I will always remember Lola Tita in a way nobody in my family probably expects me to: she really knew how to make me laugh. Unintentionally.
And that's really what made my grandmother stand out to me, more than anything else: she was so set in her ways, so clear and deliberate, that you couldn't help but smile in spite of yourself when she started acting according to script. She was predictable, and the most predictable thing about her is that she would love her children dearly, and dote on her grandchildren just as much. She was a beautiful human being that way.
But boy, did she have a fun way of showing it. And it was her innate ability to be self-cognizant and to see the occasional absurdity and usual quirkiness of it all that allowed her to not take herself so seriously. It's interesting to think about it this way, but you might say that Lola Tita was the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl before the archetype was even born. No wonder my grandfather was so utterly smitten with her for well over half a century!
She taught me how to laugh at myself and to never take myself seriously because she did that to herself, no matter how much gravitas and depth she actually possessed as a person: after all, like Lolo Nor, she wasn't a Fulbright scholar for nothing, and her keen mind was only matched by her devout spirit. I am humbled to have had a grandmother like her, and I hope she doesn't mind me sharing some anecdotes of my fondest memories of her.
I was probably around 9 years old or so when I saw some guy on Home TV Shopping selling magic tricks. I think his name was Anders or something, and he was the original guy hawking stuff in that old Megamall kiosk. I asked Lola Tita, for my birthday (Or was it for Christmas?), to buy that magic set for me, and she did!
Except she completely misheard me, and thought I was asking for "magic shet." But despite mistakenly thinking her grandson of under 10 years of age was cursing right in front of her, she went ahead and ordered it anyways, although I had to clarify that I said "magic set," and I, being the sheltered kid that I was, still had no idea what "shet" meant.
I could almost hear Lola Tita say it in her distinct voice we always tried doing impressions of: "Yiiiii! Lorraine, yung anak mo, humihingi ba naman ng magic shet! Hindi pa karagul, aba, kung makapagsalita na!"
Despite misunderstanding me at the time, did she get angry at me? No. She took it all in stride, and still ended up getting me that magic set, complete with Macky and Wacky. And as the years would go by, she would always look at whatever I do with wide-eyed interest and the biggest smile she could muster. Through all her hurts and cares, she would always shield her grandchildren from the worst of it, and make us feel treasured and cherished by her, and that was no mean feat on her part, I'm sure.
It's hard to just laugh at Lola Tita, because she laughs with you. She's self-aware enough to know when something unintentionally hilarious has just happened, and even if she caused the uproar in laughter, she never hesitated to laugh with us. It was that gift of mirth that I will always remember about her, because for some reason, that's something that really stuck with me about her through all these years.
So I guess it was a shocker for all of us to see her pass on so suddenly. She was still well. She was still strong. There were some problems here and there, but nobody saw this coming. Except maybe her.
Ever since Lolo passed away nearly four years ago, you can see it in Lola's eyes how much she missed the love of her life. She pined for him for the rest of her days, and though she made it a point to not let her grandchildren see her in her moment of weakness, we knew how much she missed him, because we missed him, too.
So there I was, on the road, en route to the hospital, when I got the dreaded news from my brother. Like Lolo before her, I was spared from the sight of seeing her last moments in the same way. I don't quite know how I would have taken it if I were there, so maybe that was for the best.
And now, we miss her, too.
One more thing about her, though: unlike my other grandparents, Lola Tita took to texting like a fish to water. She enjoyed it, and I remember how funny it was when Lolo would tell us that there was a time he didn't want to disturb Lola because she looked like she was fervently praying and clutching a rosary, but the minute he heard those telltale keypad sounds from Lola's trusty old Nokia, he realized how mistaken he was. We had a good laugh about that, back then, and I chuckled over the realization of how "with it" Lola Tita was, even if she wasn't really trying very hard to be so.
I guess the biggest regret for me would be the fact that I never texted her enough. She used to send us quotes on a daily basis, and I knew that was her way of reminding us she cared. I would text her every now and then, and remind her how special she was to me, but you could never do that enough for someone who really holds a special place in your heart, can you?
Wouldn't it be nice if I could text her just one more time? Maybe text her something schmaltzy but sincere, like "Thanks for all the smiles we have shared over the years. I know I will see you again someday. I love you, Lola!"
P.S. Of course, a few seconds later, I get a reply from the phone. Apparently, my mom held onto Lola's phone for safekeeping, and we ended up laughing over the fact that for a brief moment, I thought I received a literal message from beyond the grave.
P.P.S. Somehow, I'm sure Lola Tita was laughing with us, too.