Let me introduce you to the group of people who most of the time keep my husband and me alive and well.
There’s Liezel (that’s the way she spells her name). I used to write it down as “Liezl,” which is the way Germans write it, but in the end I have agreed with the Filipino version — “Liezel.”
And there’s Cindy, short for Cinderella, which isn’t her real name but a name others call her. Cindy is my husband Loy’s caregiver. She takes care of all his physical needs during the day and all night until around 4 a.m., if and when I wake up because I hear my husband making noises that sound like lamentations and I take over.
You see, I am my husband’s living lullaby. When he hears my voice and feels my touch, he immediately goes to sleep. I sit there and wait for his deep snores before getting up and crawling into bed once more. There, I wonder for a while. Do I bore him to death just with my presence so that he falls asleep immediately? Or is it that he finds my presence so soothing that slumber immediately descends? Trying to find the answer to that question puts me to sleep.
Tonight is Halloween. Strangely enough, it is also my parents’ wedding anniversary. They got married on Oct. 31, 1942, probably before Hallmark was born and Halloween didn’t mean jack-o-lanterns and spray-on cobwebs. Nevertheless, it was the eve of, Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day, and pretty close to Nov. 2, All Souls Day.
In the silence of our home, let us at least have something to do, a gesture that will take our minds off the ordinary sad things that seem to fill our lives these days.
I think it was pretty macabre to plan your wedding close to the Feasts of the Dead. But then they got married during World War II. The war must have erased all the ghastly or ghostly images of death, which then was happening everywhere.
Halloween in recent years has meant nothing to us. We have no more little children living with us in our condo. All our 12 children are grown. Mine are married and my youngest grandson is in college in the States.
I used to have tools for turning pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. Now, we just turn pumpkins into creamy soup for my husband’s meals.
But Liezel inspired me to do something different this year. “I light a candle in my bathroom on the night of Halloween, the eve of All Saints Day’,” she said. “I do that every Halloween night because, my first year here, I didn’t and I dreamt of a lady wearing a long white dress. My mother told me to light a candle and keep it lit all night. Since I did that, I don’t see the white lady anymore.”
That’s poetic, I thought. So last Sunday when I went to the supermarket I bought jasmine-scented candles for all of us to light on Halloween night, to give the occasion or the weekend or the Feast of Those Who Have Passed On some fragrance. In the silence of our home, let us at least have something to do, a gesture that will take our minds off the ordinary sad things that seem to fill our lives these days.
Maybe that’s the way life works. If, in one instance, you fall short, you are given another chance to right your wrong.
Let’s go back to around five years ago. A friend picked me up — after I had boasted to him that I was taking singing lessons — and brought me to his friend’s condo.
“He’s a lawyer, a widower,” my friend Philip said, “and all he likes to do is sing.” We walked into a flat full of women. Philip and Loy (that was the name of my friend Philip’s lawyer friend) were the only men. Loy asked me to sing. I absolutely refused because I knew I didn’t sing that well. He was insistent. I asked him, “Why don’t we just dance?” And we danced a very short dance.
That was the night I met Loy, my husband now. The attraction was not instant. But I remember early on that at some time during the night Loy would go to his big chair in the living room and Liezel would put eye drops in his eyes. I remember thinking: one day I will put eye drops in his eyes.
I think that’s what Loy did for me. He awakened in me the need to take care of someone loved. Maybe because I couldn’t take close enough care of my own mother. Maybe that’s the way life works. If, in one instance, you fall short, you are given another chance to right your wrong.
I think it took more than a year for us to get married. We talked, agreed that we should marry because we were old and in no time one would get sick and the other would have to care of him or her. We had more than three years of happiness. Now we are three — is that a lucky number? — taking care of him... just Cindy, Liezel and me.