“Rose i’m sorry but its the only way she can continue to receive treatment.”
She thanked him and hung up.
“Is everything all right mama?” Clara asked as she came in. She reached for the cash box on the top shelf of the cabinet and picked out change. Rose sat staring at nothing, trapped in her troubles. What can she do, she asked herself, has she not tried every way to help Gladys? It started to sink in that Gladys would not get better and she would be weighted by the burden of caring for a mentally unstable daughter . Her silence drew in Clara to the plastic chair beside her.
“What’s wrong mama?” She asked and put her hand on Rose’s spine. Her touch jolted Rose out of stupor. She smoothed the creases of her dress and forced a smile. ” Nothing. I’m fine”
“Is it about ate Gladys?”
Rose said nothing. She was a strong woman and preferred to bear her problems quietly. The many difficult years and supper-less nights made her that way. She was thrown out by her mother at age 16 when Noel, a cab driver that lived next door to them, put a baby in her body. It was shameful for a high school student especially when Noel’s wife was kicking at their gate screaming profanities and calling her a harlot. The next day she was living in a tiny rented room in a run down barangay paid for by Noel. They lived together, much to the chagrin of Noel’s legal wife, and had two more children, two more than a cab driver can afford. She worked part time doing laundry, selling rice cakes and Avon merchandise. It was not an easy life, until Noel got another high school girl pregnant and shortly after disappeared. Her daily budget had become 400 pesos lesser. Life went from bad to worst. Gladys was five years old, Clara was 3 and Jr was barely 2. But If becoming a wife and mother taught her anything, it was to cook well. She sold packed lunch in offices in Makati and was able to keep them afloat. Everyday she carried two large plastic bags stacked with styro boxes in her daily commute. When Gladys turned 7, her mother would bring her along, and she would help her mother. Although one plastic bag was more than half her size, and she had to hobble awkwardly to keep it from scraping the floor, Gladys didn’t mind these trips to makati, she liked walking on wide and clean sidewalks and looking up at tall buildings. She liked seeing office workers in their business casual clothes carrying folders and talking on their cell phones. she wanted to work in an office building, and dress herself nice. She wanted to sit on her own chair with tiny wheels and push away from her own cubicle and pull herself back. Rose saw ambition on her daughter and it made her hopeful. She hoped that Gladys would not trip the same way she did, and make something of herself.
They survived and thrived. They moved out of the tiny room and moved into a more spacious place in a better neighborhood. It had a kitchen, a proper table, a couch, a toilet and bath and a bedroom with a curtain in place of a door. When Gladys was eight Rose was making enough money to send her to school and hire an assistant to help her cook, pack and sell. All her children were well provided for. As a single parent with no high school diploma, she pulled her family out of a miserable state of life and brought them to lower middle-class standards. She was a proud woman. Perseverance was her strength but it had no use in saving Gladys.
“Ma, how is Ate Gladys?”
“She’s fine, they told me she’s slowly coming to her senses”
It was a lie and Clara was aware of that.
“When will we visit her?”
“Soon love. Soon”