By Brent Ramirez
Blog Content Contributor
“Behind every successful man, there is a woman.”
While this quote may not ring true to some, it definitely strikes a chord with those it does relate to. It’s a simple phrase that speaks volumes about the influences that women can have in men’s lives. Whether it’s your mother, your girlfriend or your sister, sometimes it’s easy to forget how much they can affect our lives.
Growing up, I wasn’t the nicest or the wisest kid. I was a bit of a brat and a rascal, but that never stopped my grandmother from teaching me how to be a better person and individual. It’s not to say that I don’t give my mother any credit, because that’s a lie in itself, but it was my grandmother more than anyone who instilled generations of knowledge and character in me at such a young age.
To some people, she was Riza’s (my mom) mother, to others she was Nora and to myself -and those closest to her- she was Mama and she was incredible. She was extremely beautiful and had a smile that was warmer than you can imagine. People often referred to her as Wonder Woman because of her eyes. They were captivating and reminiscent of the actress Lynda Carter’s, hence the nickname. What a wonder she truly was.
Like a beacon of light, she constantly guided our family by helping and teaching us in any way she could. She used her knowledge as an English teacher in the Philippines to help me learn phonics growing up. I’m sure at the time I was annoyed at having to repeat the same things over and over again. I can vaguely remember the constant repetition of sounds based on consonant-vowel combinations. Ba-Be-Bi-Bo-Bu. Ta-Te-Ti-To-Tu. They were such simple lessons, but they laid the foundation for my education.
Looking back at it all I wish I could’ve expressed a bit more gratitude in my early years, but that’s the thing. Despite my lack thereof, Mama never failed to continue giving me valuable knowledge, no matter how boring I thought it may have been. Not only did she play mentor to me, but she also cooked, cleaned and put me to bed. She taught me discipline and comforted me. She nurtured me and loved me. She did it all. Mama always prioritized myself and many others before she did herself. It was through her that I learned that same compassion, not only for my loved ones but for everyone I would cross paths with. Through her I learned to be selfless and giving, to be respectful and understanding.
As I grew older, I started to take her presence for granted. I was nearly on my way to college, finishing up high school. Mama was always there for as long as I could remember. I didn’t realize how much older she was because she was still cooking and cleaning like she always did. Hell, it seemed like just yesterday she was teaching me that putting a “t” before an “h” makes a new sound. Right now I certainly do wish it was just yesterday. It was during this transitional period in which I seemed to really only focus on myself. Sure Mama was there, still doing everything she could do for me and our family even before I was born, but I was too busy thinking about me.
Not even a year passed and I failed to notice just how frail she had gotten. How much harder it had become for her to walk up stairs, let alone stand up. Her skin become more tender, her touch more fragile. Eventually I started to spend more time at the hospital than I did at home, and I guess in my mind this was routine for elderly people. This was just normal. Even at the age of 18, I didn’t understand the reality of the situation, or maybe I just didn’t want to accept the reality of the situation.
A few weeks pass and I’m sitting by her hospital bed. I still remember the smell of sterilized gloves and the sound of light chit chat barely audible beneath the sound of the machine that was helping Mama breathe. This was a time when we didn’t really know how much time she had, and up until then it had been hard for me to talk to her. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to her. I was frozen. I remember racking through my mind with different things to say, questions to ask her. I wasn’t even sure she could hear me, but I asked her anyways.
“Mama. Are you afraid of dying?”
I can’t remember what she said exactly, but I just remember that she said it in such a way that was so honest, yet still comforting to me. Still trying to think of things to say, I looked at her and said the first thing I could put together, this time holding her hand and with tears running down my face. I told her, “Mama. I’m going to finish college. I’m going to finish college for you.”. It only seemed appropriate considering she had done so much for my education and personal knowledge. To me, it was important for her to know that she, who had taught me so much throughout my life, could know that I was going to finish my education.
While I managed to say just that, there’s still a really big part of me that will always be filled with regret, the part of me that wishes I did more for her, the part of me that wishes I talked to her even just a little bit more. Not a single day goes by that I wish I could just tell her thank you one more time, but in no way shape or form could those two words even begin to describe the amount of appreciation I have for that woman because she gave me everything and more.
So from here on out, take a second to really think about that special woman in your life. Think about all she has done for you and all she has given to you. Take a second to tell her thank you in any way that you can because it’s easy to forget how often we lose track of time.
Thank you for everything Mama.
Featured image by Brent Ramirez.