Lola washes her hands a lot.
She washes them upon waking up, before eating, and before she sleeps. Even in the mid-day, she stops whatever she’s doing, looks at her hands and goes to the sink to wash them.
Mama says she wasn’t like this before. She would chide them not to eat with dirty hands, but that was it. But then, the family was still happy.
Mama never forgot the day when she saw Lola watching the TV, and saw President Apo announcing Martial Law. A lot of people were angry, she said, and a lot of people wanted to take to the streets. There was a lot of talk of protests and marching to Malacanang, despite President Apo’s curfew.
Lola was a senior nurse then, but she always listened to the radio when she can. She would always accompany my Tito to the University, and despite my Tito’s protests, she would always tell him to stay in school.
Every day the protests continued, and every day Lola listened to the radio. She would call the house every night and ask if Tito had come home safe. She would only feel relief once she heard Tito’s voice.
One day there was a huge protest planned by a lot of people, one that they said would march to the Palace. Lola made Tito promise to stay in school, and come home safe.
Mama said Tito kissed her on the cheek and said, “I love you, Ma”.
Tito didn’t come home that night.
They rushed him to Lola’s hospital, his shirt in tatters and blood was everywhere. The people who came with him told Lola that Tito was in the middle of the demonstration when the police opened fire.
Lola never left Tito’s bedside, and gave everything she had to try to revive Tito. When the doctor pronounced him dead, there was blood all over Lola.
Mama said Lola tried to wash her hands, but there was always Tito’s blood in them.
So Lola always washes her hands, and Mama and Papa lets her be. In the middle of dinner she would say, “Ay anak, pasensya na… madumi pa ang kamay ko…” Mama and Papa would look at each other but Mama would help.
Mama and Papa also try to avoid talking about the news when Lola is around. They turn off the TV when Lola goes to the sala. But every so often, Papa would come home and complain about the news he heard from his friends with Lola there. Mama would get so worried, but Lola would just smile and say, “’Ku, anak, ipagpray na lang natin yan.”
But Lola never stopped washing her hands.