Make Mommy Proud

I tell Sam to always try to make her Mommy proud with whatever she does. Whether its singing on stage for her musical theater passion or doing school work, I encourage her to simply try to be the best she can be. For that was all that Mommy had wanted for her. That she develops her “gifts” and to have a simple and happy life.

Yesterday, I was asked by her school to be present at Recognition Day because Sam was going to receive a medal for academic excellence. I’m sure Mariel would have been so proud and happy for her “cocotata”. Mariel had the chance to join Sam last year for the same thing even when she was not feeling well already. And I can only take my hat’s off to her for having prepared her daughter well for life. Sam is the all the best things that Mariel was. I’m sure Sam will do well always in everything she puts her heart into. Because she is always striving to make her mom proud.

Sammy, always love and honor your Mommy and remember that she is never more than a heartbeat away.

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Celebrating Mariel

I had originally called the post “Waiting for Mariel” as I did exactly that when work brought me to Singapore this week. And it was also exactly a year since Mariel had unexpectedly asked that we go on an impromptu holiday trip to the “Lion City” for Sam’s 9th birthday.

My trip this time however was one I had found very difficult to make. Because I know it will surely bring back an avalanche of memories. So while I had tried to focus on preparing for some needed business meetings there, I just can’t help but see Mariel, Sam and me strolling down the same Orchard Road and browsing through those ref magnets at Bugis.

Now I appreciate even more why Mariel had wanted so much to spend more time with us then. She was literally trying to cram every bit of memory she could get because time was not on her side. I remember too how she was not even interested in shopping even while being in the midst of the so-called Great Singapore Sale. She was busy instead planning for the little tour to Sentosa which should give us more bonding experiences. We took that hair-raising ride on the Cable Car with its glass-bottom cabin, hobnobbed with celebrity fishes at Underwater World and even got our family photo taken at 100 meters above the trees at Siloso Beach. It’s the vacation trip that will forever be etched in my mind. And I now return for the first time to the same memorable places to remember and thank Mariel for the wonderful life she had shared with us.

While there I also decided on a lark to grab some breakfast at the “Toast Box” at Wisma Atria. It just happened that the only available table at this place was the one I had shared with Mariel a year ago. For a few moments I had gone back in time leisurely drinking coffee with her and Sam and still being a family. Of course now I just have to be content to nibble on these tiny bits of memories being somewhat afraid they could run out someday. It was one of the “longest” breakfast I had taken in my life too.

At the airport, I had instinctively dialed Mariel’s number on my mobile phone because I had come across something “remarkable” during the trip. It took a second later before I had realized that she was no longer there to take the call. That she was no longer there to share my “excitement” and that things will never be the same again. I miss her so much. And I just continue to thank her for giving me the best times of my life’s and its happiest memories that I now treasure forever.

I love you Mommy, good night.

Happy Father’s Day from Mariel

I would have been awakened today by Mariel’s gentle kisses and a nice, big box with ribbons and stuff. You see I always looked forward to this day because Mariel had allowed me the complete freedom to wish for anything today. Yes, I was so “spoiled” on Father’s Day. I would have customarily dropped “hints” some days before on what special little thing I might want for today and it had usually “materialized” in gift box on the day. Whether it was some “i”-something-gadget or another useless toy in my collection, Mariel would have taken pains to seek it out. But It was never really about just the gift. It was more like being able to tell me that she cared enough for things that I like and also another chance to say “I love you Daddy“, which was not something she had blurted about easily or took lightly.

But instead I woke to an aching foot because of another “gout attack” today amidst reveries of times passed and things that could have been. Nevertheless Mariel had left me an undated (so I can open it every year) greeting card that even played a tune from the 70s movie, Love Story, on the background. It was another gift. It might even probably deserve a separate post, but for now I’d like to share with you Mariel’s message to me. It was one with quotes from writer Linda E. Knight and it goes like this:

“To My Husband (and Very Best Friend) on Father’s Day.

We share a bond too deep for words and friendship I celebrate every day of the year. It feels so good to know you’re always there for me- listening to my dreams and being interested in my world…

The moments we spend together talking, laughing, and listening have made the years so special and given me a treasured gift of memories I cherish. We’ve been through everything together– pulling for each other and revealing strengths we didn’t even know we had. What really makes our family special is you- your sacrifice and support, understanding and faithfulness, strength and love. Though the years will bring changes, you will always be perfect in my eyes. Though life may bring challenges, you’ll always be first in my heart.

You’re the sunshine of my life, the hero in my world, and I love you very much. Happy Father’s Day, my love.– Mariel ”

Thank you too for always being there for me Mommy. I love you so very much.

