Thursday, October 23, 2008

House Renovations

Here’s the thing. When you renovate a house, it’s like a tsunami for the insects.

We laid 2 trees to rest, and large red ants crawled up metal posts looking for their new home. They climbed electrical wires, walls, everything but they always climbed upwards. We hope they have found a better abode.

Inside, we disrupted the homes of the black ants, who came out onto bathroom sinks, and the cockroaches seemed disoriented. The termites, I would like to think, have long gone. I saw one tiny little spider, and last night a mosquito had bitten my nose.

But I would like to think, nonetheless that my house is approaching its nirvana.

I discovered lots of things we accumulated after 14 years of living here that we simply had to let go. Garbage bags were filled with stuff. Others went to the maids and workers to choose among. And the remainder we gave to an orphanage.

Ah, that orphanage. It was my bright spot in the tsunami. I would have never gone there if I didn’t have so much to let go. Inside were babies, beautiful, perfect babies. Babies who had been surrendered by their mothers at different hospitals.

The nun at St. Rita’s orphanage explained to me that those six months and below stayed in the first room, so that the parents could always claim them back. In the next room were the older children, toddlers, who hopefully could find loving parents someday.There were many beautiful babies and not enough people to do the one thing babies need to be done for them – carry them when the cry.

And I decided to make that my job for as long a I can. Go there and carry the babies. Touch is an intellectual and emotional experience for a child at that age. Touch nurtures physical growth and health and emotional maturity.

As I carried the first baby, I was amazed at how the tiny hand pinched my neck, and how with his other hand he clung to my shoulder. It was heaven. The next day, I carried a little girl, and again, that loving pinch of a tiny hand on my neck made my day. She rested her head sweetly on my chest. They were so light, their skins so beautiful and clear. They were perfect babies.

Angelina Jolie, where are you? If I had my way, I would love to take on one of these babies. But we also have another baby in our house, the baby of our maid. I figure, this child, whose name is Ashley (just like my dog) is the one that God wants us to care for, for now. We call her Ashley baby, so we don’t get confused with the dog, who always comes when I call the baby. We call Ashley Pumpernickel Ashley Puppy. So we always know which Ashley we are talking about.

House renovations turn the world of the insects upside down and rock our lives and help us to discover sometimes that what is really important is oftentimes outside your nest. It’s nice to live in a good looking house. But outside the house are innocents, the needy, the jaded, the greedy, the hopeful, the angry, the workers, the lovely.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Being Sabalones

One good thing about moving forward is that finally you get to the point where you don't mind looking back. That's the thing with me now, at least where my Dad is concerned. I don't mean to disrespect him by not showing up at his funeral. Because looking back, he was really in his own way a good man to many, many people. Many people love him and like him and miss him.

Like all of us, he made his mistakes. But he also did many good things, too. I think the best choice he made was just before he died, when he faced his errors and genuinely felt sad about them and accepted Jesus in his life. He is in the heaven that he deserves. Who said, it's not where you start, it's where you finish? I figure you can't go to heaven and be the same flawed person we all are here on earth. He is the best of himself that he can be now.

And I am thankful for him because he did have vision, he loved his country, he was proud of being Filipino. He had a vision for his children, too. We all got good educations, and he gave us things we never had. He was generous and liked to give. I would always see him giving coins to street people. He said when he was poor he wanted someone to give him money, and now that he had money, he wanted to share it with them, too.

Looking back is even less difficult for me now because Dad gave me my youngest sister, our bunso, Stephanie. In a very large way, she makes me happy to be Sabalones. The wonderful thing about God is that even our mistakes, God uses to be our greatest blessings. We all missed Dad when he moved on. But he provided, he kept in touch, he gave. I know he loved Steph very much, and I thank God that she is here for his other children to appreciate.

And I'm glad that she is cared for by people who love her and who love him. Heaven is a wonderful place and from up there, he looks down and I think he is smiling.

Friday, October 17, 2008


"You have to watch House" Mau told me. 

See, that's the thing. I love House, I love its humor, and I love how the medicine still manages to be the star. I love how it has avoided turning into one of those soap dramas where the story is more about the characters and their love lives than the hospital setting. I love it's dour side.

But we have not been able to watch House lately because my house is being renovated and things are topsy turvy. We sleep on the floor of an extra room, and there is furniture on top of furniture, and 14 years of gradual degeneration that has to be made up for. But when I mentioned to Ed the story of House, he very sweetly saved the show for me and we watched it together at midnight on the computer.

Now about lies, I love how House says "everybody lies" because it's true. But I must say some lie extraordinarily better than others. I am a very bad liar. I am actually trying to teach myself to lie better. I mean really lie, stare someone straight in the face a lie, and give the perfect face to support it. Not turn away, not quiver a bit in the voice. Not avoid the lie. This morning I lied rather well, though. I lied to my husband who was looking for something. I had accidentally thrown it away and I said I had never seen it. And he let it pass, because he knows I'm a bad liar.
Another thing about House, he always has this "It's never lupus" attitude that I would love to have. He always has to be right and when he's wrong, he knows how to sail through it with enough arrogance to let the moment pass. I would love that attitude. Instead, I listen to everyone, and I always bend a little here and there. One time my daughter said, "You have no mind of your own. You let others decide for you." because I changed my mind about something she wanted and sided with her father. So I told her, "You're just upset because right now it's not you controlling my mind!"

Of course, House pays the price for being as he is. He is hated, and he lives with that. He is miserable and he lives with that, too. I don't think he knows what he really wants. He doesn't show his scars of payment for the life he leads. It shows instead in his leg, his vicodin.

But we all have our legs and our vicodin, don't we? How I would like to just say "It's never lupus!" and believe it and know it and live by it.

Anyway, I gotta get back to fixing my house.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Moment of Serendipity

When mama was sick, I kept looking for this poem. I thought it was written by a Filipino and I always kept a copy of it because it seemed so helpful for people who had lost a loved one. I even got in touch with the guy whose father I thought had written it, but he didn't know what I was talking about.
Then I looked through my things about a week ago, and I found the poem among some of Mom's papers. It even had a spelling correction in the margin in Mom's handwriting. So I guess she liked it too, and she kept my copy of it.
But I believe in serendipity, one of those things that happen at a specific time for a specific purpose. I felt maybe Mom wanted to show it to my siblings, especially Alice and Vic.

I sent the poem to Alice in an email, and looked up the first lines from Wikipedia. That's when I realized it was even more beautiful in its original poem. So here it is:
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

Mama had to attend a lot of functions when we were based in San Francisco. Here are a couple of photos of her:)

Oh Mama, I just can't ever get enough of you!