After grandpa died, grandma stayed with us permanently. She said she didn't want to live all alone at their house, where she would be reminded of him everywhere she turned. She said she'd rather live with us, where she would remember him at his happiest moments.
Years later, when I was about nine, I was coming home from a friend's house as it was nearing dusk already. I was about to step off the curb at a blind curve in a one-way street to cross when I heard an old man's voice shout at me from behind, "Noy!" That is my nickname at home, Nonoy. It is a term of endearment for a male child in Ilonggo families. I stopped immediately to look behind me. At that moment, a speeding car with its lights off rounded the curve and it would have hit me if I hadn't stopped. I can still remember vividly the rush of the wind on my skin as it swept past, the throb of its racing engine mingling with the protest of its blaring horn. But I can also remember that there was nobody behind me. At the other side, there were some women who were dismayed at my near-brush with death. Shaken, I continued home.
Sometime later, during summer vacation I was alone at home having lunch. My grandma and the cook were still out buying groceries and the driver was with them. I can't remember where the maid went. My older sister was at summer school, my mom was at her office and dad was away on a business trip. I was watching a movie in the old VHS format while eating when I started to choke on a piece of meat. I recalled that I didn't panic and tried to pull out the meat with my fingers. But every time I did that, I just managed to push it in further. I started to pass out and fall to the floor. Just before I lost consciousness, I felt a pair of hands catch me and ease me gently to the floor. I thought I also heard a male voice calling me "Noy, Noy" then, nothing. When I came to, I was on the floor on my side. The offending piece of meat was but a few inches away from my mouth, and I was still all alone. Who was that who caught me on the way down and was calling to me and who removed the meat I was choking on? I know the memory of those last moments is suspect. What with the lack of oxygen, I could have been hallucinating. But, the undeniable facts are that I am still alive, the choking hazard was removed from my windpipe while I was unconscious, and I was all alone in the house. Call me irrational, but I prefer to think it was grandpa who saved my life twice.
A few years ago, I received a call from my mom that grandma was dying. She said that it was grandma's wish to see me before she went. I said of course, I will go home as soon as possible and told her to tell grandma that I loved her, just in case I didn't make it on time. I filed for an emergency leave at the office and an expedited exit permit to leave the country where I was working, and I arranged for the first flight available to take me back to the Philippines. Luckily, I was granted the exit permit just the day before my scheduled flight.
All in all, it took me three long days to arrive at home where grandma was. When I entered her room, I had noticed that it had been turned into a virtual hospital room. I requested for privacy beforehand so the private nurse we had hired for her left the room when I entered. I told my mom, my uncle and my aunt to stay by the open door for I felt the time was very near. My grandma appeared to be sleeping so I called out, "Lola? Bugtaw ka pa? Ari na ko." (Grandma are you awake? I'm here.) She slowly stirred and opened her eyes to look at me. "Noy, ikaw na? Sin-o na ang upod mo?" (Noy, is that you? Who is that with you?) "Ako ni. Wala ko upod a." (It's me. I'm alone.) I walked nearer to stand by her bedside so she could see me better. "Indi a, may upod ka guid ya. Ay huuuuuu..." (No, you are not alone. Ohhhh...) Then she began to cry.
Words failed me, so I took her nearest hand in mine and kissed it. It was cold, but I didn't mind. She spoke again through her tears. "Salamat kay ari ka. Kag salamat kay guin-upod mo si lolo mo. Subong, kuntento na ko." (Thank you for being here. And thank you for bringing your grandpa with you. I am now content.) And she slowly drifted back to sleep. I was already crying myself. As I held her hand, I could feel her life slowly ebbing out. And then, she passed away. I saw that her heartbeat was flat on the monitor. I barely heard the audio alarm as I turned it off then turned as my family entered the room. But I wasn't really sad, no. I knew that wherever she was, she was at peace; and that wherever she was, she was once again reunited with grandpa.