"I don’t receive your emails anymore,” Mama informed me a few weeks ago.
“What?” I asked, a little baffled.
“Can you check my phone? Your emails suddenly stopped coming in,” she went on.
“What!” The bafflement has turned into shock.
It took a few seconds to piece the puzzle together. My mom had been using my email address to sign in to Google Apps, ever since I linked her new phone to my account so she could download some apps. It's been two years since. Apparently, she hasn’t signed out of it. When Gmail sent me a notification of some sign-in attempts by a Samsung phone (I’m an Apple user, hence the “hacking” suspicions), I went ahead and blocked my hacker mom out.
My email contains all my transactions–minutes of every meeting I’ve attended, event invites I’ve RSVP-ed to, contracts I’ve electronically signed, transcripts of the people I’ve interviewed, arguments with some difficult people at work, even #GGSS portraits I’ve sent to myself that I could easily forward to PR agencies, hiring companies, or what-have-you asking for it. Just when I thought I didn’t tell my mom enough about my #adulting life since I kind of blocked her on Facebook and Instagram, she now knows everything. Like, everything. Well, at least until I disabled her phone from syncing with my Gmail account.
My mom turned 65 last April 27. A retired professor and part-time bizwoman, she raised me, an only child, as a single parent. She left my father when I was around two or three and brought me with her. She'd tell me stories of how difficult their marriage was that would cause their separation. She, my dad, and I have all learned to move on from that point. She still talks to my dad over the phone, who for his part, also did his best to support me.
I found the term “Mama’s boy” emasculating, but that’s exactly what I was while growing up. My mom is a nosy nagger who doesn’t know when to stop. Now residing in the province, she phones me all the time. Like, every time she wants to. These are mostly ill timed calls: I’d be in the middle of an interview with a celebrity, or sweating it out at the gym, or just not in the mood to talk to anyone. She also has this frustrating habit of calling at least four more times after I’ve already declined her call.
Mama's nagger tendencies intensified after her stroke. She suffered one on a fateful day in October 2010. I was then a fresh graduate looking for my first job. I was at the ABS-CBN Newsroom, and literally just got a job offer as an online writer when my cousin in the province called me with the bad news. “Sorry po, na-stroke po Mama ko!” I had to tell the HR officer, who then gave her blessings for me to leave stat. I could still remember how harrowing that eight-hour night trip heading to Ilocos was. I was muffling my meltdowns during the entire ride, haunted by the thought that I wouldn't reach her in time. I eventually made it to my mom’s hospital suite, finally seeing her in the hospital bed: my Mama then being reduced to this…
I’d learn that, dahil sa lahi, high blood pressure caused my Mama’s ischemic stroke. My mom initially confined herself after being stressed out at work. She was about to check out when she felt further symptoms. Get this: She even had to walk out of her room and tell the nurses herself right when she was having a stroke. She felt proud about this story somehow.
One Filipino dies of stroke every minute. My Mama’s stroke occurred in the right side of her brain, paralyzing movement on the left side of her body. The only consolation I received was that this kind of stroke, compared to the transient ischemic kind or a “mini stroke,” is already the end of it. That it can be cured with meds and therapy. A mini stroke, meanwhile, is a symptom of a stroke, hence seeking tighter medical attention.
But all of this science didn’t matter to me back then. Once I was finally left alone in that hospital room with my Mama, I broke into crying. She wept with me. “I’m sorry I’m now like this,” she told me. I cried harder. I got home hours later to get some clothes, went to her empty room, and cried in her bed. I remember hating everything at that moment. Including my God.
My cousins and I finally brought Mama home a few days later. Making her move an inch proved to be a Herculean task–from putting her on a wheelchair to seating her in the car. Her bed was too high and it wearied her to climb into it. We had to lay a mattress on the living room floor for her to lay down on, which also gave her easier access to the the bathroom. We bought tons of expensive meds for Mama, around seven to 10 capsules a day, and started on her daily physical therapy. Unfortunately, Mama has a heightened sense of taste. She always knew if she was drinking Coke or Pepsi, and she liked her food really salty (it’s a family inside joke). She couldn’t stand the taste of meds. She has to have some dessert on the side otherwise the aftertaste caused her to spew the tablets out. (We also argued a lot because of this very ceremonious act. I always called her maarte.) She was also diagnosed with diabetes, something unsurprising, given our family's lineage. She had to lose weight so it would be easier for her to move her crippled muscles. Hence, we substituted our regular cooking oil with olive oil, cut down on rice, and chose healthier alternatives in the household altogether. This was exactly why I myself turned to fitness and (attempts of) eating healthy ever since.
It’s been six and a half years since. I got my first job, worked there for around eight months before rediscovering my love for magazines. I stayed in ABS-CBN Publishing for five years—switching titles and positions, printing numerous issues, flying to places, partying out, knowing and befriending celebs, athletes, and some of the world's movers and shakers, and more as part of the job. It’s been a wild, exciting journey for me, something I wished I had shared with my mom next to me. How I curl in envy whenever I see some Instagram posts of friends travelling with their moms, splurging on new luxuries and experiences together, treating them like the queens that they are.
Meanwhile, my Mama, while still undergoing medication and therapy and sometimes hilot, never recovered enough to travel with me. She can now move and walk around but it will never be the same. She never really leaves the house, save for some special family occasions like reunions and birthdays. These simple jaunts literally tire her out, this former lakwatsera that I wished had the energy and strength to go with me to Boracay last month and to Japan next month. For the most part, Mama stays at home, with a helper as her main companion, and some friends and family visiting every now and then. She spends her days cooking, watching TV, playing Candy Crush on her tablet, or extending parts of the house (“Why spend your money on all these new rooms?” I’d question her in jest. “We don't need a big house, no one lives here!”).
Or, she’s annoying me with her calls that I unceremoniously cancel.
“Ever since I got signed out of your email, I don’t know much about you anymore,” she sent me a text message last week, as if pleading me to sign her back in. “Asan ka na? Di ka man lang mag-text.”
I’m sorry, Mama. I will be better. It will be better. Promise.
ALSO READ: Daily Diaries: The 5 Things I Miss Most About My Mom On Mother’s Day