I fell in love with Seattle three years ago and since then I’ve gone back a handful of times to enjoy Pike Place Market, the first Starbucks Coffee, mac and cheese at Beechers, the infamous gum wall, Taste of Seattle, Georgetown, and the cold sweater weather. But all of that is secondary when it comes to Riley and Aly, also known as, the crazies. Being with them 24/7 is like immersing yourself in laughter, board games, toys, Hello Panda, and stuffed animals. It’s like sleeping with the San Diego Zoo in their bed alone having three bears, Dora the Explorer, rabbits, Pluto, Lamb Chop, two snakes, a human-size bear that Riley got for Christmas, and a mermaid named Nicki Minaj (just to name a few). After, what feels like, a year long bedtime routine Riley and Aly take turns with a prayer. They never fail to make my heart cry every time they prayed for Mama Liza.
I got to spend the holidays in Seattle, which was extra special because my aunties and uncle from Hawaii were also in town. Although eating a delicious dinner was always a treat, my favorite part was the storytelling that went on and on while every one took a breather before going in for seconds. Talking about Mama Liza never gets old. Like the time I learned what “gaga” meant in Tagalog (a Filipino dialect). You see, Mama loved to sing whether it was a song she knew or a song she made up. So I called her Mama Gaga in reference to Lady Gaga. Not only did Mama Liza hear what I said, she stopped singing and walked away shaking her head no saying, “No good that one. Gaga is no good.” Being the only one in my family that knows little to no ilocano (another Filipino dialect) I was confused by Mama’s reaction. I was even more confused when I found my uncle laughing in tears to what just happened. Apparently, “Gaga” means stupid.
Although we bring up that memory over and over again, it felt different laughing about it this time around. I sat at the table looking my sister, aunties, and uncle and saw that over time, little by little, we learned to overcome the trauma that tattooed our hearts three years ago. I was once told that with grief, the pain never goes away, you just learn to live with it. I never believed it until I realized that we’ve been learning to live with it whether we wanted to or not.
I believe time heals everything and what you do with that time matters. For me, it was taking it day by day, hour by hour, sometimes even minute by minute. Having faith, finding moments to laugh, giving myself space and grace to cry, and having people to hold me up when I couldn’t do that myself were all pieces that contributed to the peace that I have in my mind, heart, and soul. Missing Mama Liza doesn’t get easier, but it hurts less.
It’s her birthday today. She would’ve been 83-years-young. So join me by either singing a random song (a song you know or made up), eating a cheeseburger (Mama claimed that it gave you good eyesight), putting on red lipstick (her every day look), or laughing so hard your whole body shakes (which she did almost all the time) in celebration of Mama Liza’s life.