Our new house is haunted. But no, this is not a horror story.
Just this year my uncle and my dad were able to build my 92-year-old grandmother’s dream house. For the longest time, she and my aunt, who has cerebral palsy, were living in a shanty, the house where my dad and his siblings grew up. It was a hard life. When she was widowed, my grandmother became the family breadwinner. She worked so hard to put her children through school that she lost her right arm in the process. She also had to tend to my aunt.
As a child, I saw her as someone so strong despite her age. In my eyes, she was impenetrable, defying time and the odds.
Now, as an adult, I see my grandmother in a totally different light. It’s like I’ve acquired a new set of eyes and I see how time has worn her out. The wrinkles are more defined now. Her hearing is not as sharp. Sometimes I think she cannot even remember who I am. The strong, capable grandmother I know and love is nowhere to be found. In her place is a child in a frail old woman’s body.
It’s said that life is just a cycle. We emerge from our mother’s womb crying; in our old age, we go back to being like a child. I have experienced it firsthand. Like a helpless child, my grandmother cannot stand or sit on her own. She always needs someone by her side, and like a frightened child she does not want to be left alone. Every hour or so, she asks if she has eaten. She seems to have lost all concept of time. Like an infant, she now has to wear a diaper. And in true baby fashion, she keeps us up at night with her wailing.
Irritating, sometimes, but mostly I feel sad. That strong woman I admired has been reduced to a child. When I look into my father’s eyes, I see the sadness as well. It must be hard to see the strong mother of one’s childhood so frail, so helpless.
I remember hearing my grandmother lamenting that she has become of no use to anyone. Her words broke my heart, and got me thinking about life and death, and how she is clinging to whatever life is left in her body. In her lucid moments, she talks about the good old days—how she was then—and how she wishes she could be the same person all over again.
Our new house is haunted. It is haunted by the cries and frustrations of the old woman that is my grandmother, who thinks that she no longer has anything to offer the world. This, I am most scared of.
Frances Grace Damazo, 21, graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines Diliman with a degree in public administration. She is in her first year at the San Beda College of Law Manila.
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