Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Fairy Grandmother



I've been thinking about Mommy Rita a lot. She's my maternal grandmother and my only living grandparent. She's 83. In the past months, I've had countless dreams involving her and a few weeks ago, I remember lying in bed, remembering memories of her and then found myself silently crying.


At 83, Mommy Rita (or Mommy Ritz as I call her), is not doing so well as she has been suffering from intermediate dementia. But it's not just because of this that I often feel sad thinking about her but perhaps more because I just plain miss her. My Lola (Tagalog for "grandmother") is one remarkable human being, and I say that with much objectivity. There are so many amazing adjectives I can use to describe her but if you asked me to come up with just one, I'd probably say that above all else, she is courageous. That seems to sum up all the wonderful things that she is.


She lived through one war, married quite early and to my American grandfather at that. To a young Filipino woman with very humble rural roots, going through an interracial marriage in the 1940's must have been daunting. But I can imagine my Lola thinking, 'Bring it on'. She is that kind of woman. I remember as young teenagers, my sister and I were both saying how nothing, no task, is ever too daunting and unmanageable for our Lola. We never really saw her get overwhelmed by anything...from a seemingly insurmountable mess in the house, to catching snakes in the farm. She does worry about family though and tends to be overly concerned about other people's safety all the time. However for that, she turns to prayer. Actually, I suspect that prayer is at the cornerstone of her being and this is probably where she gets much of her courage from. This I will always treasure and remember about her.


Mommy Ritz is fearless in the kitchen. In my mind, she will always be the most amazing cook and there seemed to be no dish too difficult, too unmanageable or too tedious and taxing for her. I think I have grown old associating her with 'comfort food'. How can I not when growing up, seeing her, having her around simply translated to 'great meals', 'feasts' and 'wonderful treats'? She definitely influenced my love for food immeasurably because with Mommy Ritz around, all your senses seem to experience Nirvana with her culinary concoctions. As she gets busy in the kitchen, you get lured to the stove as you smell something really appetizing, only for you to find that it's just plain fried pork slices...nothing really fancy. Every time we would stay at her house in the province, you can expect great tasting meals from start to finish. And speaking of finish, every meal always ends with some amazing dessert. I will forever associate the smell of fresh lime with Mommy Ritz. This is because she makes the most wonderful Leche Flan topped with specks of lime zest which gives it a hint of freshness and is a great complement to the richness and decadence of the flan. She also makes the most unique and mouth-watering Tamarind candy which, unlike the ordinary ones sold at most Filipino stores, are sweet and seedless! She mixes the tamarind with mashed 'kamote'/ sweet potato and I'm sure there's a lot of love that goes into rolling them into half-inch balls that make them so sweet and addictive! Another unique dessert I will always remember her by is her 'Minatamis na Kasoy' (Sweetened Cashew Fruit). I have never eaten that elsewhere but at my grandmother's home and the chewy texture of the cashew fruit coupled with its sweetness makes it quite memorable. And there is no getting over my Lola's 'Sopas' (Filipino Chicken Macaroni Soup)...very tasty and creamy, and buttery at the top as she not only saut├ęs everything in butter but also drops in an additional tablespoon or two when it's about to be done! Yummmmm.......I can spend forever talking about my Lola's culinary masterpieces but I know you get the picture!


I'm now reminded of something Maria Shriver said on an interview regarding her father who has Alzheimer's disease. She said, "...all she can do is love and accept him for who he is now, not who he was or who she wants him to be." Often times we are consumed by the grief brought about by missing the person's old self. After all, Alzheimer's does that..and dementia in my grandmother's case. However, we must not forget to celebrate the person that is still around us and that being in the moment, still celebrating the same loved one that we have in front of us, is the right approach, the ideal frame of mind. This is all much more easily said than done, I know. This is very difficult even for me, who's only a grand daughter. What more for my mom who has known her, the great and amazing person that my grandmother is, for much longer?