Sam’s Birthday Highlights

Sam woke up to her “lola’s” (grandma’s) ardent calls to get ready for the small get-together we’ve prepared for her 10th birthday at the at the Lexington Garden Village Clubhouse. In attendance were close friends from the subdivision community and of course, Sam’s newfound playmates. The kids see the pool party as their perfect end to a long, hot summer break as school’s back next week.

Coming all the way from Tarlac City too were Mariel’s sisters, Margie, Gertie and Chinkie, and her nephews and nieces who had wanted to be with Sam on this special day. It was like the good old days again. We missed Mariel but I’ve made sure it was one birthday celebration that would’ve met her stamp of approval. I just have to carry on where she had left off because I know our daughter Sam meant the world to her and that keeping her legacy alive will be another way of pleasing her. And I can only do no less.

We love you Mommy. Sam’s really growing up to be every bit like the fine lady that you were.

It’s Sam’s Birthday!

It”s Sam’s birthday tomorrow, June 9. It’s also the first one that Mommy wont be with us to celebrate on this very important event for us. Well, I would like to correct myself. I know Mariel will be with us still, but only in ways that we’ve not had before.

For her birthdays, usually it was some creatively- staged children’s theme party that Mariel had tirelessly organized each year (see my most recent post). But the last one was different. As Mariel had suggested that for once we should try to spend it with only the three of us. At the drop of a hat, she had set up a short trip to Singapore for a family outing which had included a fun day at Sentosa resort . We were so tickled with the “scary” cable car ride then and had a nice time too at the entertaining pyro and laser show. I can even recall that it was raining hard when we arrived but simply nothing could have stopped Mariel from booking that one essential “package tour”. And I never saw it coming. For in about a month after we’ve returned from that vacation, Mariel will so suddenly fall ill.

I also remember her to be so unusually insistent that we made this Singapore jaunt. And that she had wanted Sam to fully enjoy her unique birthday treat. Although we’ve made other trips before, this one had, on hindsight, a burning sense of urgency for Mariel. She had even “orchestrated’ a mini-reunion at the Changi Airport with her brother Gerry and sister Joy who was merely passing through Singapore on a connecting flight to South Africa with her family at that time. It was another unusual but very memorable experience. Imagine meeting at the Airport visitor’s lounge at 1230 midnight for some much- needed bonding and coffee (only hours after we just arrived from Manila ourselves). But then maybe Mariel was really just “unconsciously” trying to squeeze in as much time with us as she can muster with an apparently slowly closing agenda. I will never really know for certain. But I am just really glad that she did it it again with her ever- efficient signature style. And that after all, she was just being herself and as predictably she was just again doing the “right things”.

If she was with us today, Mariel would have already arranged all the finer details of Sam’s little party tomorrow. She would have sent out the invites much earlier, planned the menu and ordered the cake and cute “loot bags”. Of course now, I have my mom and sister Alma who had so generously pitched in because they know I’m really poor at these things. But I also still miss Mariel’s presence because only she can provide that anticipated “order” in our lives.

But we’re not having anything “grand” for tomorrow though. Just your basic poolside get-together for some BBQ and games. And by the way, Sam wouldn’t have anymore of the standard kiddie stuff of yore as she is currently into NBB, Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus these days. She even requests a bit of some “rock star” accents to enliven the party if possible. Of course, I’d approve. Because I’m sure Mariel would’ve. And it’s such a tiny gesture to make. And assure Sam that nothing has intrinsically changed with her “connectedness” to her mom. For Mommy just can’t be with us “physically” on the big day. But still all the emotional and spiritual bonds remain strong. For the love Mariel has shared with us persists and endures through eternity.

To “Samanting”, Happy Birthday from Mommy, she loves you so very, very much.

Mariel As Mother

Sam and Mariel in Tarlac

We were overjoyed the day we found out she was pregnant with Sam, although I must admit I was a little anxious then about my new role as incoming dad. Mariel was however, to quote her beloved cousin Annie, “over the moon, and thankful that she was given a chance to be a mom.” Because she truly loved children. Mariel was the most “famous” aunt of the Francia clan. Her nephews and nieces always came to her whenever they wanted “something” from their own moms and dads. She was hard to refuse because she never came to you asking anything for herself. The words selfless and giving are often heard from people trying to describe Mariel. So you can further imagine to what lengths she’d go to when it came to her own daughter’s needs.

Before Sam was born, we took those much-awaited weekly excursions to the “Baby Section” at the mall to shop for the best baby things we can afford. It was like a treasure hunt every time. She’d rummage through all the baby clothes trying to find that perfect shade of pink or lilac. On the other hand, she also took great care to remain healthy and not risk anything that might “harm” Sam. I remember her preferring to endure an aching tooth rather than take painkillers that she believed could even remotely have some adverse effects on our daughter. She also played ‘classical music” through headphones propped on her tummy having read somewhere that this can be beneficial to fetal development. Mariel simply would do anything for her “Sammy”. (By the way, she named her after the female lead of the original TV sitcom “Bewitched” because she found her so lovable and bubbly that she promised to name her daughter Samantha too someday.)

