I lay down to rest for the evening two hours ago because my head was throbbing and my chest was heavy with a pain radiating to my back. I held Angelo in one arm, kissed him softly and whispered to him “Mama loves you, anak.” The one guy I know who will love me unconditionally, come what may.
For some reason I woke up about two hours later because my blackberry was buzzing. I missed a call from my siblings back home. “MagicJack” the ID said. An unannounced call at this hour is never just to say hello. I wasn’t expecting the call until tomorrow. I called back. My brother and I spoke between a bathroom break and a wake up splash to my face. As the eldest child in the family, major decisions are still thrown my way. Distance, after all, did not demote me. Only half listening at the start, I put on my “Ate” (“elder sister”) hat and listen in earnest. I know that I am not only expected to listen, I am supposed to give instructions which I do. My brother listens in turn. Then I hang up.
I wish I could just go back to sleep and be numb again. But I have an e-mail to write. I close my eyes and try to find the words to say. Where do I begin? I have to write a former classmate who has so deftly handled a case related to our family the past couple of years. We’re at a crossroads and need some legal intervention/advice. I was torn between writing now and postponing it for tomorrow when I might have better clarity about what I need and want to say — so instead, I ended up here.
The pain returns. I am almost tempted to call my brother back. I’m the eldest, he’s technically the youngest but he’s the man of the house right now. Maybe I can shirk away from the responsibility and have him handle it, but I think he’s handled enough. Between balancing his role as son and father of the house, I must say he’s handled the challenge pretty well.
Then I see a message alert on Facebook. I thought it was Fe. It never ceases to amaze me why I keep getting game requests when I don’t play any Facebook games. My only indulgence is the infamous Angry Birds, and that’s on the Ipad. (!)
All my siblings are back in Manila, dealing with these challenges head on. I am insulated by the distance separating me from the fray, but they have never made me feel I am no longer part of the picture by relegating me to the background. In fact, they seek my counsel and they listen. When the tempers flare up, they look to New York and call — I am the voice of reason. It’s probably easier to listen to me because I am not there in the middle of it all when emotions shoot up. And of course, as I kept telling Angelo the last time we were there, they will listen because I am the eldest — I am their “Ate”. What I say is law.
There are moments, though, when I wish I were the youngest, or the second or anywhere in the pecking order except first. This is one of those times when I so miss my elder brother who passed away at birth, four years before I was born. He’d be pushing 50 by now if he were alive. He’d have occupied the slot for “eldest” instead of me. He’d be the one muscling those who are trying to muscle us. I am almost sure, the problems we are trying to solve would have been solved already, if Kuya was around. After hitting the punctuation on that last sentence, I grab my temples, close my eyes and wonder: “What would Kuya Silvano do if he were here?” I know he wouldn’t be here blogging. Ha!
I miss you, Kuya. Even if we never got to know one another, those times you visited me in my dreams, I cried because I missed you so. Today, I miss you more than ever. I would’ve loved to tell you what was in my heart — and cry my heart out to you and ask for your sage advice. I know you would have held me in a warm embrace and that would have spoken a million words to give me the answers I seek. I know you would’ve assured me I’ll be alright.. everything will be just fine. I know you’re watching me wherever you are. I can almost feel your arm on my shoulders, telling me I can do this.
I wish I could teleport myself to San Juan this very minute and my siblings and I would have our family caucus. No matter how serious the problem was or how grave the situation, we always found something to laugh and joke about. I so wish I could hear their laughter and be with them as I write here — then maybe the laughter will drown the pain I feel in my chest. I’ve sighed a dozen dozen sighs all night — it’s not working.
But we have indeed been blessed. Blessed to be the family that we are — who, despite our differences and our individual pride — have never forgotten that we are all of one blood. So faced with the daunting challenge before us right now, we’re trying to move forward as one. Even if they’re all back home in San Juan, and I am typing away here in the dark in the big apple, we work together to find the solution and the answers we seek. Yes, even Kuya Silvano is here with us — that much I know and feel in my heart.
Kuya would be dictating that e-mail to me right now.. not that he has to. It’s going to a former classmate, after all. So maybe he’d be telling me instead to get writing. But the pain keeps distracting me. I know he’d make me laugh.. he’d crack a joke.. and he’ll say I’m worrying about things that aren’t worth worrying about. He’ll remind me that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself — I’m human after all. Like Fe, he would remind me to be kind to myself before I even think of being kind to others. Amen. (Kuya would’ve loved Fe.. he would’ve loved and embraced everyone who meant something to me.)
Thank you, Kuya… for the warm embrace, for the words of advice, for the love, for keeping us all one family. For reminding me once again that no matter what choice I make, they’ll back me up and accept my decision because we’re all in this together. After all, I’m their “Ate” forever.