Memory and plot twists
Everyone agrees. Lola Elia was fiesty. The most outspoken of the 9 Pakingan siblings, she challenged authority, walked out of her 2nd grade class and never went back. A single mother since 1965, she raised 11 children, cooked feasts for a growing brood of grandkids, and smoked cigarettes the majority of her life.
All of this I discovered or just realized the past few days, being here in Houston with my 2nd cousins and aunties and uncles. I truly wish I had known her. I think we would have gotten along well. Maybe I would have seen the roots of my fighting spirit. Maybe I would have heard more stories about my grandmother, her sister, and I would have understood my grandmother sooner rather than holding on to the past I thought was unfair.
At the funeral service today, my 2nd cousin, Kuya Rommel, spoke and through tears thanked his uncle, Tito Victor for his work and sacrifice. Without him, their whole family wouldn’t be in the US. Shortly after he turned 18, he signed up for the US Navy then the Coast Guard. Then the rest, as they say is history.
My own family has a similar history, as many Filipino families. My dad’s brother was sponsored a work visa, then he petitioned my grandmother who then petitioned my dad and aunt. And the rest, as they say is history. But if fate worked out any differently, if my Lola decided not to join my uncle, if my dad got a job in Houston instead of moving to Maryland, everything would be different. I wouldn’t be the same Jenny typing this post away on her phone. This is the greatest plot twist in the lives of my generation. Our lives as we know it is dependent on this event. I’ve known this but am so forcefully reminded of it right now.
Below is a picture of 8 of the 9 Pakingan siblings (one died long before this pic). My Lola is seated in the middle with Lola Elia to her right. This picture was taken at my parents’ wedding in 1987.