My 52nd First Day
Today is the 52nd day of my first day. It is also my fourth First Day. Because I almost died four times.
I was set down in a cold hospital bed that had my mom’s body which spurred warmth to my life. I barely had no knowledge about all these. Thinking about it now gives me a sense of bewilderment.
It was perhaps on my fourth birthday that I can remember my earliest birthday. It was because I got lost.
I remember standing amongst the June grass that were taller than me. And I was terrified. It was not because of the grass, but of the thorns of the roses that enmeshed me. I strayed a bit far from our house (where the Toyota Display Center going Bokawkan road now stands) and I fell into a swamp (now Loro St. at Dizon Subd.).
Fear drove me and I scampered but ran right through thorny rose jungle. Each thorn was knife-edged, cutting through my skin. The more desperate I struggled, the deeper the thorns dug in and the more thorns stabbed me cruelly. Each torn tattooed my skin wickedly. Fear and tears engulfed me. I did not know how I squeezed through the bushes but I was a bloody mess, I was told.
I was lost and didn’t know where to move. The swamp was alive with grasshoppers that chattered but I was too afraid to appreciate. The ground was rank with odors of roots and nettles. Snow clouds of elder blossom banked in the sky showering upon me the wet sunlight that flaked my giddy thorny suffocation.
For the first time in my life, I was out of sight of humans. For the first time in my life I was alone in a world whose behavior I could neither predict nor fathom; a world of plants that seemed terrifying and of animals and birds’ sounds more scary than my grandpa’s voice. I remember the insects that sprang about without warning, the leeches clinging on my legs for their dear lives and choking on the foul water I drank as I crawled out of the waterhole.
From this daylight nightmare I was awakened, as from many other, by my great grandmother Mad-an. She came out from nowhere, scrambling and calling up the steep rough bank, as she parted the reeds to find me. Her familiar, kind, living, huge face appeared almost like a light in the midst of darkness. Her broken white teeth and gentle scolding and affection brushed off the terror.
I felt saved.
It was not my great Lola Mad-an’s last effort to save me. When I was twice that age, I seriously fell ill of meningitis. It was the first time I almost died. I was in coma for a week and the doctors at Pines City Doctors’ Hospital told my mom to bring me home for I was already dead. I could see my soul floating on marshmallow clouds and down below my mom, uncle and sisters wept over my dying body. Further away, I could see my great Lola Mad-an in the creek where I daily fetch water. She was calling out my name, asking me to come home with her. I called to her that I was up on the clouds. She turned her face up the sky and begged me to come back.
While all this was subconsciously happening to my mind and soul, a certain Dra. Claridad stuffed a metal tube in my skull and patiently drained-off the fluid from the meninges.
I was told she saved my life.
I believe she did, with my great lola’s pleas, my family’s prayer, all due to the mercy of God.