Gran had to undergo an operation, so she left our home and lived with my uncle again, but uncle asked J to visit him and Gran in Manila. He gave J a tour to the historical places in Manila, bought him new clothes and gave him money. When he returned home, most of his clothes were new and he looked fresh, not stressed.
In 2003, Gran had an eye operation because of her cataract. Then, my brother J met an accident on the night of August 3, 2003. He was in coma, and on the 4th, he passed away. My six sisters were all working in Manila that time. They all decided to come home, but didn't tell Gran. They didn't want her to come because she would surely cry and she just had an eye operation. Uncle arrived just in time for the burial and it was the first time I saw him cry. Later, he told us that grandma knew where he was going.
He said, "I told Mama that my colleague gave me a plane ticket to Bicol, and that I will be gone only for a day."
But Grandma cried silently and sad: "I know where you are going. J visited me already."
That time, I knew that she was telling the truth about my sister's partner. Gran cried a lot in their flat with only the neighbors to look after her. She wanted to come 'home' to her favorite grandson, but she wasn't allowed.
After nine years, Gran and uncle moved back to Bicol. I visited her often, until she was bedridden and couldn't eat anymore because of old age. When she died in her sleep, I was the first to arrive, her least favorite grandchild.
Thanks for reading.