Nanay recently suffered a mild stroke that left half her body limp. That happened a few days after I dreamt about her. In my dream, I had this terrible, poignant urge to hug her really tight, and I cried as I embraced her. I woke up wondering what that meant, not knowing that it was a foreboding of an unexpected family ordeal.

Of course, Nanay had to be hospitalized. Of course, she had to be rehabilitated. And of course, she had to be up on her feet in no time. Because in wasn’t in her nature to be helpless and hopeless. If you know her well enough, you’d never expect something like this could happen to her.

Nanay is a bouncy, dynamic, seemingly tireless woman. You cannot confine her to one place. She goes where her feet will take her, be it to the mall to try her luck in Bingo games or a few blocks away from their house to play “tong-its” with neighbors or in the wet market to check what wonders she can make with the tiny budget in her purse. Mind you, she still manages to bring home a special treat for the family. Call that “exemplary bargaining.” As of this writing, she can now stand and do some stuff on her own. She can even go to the nearby sari-sari store. That’s her. That’s my Nanay all right, already on the move, up and about in no time, ready for yet another adventure.

Nanay is the fortress of the family. She is our rock. She’s a survivor, and she’s a fighter. You cannot crush her spirit. Even when times are hard, she never gives up. She always comes to the family’s rescue when money is scarce. Her cunning salesmanship finds her vending banana cue, turon, lumpia, bopis, even Tatay’s harvests in his tiny plot just to put food on the table. Indeed, she is the life and soul of our family. I guess being a mother has a lot to do with that. When you know that other people are dependent on you for dear life and support, you have no choice but to be strong for them.

Nanay is our life-giver. Without her, none of us, her children, would have seen the light of day. Her birthing pains did not stop when we were all born. They continue to this day. But don’t get us wrong. We’re not problem kids. It’s the usual growing up phase most teenagers go through. We became involved in our own small worlds. Nanay felt alienated. We became closer to Tatay. Nanay felt less loved. We hated her smoking and her little “vices,” and we never hid that fact. Nanay started lying about them. The more we got infuriated. And the more distant we became. Until this tragedy happened.

Day 1 at the hospital. I called Nanay. She had difficulty speaking, and she was crying. Prior to that day, she didn’t want to be confined. The medical bills would be too much of a burden for her children. But she had no choice. I talked to her as calmly as I could, told her things would be fine, that she would get well, and not to think about where to get the resources for her hospitalization. Then I called my sister and relayed what just took place, and I was crying. And we were both crying over the phone.

It has been more than a month since then. Nanay is still recuperating and attending therapy sessions. Her recent blood tests were not very encouraging, but we’re not giving up. Nobody’s giving up on this fight, not us, and definitely not Nanay. We, her children, are willing to sweat it out just to see her standing tall again. That’s how much we love her. And we’re sorry she never really felt we did because we never cared to show. At least, we have this chance to make it up to her. And hopefully, she’ll see that we only have her best intentions in mind.

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