But let this blog entry be about a celebration of who Mommy Ritz is, and not a lamentation over the passing of the happy and bountiful times.  This is a celebration of who she always has been and forever will be, and not just of what she used to be able to do and give to us.  Maybe that is why we are blessed with the capacity for memory...not so much for our own remembrance of our selves, but for the remembrance of those who have touched our lives so that we can remember for them when they can no longer do the same for themselves.  In this way, their legacy lives on, way beyond the capacity of their bodies, their minds.  At the same time, as we remember, we are continuously enriched by the memory of these great beings.


I am remembering my Lola.  I will always remember the sound of her ring when she knocks on our gate and how excited it made us all feel knowing that she'll be around for a few days to visit.  I will always remember how she took care of us, pampered us and also kept us busy during all those summer breaks my siblings and I spent at her house in the province .  I will always remember how she tolerated my insane fixation with celebrities like Michael Jackson, Wham, Spandau Ballet, Greg Louganis and others despite our age gap.  I will always remember how she remained calm during those times I felt so sick and just prayed by my bedside as she comforted me the way she knew how.  I will always remember that small wind-up toy she gave me one Christmas morning when I was a very young child and how, to this date, that remains to be the single specific childhood Christmas memory I have.  I will always remember her generosity not only towards us, her family, but also to her community.  Above all else, for as long as my own memory will allow it, I will remember her unfaltering faith in God which I am certain is the source of her courage even in these most trying times in her life now.  


Though she may feel lost in her own memory, lost amidst all that is going on around her these days, I am confident that a lot of people, the countless souls she has touched, will remember for her and be her anchor.  

31 comments:

  1. Joy, I love this one. It sort of reminds of my own maternal grandmother, with whom I was very close. She did not have Alzheimer's. On the contrary, she was sharp to the very end. But it just brought back memories of my beloved Mama. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Sherry Lynn G. ApolinarioDecember 16, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    i can truly relate...i had a "fairy grandfather" who died in 1989. he left me with wonderful memories like your grandmother. like our moms, they too form part of the security blanket we want wrapped around us esp during trying times... :(

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  3. Beautifully written, Tita Joy! I was almost brought to tears. (You didn't get me this time!) I REALLY love your ending; how you use the phrase, "she may feel lost in her own memory," and coupled it with this idea of people remembering for her. I know this is a personal, emotional entry, but being the writer that I am, I can't help but notice the beauty in your language and how you tie everything together. It just feels... complete.

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  4. Joanie Arrieta JadwaniDecember 16, 2009 at 10:22 AM

    Lovely piece, Joy. Can't say much except, "I feel ya, girl..." Exactly the same feelings about an aging, much loved, and terribly missed, grandmother who also lives oceans away :-(

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  5. As usual you wrote a beautiful piece, Joy!!!!! You truly touched our hearts with this one.

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  6. Joy, thank you for sharing. It's another wonderful piece. My eyes stung after reading it. So beautiful!

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  7. Cousin...what a special piece you've written. Grandma B (as your Cali cousins call her) is a beautiful human being and you've captured her essense perfectly. Thank you! Muwwahhhhh! :-)

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  8. It was a very good and touching write-up about Mommy Ritz. She is a very wonderful woman and we all love her. Thanks a lot for sharing.........

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  9. Thanks for writing this, Joy. It's really beautiful.

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  10. That is a beautiful post: I am stopping by from the Alexa Hop. Here you can find my story.

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  11. Thanks for sharing. That is special. I'm stopping by from Makobi Scribe's Alexa Hop.

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  12. Man..Now Im crying..
    Im miss my nana :(

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  13. Thank you for sharing this woman with us.

    Hopped over from the Alexa Hop. Please visit me at http://theoldblockhouse.blogspot.com/2011/05/lets-go-to-movies.html

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  14. Beautifully written. I was very close with my maternal grandmother. She passed away 16 years ago and it's still the hardest thing I've ever lived through. Thank you for sharing. Found you on the Alexa hop.

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  15. What precious memories you have of her! She sounds alot like my Nana. Grandmothers are blessings!

    Stopping by from the Alexa hop. I'm a new GFC follower, too!

    Aimee @
    justkiddingaroundatlanta.blogspot.com

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  16. Thanks for sharing.

