Friday, June 29, 2007

In Memoriam

Yesterday I got an SMS from my brother. My Mom's elder brother was taken to the hospital (the same hospital my Dad was treated). He got into ICU due to his swollen heart. Just this morning I received another SMS from him. My uncle's passed away already. Mom naturally cried as my Mom had always been protected by her elder brother (Mom's the youngest). I wonder what they're thinking now...the elderly...when death will come to pick them up, I guess? I know death is coming to get all of us, but when you're old and you see your peers are taken away one by one, it must feel closer than ever. But I'm not going to talk about death now. This morning I'm reminded of my Mom's past which I'd love to write here to make sure that I don't forget it.

My grandma (Mom's mother) split up with grandpa as grandpa was such a jealous man and because they had kids in a row every year. Back then there was still no birth control and when birth control did appear, grandpa wouldn't allow grandma to have anything to do with it. Why? Because he thought grandma would use it to "sleep around". Right! An old-fashioned man indeed. Remember that this all happened a LONG time ago in ASIA, though!!!

Anyway, grandma had 7 kids. My mom's the youngest. One of the kids died when she was 7 years old (if I remember correctly) due to a certain disease that nowadays would be considered "easy to heal". Since grandma split up with grandpa, grandma started selling food for a living. Therefore, she had no time to take care of her six children. So her sisters took care of the kids. Thus the kids were separated for some time. They lived in different homes. If I remember correctly, Mom didn't know she had sisters until she reached a certain age. Since they had different upbringings, they grew up to be TOTALLY different people. (side note: I know that even with the same upbringing, kids can grow up to be TOTALLY different people, but I mean in this case they've got diverse history when they are still kids, so the different family histories have an impact on their future lives, too)

Mom stayed with a certain aunt. This aunt had a daughter almost the same age as Mom, so they both breastfed to the same woman. Luckily for Mom, this woman was so nice to her. Oh yeah, Mom was also the only child who had a birth certificate showing the right date of her birth. The rest of the kids? They had birth certificates, but the date shown on their certificates may be a few weeks or months later than their birth dates. So Mom's the only one who knows her exact birthday.

Mom used to tell me lots of things about her past. I LOVE those moments. One time she told me about her conversation with her grandma (meaning my great-grandma). People during that age had LOADS of kids, usually at least 6 of them. Some could have up to 13 kids (probably every year as there was no birth control yet). Anyway, my great-grandma told Mom that her vagina was as huge as a tunnel. Why? She had given birth to many kids, plus back then they didn't stitch her up. Back then they let nature run its course. I have a doctor friend and she says that the vagina can heal by itself, though it will take a LONG time to do it. Mom said that back then, right after childbirth, a woman was supposed to wrap herself up tightly with a sarong to help quicken the process of healing and then they were supposed to squat over a period of time each day above a small coal stove for the same purpose. YIKES!!!

Btw, in my Mom's age (when she was a teenager), before there were sanitary napkins, they had to use a kind of towel as sanitary napkins and it was SO hard to wash them clean. YIKES again!!!

I don't know more details about my Mom and her siblings, but it seemed that one time they got back together again and lived under the same roof with my grandma. My Mom once asked grandma how she could feed all six children. Grandma said, "I just put six plates of food on the table and let them eat." Mom asked, "But then the little ones must've been unable to eat properly. The dining room must've looked so messy after meal time." Grandma answered calmly, "Sure, then I just swept the mess off the floor." Such a "messy" life it seems.

Back in my Mother's age, parents would be anxious if their daughters weren't married by the age of 20. My Mom set the record by getting married only at 32 years old. Why? Because she saw how unhappy some of her sisters were, so she didn't want to rush into marriage. I can only imagine how tough my Mom must've been. I mean, I KNOW she's tough, but it must've been hard to live with such pressure. Even I felt the pressure when my friends started getting married and I wasn't even close to planning it.

In Indo, there are lots of weddings where family members gather and on those days, if you're deemed old enough to get married, they'll start asking, "Who's gonna get married next?" or "When's your turn?" So there's still so much pressure now, even though I think the age limit's risen up to 28-30 years old now.

Back to my Mom...since she wasn't planning on getting married soon, she had time to save enough money to buy my grandma a house. Mom felt sorry as grandma was staying with another daughter and they didn't get along well. My grandma had a TEMPER allright! She wasn't the easiest person to live with. Anyway, after saving money over the years, finally at the age of 25 years old (which was such an inspiration to me!!!) she could buy a land with an old house on top of it. Her brothers helped in fixing the house and Mom got a loan, too. Finally my grandma could live there. Then we moved there to stay with grandma when I was around 4 years old (in the house where my parents still live now).

