I’m Sorry; I Didn’t Catch Your Name?

There are a few things that you don’t become aware of until a loved one passes. Among these are the vultures.

I don’t mean literal “SQUAWK SQUAWK” (or whatever noise they make) vultures. I’m referencing the bipedal ones who look just like you and me, speak the same kind of words, and manage to appear when there is some material gain to be had.

My first experience with this was a week after my mom died. Amidst the phone calls from teary friends and co-workers offering condolences was one from a family member. I won’t say that they most definitely were not family. I’m Filipina, so the number of “cousins,” “aunties,” and “uncles” I have can be counted on one…nothing. It can’t be counted on one anything.

What’s key is that my parents, like myself, kept a rather tight inner circle. I knew the names, if not the faces, of anyone they would have wanted to bestow possessions or memorabilia. This particular “family member”? I had never heard of them. Not a whisper. Nor a murmur. Not even a passing remark among hundreds of other relatives’ names when the topic of family arose.

Despite all of this, the person spoke in a very assured voice of how close she and my mom had been, how devastated she was about the loss, and had my mom mentioned something she was to inherit? If not, surely that was an oversight, and wouldn’t I be a good girl to let this “relative” come by to look at her belongings?

I think I told her that it wasn’t a good time, but if she left her number I would call her. She didn’t leave a number.

A few people had the audacity to just show up at our front door, telling my dad the same story. Close family/friends. Knew my mom really well. Could they come in because she had surely left something for them? Thankfully, despite his grief, Dad was having none of their foolishness and sent them away with more politeness than they deserved.

I remembered these long ago events as I contemplated my husband’s obituary. His hometown, and the places we lived before this, are far flung. Our local circle already knows of his passing, and what a wonderful person he is. Is there really a need for a local announcement? At this point, it would most likely lead only to me answering the door while wielding a baseball bat and intoning in a dangerous voice, “You’re saying you know my husband?”

Ultimately, my sister-in-law wrote an absolutely beautiful tribute that will run in their hometown’s newspaper. I feel that this is the best resolution.

Book Review: Once Upon a Sunset

It’s been a long time since I read a romance novel. The last one I read involved phrases like “turgid tool” and “heaving bosom.” It was quite the heady material for my innocent, inexperienced 13-year-old self! (Big thanks to my cousin, who had an entire walk in closet to devour during the summer before eight grade!) My preferences, however, have always been inclined towards fantasy or at least magical realism. Romance wasn’t something that I sought out if I had access to other things.

Through the magic of Twitter, I discovered a handful of Filipina romance authors. Their words made me realize that the genre had evolved beyond the doe-eyed main character and the rippling muscled love interest who saves her. I decided to look into things, while also diversifying my bookshelves and supporting writers who are like me.

I decided to start with Once Upon a Sunset, by Tif Marcelo. While some people have grandiose, artistic reasons for why they choose their reading material, my reasoning was simple: Marcelo seems like a really nice person on Twitter, and the cover of her book depicts two of my favorite things (beaches and sunsets).

It was a fast-paced, enjoyable read, with characters I came to care and worry about quickly. Diana and Margo are not women who need a man to swoop in and save them. I really love the fact that they are women with their own identities and passions; having love interests is more of a bonus, and not an act of completion. It was also enjoyable to read about their foibles, and the ways they eventually overcame or at least became at peace with them.

The minor characters grabbed me by the emotions and squeezed, too, despite their relatively short page time. I don’t know how to go into this without releasing spoilers, so I’ll just say that, as with real life, things are not always black and white. I felt a lot of sympathy for the way everybody was just trying to do the best they could.

“Trying to do the best they could” might be a sticking point for non-Filipinos, or maybe even Filipinos who are “Americanized” and very distanced from the culture. Growing up as a comfortably middle class kid, I naively viewed some types of survival as selfishness. A little self-reflection and acceptance that not everyone had the opportunities that I did goes a long way. I hope people can put aside their own narrow experiences and expectations and appreciate where some of the characters are coming from.

I’m glad that I read this book, and plan to read more within this genre.

In Regards to Former Grievances…

Death does not magically wipe the slate clean, but it can provide clarity.

In the moment that I knew my husband was never coming back, I cried. These were not gentle tears; no ethereal dew trembling beneath the first shy beams of morning. It was melting gorilla face in a wax museum sobbing.

I won’t pretend that I don’t remember everything that upset me. Every hurt feeling, misspoken word, wrong reaction…it’s all seared in my heart. Every sentiment that I thought I needed, the responses I believed I wanted? Still there. My husband’s passing has been like kerosene upon these flames, but the brightness illuminates not that I was wronged, but that I was being petty. None of those things mattered.

He had, through all the time we had been together, always done his best. He loved me with everything that he had.

Anyone who knows about our situation will probably say, “But you were there at the end. You took care of him” and, yeah, I did. But I’m greedy. I want more days with my toes buried in the sand, raising my nose from the book I’m reading, and asking him in exasperation, “How can you poke fun at people who take a million selfies when you’re asking me to take a picture of you again?” (Answer: “It’s not a selfie, it’s a picture of this amazing scenery, with me in it!”) I want to put on an exaggerated smile and tell him how excited I am over the Habs playing whoever, and I hope he screams extra loud during the game. I want to walk through the mall with him and have him point to an anime cat and ask, with complete sincerity, “Is that Hello Kitty?”

I want the adventures that we thought we’d have, and the time within which to do them.

One of the things he often said, especially in the last few weeks, was, “All you have is today.” I’m working on that, S. I’m working on it…