    Stopping by from the Alexa hop.
    Sandy~ French Macaroons

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  17. Guest from the Alexa blog hop - hope you know how it all works ...
    my take is to visit everyone ... and then when you are done - go and visit them all again :)
    http://www.bywordofmouthmusings.com/2011/05/its-museless-and-not-amusing-but-it-is.html

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  18. This is what makes a blog worth reading. =D I like posts where people can spend time on and speak from their heart. This is a really great post, reminded me of my Grandmother who past away back in 2000 from a massive heart attack.

    I'm a new follower from the Alexa Hop. I have a blog hop on my page also, if you'd like to link up.

    www.adeliciousobsession.com

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  19. Sounds like a wonderful woman!

    Stopping by (very late!) with my Alexa toolbar! ;-)

    Johanna at Mama Chocolate
    Family life, tips for mom, reviews, giveaways and more!

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  20. This is what makes a blog worth reading. =D I like posts where people can spend time on and speak from their heart. This is a really great post, reminded me of my Grandmother who past away back in 2000 from a massive heart attack.

    I'm a new follower from the Alexa Hop. I have a blog hop on my page also, if you'd like to link up.

    www.adeliciousobsession.com

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks for sharing.

    Stopping by from the Alexa hop.
    Sandy~ French Macaroons

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  22. Sherry Lynn G. ApolinarioJune 23, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    i can truly relate...i had a "fairy grandfather" who died in 1989. he left me with wonderful memories like your grandmother. like our moms, they too form part of the security blanket we want wrapped around us esp during trying times... :(

    ReplyDelete
  23. Sherry Lynn G. ApolinarioJune 23, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    i can truly relate...i had a "fairy grandfather" who died in 1989. he left me with wonderful memories like your grandmother. like our moms, they too form part of the security blanket we want wrapped around us esp during trying times... :(

    ReplyDelete
  24. Sounds like a wonderful woman!

    Stopping by (very late!) with my Alexa toolbar! ;-)

    Johanna at Mama Chocolate
    Family life, tips for mom, reviews, giveaways and more!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks for sharing. That is special. I'm stopping by from Makobi Scribe's Alexa Hop.

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  26. Joanie Arrieta JadwaniJune 23, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Lovely piece, Joy. Can't say much except, "I feel ya, girl..." Exactly the same feelings about an aging, much loved, and terribly missed, grandmother who also lives oceans away :-(

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  27. Joanie Arrieta JadwaniJune 23, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    Lovely piece, Joy. Can't say much except, "I feel ya, girl..." Exactly the same feelings about an aging, much loved, and terribly missed, grandmother who also lives oceans away :-(

    ReplyDelete
  28. Joanie Arrieta JadwaniJune 29, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    Lovely piece, Joy. Can't say much except, "I feel ya, girl..." Exactly the same feelings about an aging, much loved, and terribly missed, grandmother who also lives oceans away :-(

    ReplyDelete
  29. What a wonderful ode to a wonderful person. Writing about your "fairy" grandmother is a great way to keep your memories of her fresh and vivid. As I read, I could feel you reliving your experiences with her, where you told about her great cooking (wow! From your descriptions, I could just see her delicacies) and the way she understood and tolerated your youthful crushes. Writing about her is also a way to share her with others who were not fortunate enough to know her. Her illness may have robbed her of her vitality, but as you paraphrased from Maria Shriver, all you can do is love and accept her as she is now - while never forgetting the great person she used to be.

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  30. Your love for her is so apparent. Thanks for sharing her with us.

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  31. What an amazing tribute to your grandmother, Joy! "Lola" has me reminiscing about my maternal great-grandmother who I was lucky to have spent time with for many years before she passed away recently in her nineties. I wouldn't describe her as fearless, which is what I admire so about your Mommy Ritz, but my Lola did have the same attitude about not getting overwhelmed by anything. She seemed to have spent all those years having fun whether it was on the rural farmland in Samar or ballroom dancing with the seniors in Toronto. =) Thanks for sharing the story of your Lola, Joy, and for reminding me how important it is to remember. =)

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