At 93, this mother, Ma. Lourdes de Leon, M.D., is free from the constraints and burdens of maintenance medications. She has not had one. Ever
Ma. Lourdes de Leon, M.D. is a lady currently enjoying a healthy life at 93. Oh yes, every bit in fine feather as she is fortunate to have descended from an ancestry of top-notch genes. Despite never having indulged in any form of movement, sports or fitness, yet conversely indulging in food she fancies whenever, she is free from the constraints and burdens of maintenance medications. She has not had one. Ever.
She goes by different names, always Mommy to my siblings and me. Her nicknames grew in number as her circle got wider: Lour to all those she shared her childhood with, Dra. to medical technicians she worked with, (Tita) Lourdes to nephews and nieces, Malou to colleagues and close friends, and plain Lou(Lou) to those even closer. Her name is ever evolving.
Lou, I’d like to call her that just for now, is mostly quiet and soft-spoken around people, sweet, composed, and giggly when addressed, but excitable when sharing a fancy meal and ice cream with family and happiest and energetic when it is done out. She misses this weekend exercise, but she understands today’s regrettable circumstance enough to settle for at-home dining.
It may be hard to imagine that she was stern in her younger years. She was the disciplinarian and my dad, the spoiler. Spending much of my pubescent days by her side was, in hindsight, surely some sort of premature covert training for my upcoming adulthood. I slept beside her in bed for most of my school life and the proximity made me a prime target for frantic rousing each morning—with threats of how I and my brothers would be late for school because of my sluggish ways, never mind that my brothers were terribly slower. I always arrived at school early, with more than enough time to spare before the flag ceremony began, but by then I would be a complete nervous wreck. This perhaps explains my strong compulsion to be punctual for work with a little lead time to decompress before engaging in the actual grind. She showed me how to prepare my things for school, how to cover my books and notebooks using recycled medical journal pages first then plastic on top, executing the task with much precision, then finishing with lines and corners that were beyond clean and neat.
Like many daughters, I had convincing thoughts as a young child that my mom and I couldn’t be more different. Yet, indeed, we become our mothers. And I say, yes, I have—and I couldn’t be prouder.
Similar was the technique for gift wrapping, which requires clear cut folds on each of the box’s edge, created by a sliding pinch between thumb and forefinger—her trick to making it look perfect. It always needs to be done well and right. So yes, my eye for detail and proclivity to anality started with this annual practice of providing protective coatings for my personal educational arsenal while she, of course, worked on my brothers’ stockpile.
Mom was a devoted conservationist long before the concept was in vogue. Well, Dad, too. Reducing, recycling, reusing. The idea of it all had been all too familiar to us since childhood. To never be wasteful was a strict ordinance from our higher ups surrounding food, electricity, clothing, and other everyday items that each of us would use and consume, especially gas! We all had to plan our “tomorrow” collectively through efficient coordination. My parents had to do grocery shopping once in Greenhills, a 10-minute drive away, at mid-morning where I had a planned meetup with friends as well. It was determined that I best drive down with them, even if my appointment was not till late afternoon. It was an important lesson on mindful consumption, sacrifice, and compromise.
I am the youngest in a brood of four, you see. That explains why I had more hours with my parents than any of my siblings. Up until my early college years, when all others were done, I spent many mornings with them on the daily drive to Mom’s clinic and my school thereafter. Each day in transit I watched them pray the rosary, a fealty I carry to this day, one that gives me much solace, comfort, and hope. Such memories of many happy days! Those countless moments in prayer, most especially to the Virgin Mother of Lourdes, after whom we were named (yes, I am Maria Lourdes, too!), will continue being upheld as a true and sincere devotion in my family.
Sabina, my eldest and only daughter, observes that I am very much like Nona (here’s another of mom’s names), expressions, mannerisms, and all. My husband, meanwhile, proudly admits that, in our dating days, my mom sealed his decision to propose and commit. Liking what he saw in Mom, he predicted I would be like that one day.
Like many daughters, I had convincing thoughts as a young child that my mom and I couldn’t be more different. I imagined many ways to deviate from her mien and approach to various situations. Yet despite protestations, for one reason or another, many will argue that we indeed become our mother. And to that I say, yes, I have, and I couldn’t be prouder.