Then Samantha came to us on a sunny day in June. Mariel was so ecstatic that our daughter opened her eyes immediately after she was delivered. She was even so proud of Sam’s “Apgar score” of 10. All I can recall myself was trembling and being at a loss when the nurse tried to hand me Sam knowing I’ve never touched such a fragile little thing before . I can even see now Mariel’s face like when I first met her at our hospital room coming out the O.R. Not being allowed to talk right away after the C-section, she simply gazed at me with her loving eyes as if telling me how much of an ordeal she’d just been through and aching to get a hug. But also I remember seeing a glow of peace, contentment and joy for finally we had both received our heart’s desire.

Sam was so special to us that Mariel had a small “birthday” party prepared each month until our daughter’s actual first-year birthday celebration. We’d invite both our families and have cake and all the usual treats. Onwards, Sammy’s birthdays were “little productions” inspired by every possible children’s theme. We went through Disney Princesses, Bratz, Winx Club and even a Hawaiian poolside party. Far from being extravagant gatherings though, Mariel had managed by just planning everything in advance. She looked for discounts on party favors six months before, creatively mixing and matching colorful plates and napkins while I cheered on from the bleachers and she did all the real work. I would just invariably get my “fat ass” ready for the candle-blowing each time. (Speaking of which, I have not yet prepared anything for Sam’s 10th coming in about a week. Better start working on something “nice” soon because Mariel expects nothing less.) Mariel doted on her daughter that she loved dressing her up for school plays, dances and of course Halloween. Sam therefore has an “imeldific” amount of clothes and costumes. And if you ever wanted to see Mariel’s face light up with delight, merely steer the conversation towards children and if asked, she could talk for days on end about our daughter.

Mariel loved Sam very, very much. But she could be unsentimental when it came to disciplining her “baby”. She did not give in to the expected, “manipulative” crying games. She stood firm on principles to teach our daughter (and sometimes, me included) that successful living is to a major part a lot of “maintenance work” and minding the boring, little details like brushing one’s teeth and doing schoolwork before television. (it must be the CPA in her) She did what had to be done and this consistency had borne fruit in Sam’s caring and responsible ways today.

Re-telling Mariel’s winning ways of course wont be complete without talking about how Mariel had sacrificed career over the opportunity to raise up a daughter well. Mariel had shied away from the idea of working for some promotion as it could entail allocating more time for the office and consequently less for her daughter. Every single day she would be calling from the car on her way home already giving Sam pointers for her homework and thus making more time for school work. She would also labor at the computer doing 50- page “reviewers” that made the actual school exams look easy. She encouraged Sam to read a lot such that daily treats were usually educational storybooks and not more “toys”. Because of this, Sam was (modesty aside) prominently always at the top of her class. Mariel was solely responsible for this aspect of our daughter’s development. So I know it hurts her a little sometimes that people would comment that our daughter does well in school because she “follows after” her daddy. Well the secret is out, It wasn’t really me and I was just pretty good at creating hype.

Many of you know that Sam has done very well too at musical theater. It was Mariel’s idea to send her to summer theater workshop at around 5 years old, initially to help our “baby” overcome her shyness. Subsequently after being pleasantly surprised to find our daughter excelling at this craft, Mariel did a whole lot to encourage Sam to develop her gift from God. She’d buy her Broadway CDs and videos and often asked Sam to sing to her, mostly before bedtime. It was all in the spirit of fun and games. That’s why Sam enjoys doing this on stage today. Now I have the responsibility of carrying on with Mariel’s loving legacy to our daughter. And I never fail to remind her to “perform well” for Mommy and honor God’s blessing.

I could ramble on and on about Mariel’s many fine qualities as a mother. But I guess that one Sam and I will miss most are the many days and nights spent plainly with just the three of us hugging on our big, soft bed. Whether it was reading a favorite book or simply engaging in idle banter about that next dream vacation, Mariel just loved to pass time away blissfully celebrating our togetherness. For she had wanted nothing more from life except to be simply near her baby “Samanting” (one of her many names of endearment for Sam) and me. We had never asked for great material possessions, all we had wished for was just to be with each other always.

And while Mariel may not be the perfect mother. She had worked very hard all the time to be so close to being one. And for Sam and me, she will forever be the ONLY “Greatest Mommy in the World”.

“A thousand good nights”, Mommy. We love you.