Saturday, October 11, 2008

Her Name is Lola

My grandmother is 97 years old. She has survived her husband, her two eldest children and several grandchildren.

Her father was an American soldier. I don’t know anything about her mother. Come to think of it, I've never asked.

She lives by herself in Los Angeles in a senior citizens’ condominium. Her children want her to live with one of them. She prefers to live by herself. She visits with them every now and then but, after a few days, she always asks to be brought back to her apartment.

Her apartment is full of pictures of her kids and grandkids and the dolls and stuffed animals she collects. The apartment smells of perfume and powder.

A Guatemalan lady comes in everyday to clean up, run errands and occasionally do her nails. But, Lola pretty much takes care of herself. Whenever there’s something special she wants to eat, she goes out to the market to buy the ingredients and cooks it herself. I hope she's still able to do that.

On other days, when she wants to socialize with the other seniors in the dining hall downstairs, she makes sure that she first does her hair, puts on her make-up and dresses up before she goes down.

Lola loves dogs. Her succession of pooches had names like Juanita (only she would name a dog after herself), Snowball and Queen. She loves to dance. She loves to dress up.

On the day my Dad was buried (in 1990), grief-stricken, as she was, Lola came to church wearing huge dark sunglasses, this long, black, high-necked, long-sleeved, billowy dress with a huge cloth flower in front.

Anyone who was there to see it, could probably describe the dress as well - it had that kind of impact. Walking beside her, I could hear her mumbling something incoherently. Leaning close her to offer consolation, I finally understood what she was saying - I was stepping on her dress. She wanted me to take my foot out.

All of her children and most of her grandchildren take after her vanity. Lola has probably won every senior citizen beauty contest in her building.

But, she also puts up her feet and eats with her hands, especially when she gets access to contraband guinamos. I hope that we are all also as down-to-earth as our grandmother.

She was an English teacher for most of her life. One of the best compliments she could ever give anyone outside the family is to say that the person was “well-educated”. But, Lola breaks into her native Visayan whenever she wants to get a special point across.

She used to write long, chatty letters full of Bible verses and stories about people we both love who have gone on ahead of us. She used to remember all her grand-children’s birthdays, would always send a card and, when she could afford to, have a few dollar bills inserted. I would still receive the cards with dollar bills even after I had started working already.

The last few letters from her were repetitive and her handwriting was already difficult to read. She doesn’t write to me anymore.

She never addresses me by my first name but calls me “June Love First Born Apo” , stringing the words together like they were one long hypenated name.

Her name is Lola. She loves to cha-cha.

We should all be so lucky.

I love her. I really should call her more often.

1 comment:

gail said...

galing 97! happy birthday