I was awakened by a light kiss on my forehead. My Mom was leaving, again. Looking around, even with my clouded vision, I could guess that it was a few hours after midnight. It was pitch dark outside—a complete contrast to our room, where all the lights were on.
My Mom was whispering to me so as not to wake up my sisters. My father was gone, too, and won’t be home until a few days.
“Lock the door behind me” was what my Mom said.
I understood what she said, but I didn’t want to get up just yet. I didn’t want her to leave. How long has it been since she started saying goodbye in the wee hours of the morning just to catch a flight? Too long to remember, I know. But why am I still not accustomed to the early-morning goodbye?
“Get up and lock the door,” my Mom repeated.
I had no choice but to get up then. I thought, I won’t be the reason she’d be late for her flight. It’s a risk I don’t want to gamble on. So get up I did. Behind the door, I waved goodbye to her and told her to be careful.
“Ingat ka, ha,” I repeated until she was out of my sight.
I walked back to my bed and curled up. My eyes were closed but my brain was wide awake. Suddenly, I was plagued by different scenarios, all of which ended the same way. My Mom gone forever. Out of reach. Gone someplace I—we—can’t follow. It didn’t matter which scenario was in my head at that moment. I started to tear up.
Having gone through a number of hurdles, setbacks, challenges, and problems at an early age, I was convinced that I didn’t have anything to fear anymore. I think I’ve been through all of it, and because of that I learned not to complain when things didn’t go my way, not to whine when I didn’t get what I wanted, not to hold a grudge against anyone who did me wrong. Not anymore. Because I have learned that life goes on and if I don’t move on with it, I’d be left behind and no one would ever do a double take or stop their world for me.
But now, with my tears threatening to overflow any second, I was hit with a realization.
Funny how life plays out. Just when I was so sure that nothing scares me anymore, I start to tremble. With fear, no less.
Well-played, life, you got another one on me.
I realized I was terrified of losing not only my mother but both of my parents. It was not the kind of fear I feel when I think I’d fail another subject, or that I’m going home alone at night walking in dark streets, or that I’m scared because I will have to face a crowd. The fear of losing my parents was blinding, crippling, paralyzing.
We often joke about our Mom as a jetsetter. She has traveled the Philippines and most of the world because of her work as executive director of a nongovernment organization. She’d been a representative of the Philippines in a number of World Health Organization conferences in Switzerland. Also, in December 2012, she was one of the 10 people chosen from all over the world by L’Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture, also known as the World Organization Against Torture, as defenders against torture and impunity in their respective countries.
My Mom is a human rights defender. Always has been, always will be. She graduated from college as a nurse, but she never had a chance to work in a hospital because life had other plans for her. My father, on the other hand, is passionate about the labor sector. Both of them have always put their work first, sometimes to the point where my sisters and I feel neglected. But we understand what they’re doing. We can’t afford to be selfish because we know how much other people need them.
I’ve always tried to figure out just how many people my parents have helped, both consciously and unconsciously, and I always come to the same overwhelming conclusion: more than I would ever know.
With all those thoughts written down, I began to calm down. She’ll be back soon, I assured myself. My Mom is a hero. She’ll be back in one piece.
Superman returned, didn’t he?
Ma. Lorena P. Hernandez, 20, is a civil engineering student at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
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