I’ve been drinking coffee longer than I can remember. I don’t say that to brag—I really can’t remember exactly when I started drinking coffee. If I had to guess, I was probably three years old.
Back then, I lived in the Philippines with my mom and extended family. My grandparents lived there too, and I spent every morning with my grandma. We all called her Mama.
Every morning, Mama would stir a few spoons of freeze-dried Folgers into her cup of hot water, topped with powdered creamer and a few spoons of sugar. She’d bring out a roll of pan de sal and lay it on a platito, periodically dipping the roll into her coffee before taking a bite and washing it down with a slow sip.
I adored Mama and loved to spend mornings with her, after my mom had already left for work and before I went to nursery. I wanted to be a part of her morning as she was mine, and I started sneaking sips of this glorious kape that she drank every morning without fail. Eventually, she caught on, scolding me for drinking something for grown-ups, while stirring me a cup of my own. This was our special routine every morning until my mom and I moved to the US.
I think of my Mama every morning as I make my own brew; she continues to be a part of my morning to this day. Except these days, I make the coffee for both us.
In the best of times, I feel invincible. I am planted firmly into the earth, my roots extending warm embrace after warm embrace.
In the best of times, I am fearless. I ride the waters in flow, with the sun and the moon, following my charted course.
In the best of times, time belongs to me. I manipulate it as I choose, but always out of honor and never out of spite. The ticking of the clock hastens the hum of my heart.
But in the worst of times, I feel frail. Pieces of me flutter and chip away in hurried gusts. I am wrecked. I am reckless.
And in the worst of times, I am not my own friend. To her, I whisper words that wash away those parts that glimmer in the sun.
Still, in the worst of times, my humanity remains. Those parts that ache and bleed stubbornly and with relentless, unnerving awareness.
And through those times, I realize the irony of choice and the sting of circumstance buried in my beautiful bones. Though they have broken, they are strong. They carry me through the next step.
Wake up. Skim emails. Get out of bed. Greet cat. Feed cat. Brush teeth. Wash face. Start the kettle. Scoop the litter box. Sweep the floor. Pour the coffee. Turn on the computer. Respond to emails. Take a yoga break. Attend meetings. Catch up on news. Respond to emails. Make lunch. Attend meetings. Respond to emails. Respond to emails. Respond to emails. Make dinner. Respond to emails. Play with cat. Feed cat. Shower. Brush teeth. Skim emails. Go to bed.
for the joy in my song
and not because I sing to you
My family generally celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and less so on Christmas Day. It’s December 23rd, and I’d originally planned to visit my family tomorrow. With COVID back on the rise and the positivity rates shooting back up in Los Angeles, I may have to stay home for another Christmas. I’ll listen to the rainfall for now.
Living by downtown, I easily forget how breathtaking the skyline can be. The air was bitingly crisp, the view ahead exceptionally clear. A faint halo hovers over this city of angels tonight.
As I’ve gotten older and built my own life independent of my parents (by parents, I’m referring to my mom and stepdad—who, for all intents and purposes, is my dad), my relationship with them has changed. The way I see them has changed. And it keeps changing.
It’s funny how we often forget that our parents are whole people whose lives don’t completely revolve around us, their children, even though that’s often the case for a really long time. No matter the relationship we have with them, we’d often idolize them and see their word as infallible, them—indestructible. Over the years, we’ve all gotten older, wiser, gentler, but they have also become more frail, and the reality of their mortality suddenly feels daunting and sometimes, frightening. Sometimes, maddening.
I find myself having to develop a newfound patience for when my parents fall short of my expectations. Admittedly, I feel guilty about this. Just tonight, my parents failed to make it to a Jo Koy show my younger brothers and I had treated them to. They didn’t check their email to verify the address. They didn’t use Google Maps to see the time to leave. They didn’t understand that parking was a separate charge or that they would have to park far in case they arrived late. They didn’t understand that all bags must be left in the car.
Well, they arrived late. Sure enough, they’d have to park so far and were spooked by the large crowd, on top of having to pay for a locker to store my mom’s purse, that they decided to leave the arena altogether without ever stepping out of the car. “I’ll Venmo you for parking and the locker fees!” I insisted. But they were tired. They’d driven for over two hours in traffic. And most of all, my parents are older. I forget about this all the time. What do my parents know about Google Maps and checking the traffic ahead of time? My dad was just asking me about the Yellow Pages not too long ago. My mom has plantar fasciitis and cannot take prolonged walks.
I found my frustration easing. It is a strange feeling, eclipsing your parents. Thinking about it leaves me feeling uneasy and emotionally and mentally unprepared. There is still so much to say. So much to do. Things to repair.
“Are you driving home? Or will you find a hotel to stay at overnight? Did you eat? Can I order takeout for you?” I texted.
“No, it’s ok,” my mom replied. “We’ll have a good time. As long as we’re together. No worries. Sleep and rest. Ok, low batt.”