Although the house was bought by Mom, the land certificate stated that grandma owned it. Thus, when grandma started to get sick, she decided to split the house for her six children. I can only imagine how my Mom must've felt back then. I mean, we were the only ones who didn't have a house yet and it was Mom who bought it for her, so it should've been Mom's, right? However, Mom wasn't daunted. Wisely she did what grandma asked her to and then she decided to buy the house from the other siblings. If I remember correctly, 2 siblings decided to give up their rights to Mom. So Mom only had to pay to the other 4 siblings by getting a loan from a bank. In the end she paid off the loan and the house is now hers again. She said to me once about all this, "Even though back then I was hurt by my mother's decision, but God knows who had been working hard to get the house and finally the house's mine again."

So many memories...I guess I should just stop now. I just want to relive the memories today, in memoriam of my uncle: may you rest in peace and may God give your family strength and comfort.


  1. Hi, Amelia I was sorry to read about your uncle, it must be hard living so far away as well. Your family story was very interesting, it's surprising how our old folk used to live and I think that it is important to pass onto our children just how we lived so that they can understand why we are, who we are.
    Thank you for the comments left on my blog. Give it a go you might be surprised

  2. THX for your kind words, Dave!!! Yes, living far away from my family is hard but it's a choice I've made, so I have to live with the consequences.

    Indeed the stories of our old folks are interesting. :-)))

    Ahhh...I think I'll have a pass in trying to paint, thank you. I think I'll just stick to "painting" with words he he he...

  3. Hi Amel

    I'm sorry to hear your family has to deal with your uncle's death so soon after dealing with your dad's illness. What a time!

    I loved reading about your family history. Sounds like you come from a long line of strong women. Boy, I am glad I don't live back then! We forget how hard life was just as recent as our grandparents' time. :-(

    My prayers and sympathy to your family on the loss of your uncle.

  4. First of all: I am so sorry about your uncle! May the light be with him!

    Well, your grandpa, like you said, belongs to another era: when real men didn't use contraceptives, women couldn't either, and if they did "what are they trying to hide?"...
    I don't usually agree with divorce (cause I think that people must be responsible for their choices, and when there's children involved: their psychological balance comes first!) but in case of violence or agression (either physical or psychological) women should leave their husbands, because they shouldn't expose children to any type of stress! So, congrats to your grandma!!!!!

    7 kids? Wow...that's a blessing! I am glad she had family to help her bringing her kids up :)!
    You are right: even those who are raised under the same roof end up being totally different!
    Yeah, the birth dates never coincided with their registration certificates, because a few years ago certain countries neglected all those bureaucratic issues (it has a cultural explanation, though: people used to pass information on a mouth-to-mouth basis, thus writing was unnecessary - in Africa, the Europeans made it mandatory to register their kids, cause before colonisation, no one used to do it...they used to refer to age through hand gestures or by saying "old age; age enough to get married etc"!
    In Africa, after giving birth, women, too, are wrapped around by a "kapulana" (Mozambique), or a "chitenge" (Zambia) [african cloth] to make the belly return to its normal size; but they have several other tricks to heal the vagina, and clean the womb and's very interesting!!!

    Thank the Lord for PADS!!!!! Those were really tough times for women...cause blood does not come out easilly; even after washing it still leaves trace...yikes indeed!

    Your mom did what a daughter is supposed to do for her mother! She was patient after what her mom did, and for that she was rewarded (Praised be the Lord), she got her house back :)! You mom is a great woman, and it seems to me that she has been leading a good life: and now she's taking care of your dad too! She's a beautiful human being! Congratulations Amelia *bowing*!

    Amen to what you said about your uncle!

  5. Ah, major hugs to you Amel! Your mother sounds like an amazing woman and my thoughts are with you today. (and I loved those stories about childbirthing and such, we don't realize how easy some things are today. Wow.)

  6. M: THX for your kind words. I'm actually glad my uncle didn't have to suffer too long. He's in a good place now. No more worries, no more problems. :-)))

    Indeed it's a tough time for Mom. Yep, indeed there've been really tough women in my family history. I'm also glad I live in a modern age he he he...

    Max: THX for your kind words, too.

    Ah, yeah, interesting to hear different cultures deal with different issues back then, such as childbirth and stuff he he...

    Indeed thank GOD for pads! :-D Yeah, it's REALLY hard to wash blood. Yep, my Mom's really something indeed. I'm also bowing here he he he...

    Vic: THX for the hugs. HUGS BACK!!! :-D Yep, we've lived in such a modern era that sometimes we forget how tough it was back then, not so long ago he he he...