04 november 1999 | back | archive | forward

since i've moved into this apartment, i've made it a point to write my grandmother a letter at least once every two weeks. i'm not sure why, exactly. maybe because i accept the fact that she and my grandpa just might not live much longer. that reality hit especially hard when i saw them a year ago during our visit to the philippines: how much they'd aged, how weak they were getting and how far away they truly were. they seemed so helpless and alone there, in that big, stale house, and the letters, the letters are the only thing i can do for them. to send them a piece of me as often as i can.

so i write these horribly boring letters. i ramble about my mom and dad and brothers. i describe in detail my new apartment and job. i tell her how much i miss and love her and not to worry too much, because things here are just fine and i am happy. "write back soon," i end my letters, knowing she probably won't have the time or energy, but just in case she does. just in case i might open my mailbox and find a letter from grandma.

and today, i did.

there is nothing like a letter from grandma. it's this thing that instantly warms your heart, with words wrapping themselves around you like an embrace. it always arrives in an airmail envelope, flimsy, filmy paper and edges candy-striped red and blue. my name and address are written in perfect penmanship, and the return address reads, "GRANDMA," a word written with authority and dignity.

she always write her grandchildren on their birthdays -- letters usually filled with religious references and life-long lessons. in my letters, grandma always reminded me to model my life after the Virgin Mary, be a loving and obedient daughter and do well in my studies. in recent years, however, the focus has shifted to working diligently, taking care of my parents and finding a proper mate.

one of my favorite letters i ever received from her was a birthday letter in which she apologized for sending it a month late, although it actually was a month early. that alone sent me into a fit of giggles, but that wasn't even the best part. in it, she wrote: "when selecting a mate, choose one with beauty of heart and soul, not just of face -- but not ugly, of course. at least pleasant to look at."

here i was, struggling with complex issues of ethnicity and religion -- "marry a filipino, and make sure he's catholic," mom and dad always said -- and grandma simply told me to find a nice guy, as long as he wasn't ugly. "you see?" i said, shoving the letter in my parents' face. "she knows what really matters."

the letter i received today, however, was nothing like the others she'd written.

instead of giving me advice, she was thanking me for advice i'd given her. you see, she is such a worry wart, and everyone always tells her not to worry. but i. i, knowing how much she hates people telling her what to do, told her to simply to keep the worries to a minimum. "that's right," she wrote. "to entirely stop worrying is impossible, but to keep worrying to a minimum is possible. thank you."

i could not believe what i was reading. she was telling me how wise i was. she was saying that i was the only one who knew what mattered. this time, she was writing how much she loves me and misses me; she told me not to worry, because she's happy; and please, please write back soon, she said.

and i cried. the tears just welled up in my eyes as i held that piece of paper in my hand, and i walked in a daze into my bedroom and sat on my bed and just cried. not deep, convulsive sobs, just slow, heavy tears, in realization at how terribly wonderful she is.

and, god, that woman really is. granted, when she's angry, watch out. she can grasp grudges so tightly they can't breathe, and her silent treatments can make any young girl or grown woman cry, and they did, so many times.

but when she loves you, there's no doubting it. she bursts. her deep, brown eyes light up, and her full-bellied laugh fills the air. she'll do whatever you ask and things you shouldn't even expect. she'll pray to all the angels and saints to make sure you are kept safe and warm and happy forevermore.

there's a picture i have of us, sitting on a rocking chair. i'm on her lap, and she's grabbing hold of me so tightly that i can barely breathe. i look like i'm trying to break free, like i'm uncomfortable and annoyed. i must have been that age when i was embarrassed to hear her speak in the thick accent and ashamed to be seen with the aging, awkward filipino woman.

of course, now that i'm older and thousands of miles away, there's nothing i want more than to sit like that on my grandma's lap, enveloped in her embrace.

it's getting crisp here. not cold -- this is, after all, southern california -- but definitely cooler.

i often wonder if i'll ever learn.

had i checked, i would have learned that maganda.com was a porn site. ha.

"But there's a little bit of ghetto in us all." -- scotch.

i thought friday would never come.

send all comments, criticisms and marriage proposals to christine@maganda.org. i like e-mail, and i like you!