When I came back from my book haul at Booksale, not much had changed — my mother was still lying on a metal bed along the corridor outside the ER. This would continue until the next day.
That night, the NGT was removed.
Around 11 AM the next day, I had my lunch — a bowl of greasy nilagang baboy (boiled pork soup) and two cups of rice. When I returned, my step-father told us that he wanted to go home to clean up. Instantly, my mother’s face contorted.
“Mubalik ko dayon, hon. Maligo lang ko ug magda ug imong gamit,” he reassured her. (I’ll return tonight, hon. I’ll just take a bath and pack some of our clothes.)
Unable to speak as her throat was still tender, my mother groaned in consternation. I’d react the same way too if it were me. Dread crept up as my step-father promised he’ll return right a way.
It took a while before my mother smoothened her face. She was too weak to argue, too weak to protest.
A few moments later, my step-father was gone.
He would return days after.
I sat next to my mother for what felt like an eternity, fanning her from time to time as it was sweltering. By 2 PM a nurse notified us that we can now enter the ER as there were already empty areas. I don’t know if I like the idea of being surrounded by dying people. I’d rather melt outside then go inside. But there was nothing I could do.
The only consolation was the industrial electric fan inside. When we got in, I made it a point to take the spot that was well-ventilated. Because it was the day before New Year’s, the hospital was bustling. We were even displaced from our initial spot to make space for the “Oplan Iwas Paputok” area. I went from one corner to another as the patients were slowly wheeled out of the ER to their respective wards. Noticing that only a few of us were left, a heaviness rippled through my heart.
“Toy,” my mother called my attention.
“Natatae ako.” (I need to use the restroom.)
“Wait sa ma,” I responded, hoping to distract her. (Can you hold it, ma?)
“Kaya nimo huwaton si ate?” I asked. (Can you hold it a little longer while we wait for ate?)
“Ngano man? Di na nako kaya, toy.” (Why? I can’t hold it any longer.)
I continued distracting her to buy my sister some time. She was on her way to PGH, and I was not ready to be anywhere near mama when it happens.
“Toy, asa na ang bed pan?” she sounded irritated. (Where is the bed pan?)
“Wait sa ma,. Hapit na si ate,” I fidgeted. (Ate is on the way.)
“Di na nako kayang pugngon. Asa ang bed pan?” she cried. (I can’t keep it any more. Where is the bed pan?)
Finally, after coming to my senses, I took out the bed pan and placed it underneath mama.
Assisting my mother, she slowly lifted herself and moved the bedpan closer to her buttocks.
You can never delay the call of nature, I thought to myself as my mother relieved herself.
A few more pushes and she was done. Luckily, my sister arrived shortly and helped me with the aftermath..
Little time was spent catching up with my sister as she was celebrating New Year’s Eve with a friend. If I could freeze time, I would’ve done it. But there was only so much toxic positivity I could take — it all went down the drain with my mother’s dignity.
Never in my life did I feel empty and alone as when she exited the ER that afternoon.
Paminaw lang ug music para di ka mingawon. Her text read in reply to my Te, sad ko kayo ron. (Go distract yourself with music.)
I was on the verge of tears while typing my reply.
Happy New Year, te. Ingat.
If only I could wish that for the both of us.