One of the hardest part of loosing Nan is perhaps filling his shoes. It’s just too big for my 5 inch feet. When he passed away, I am suddenly thrusted with  all these responsibilities that I made myself believe that he and only he alone  can do.  I am Your Highness, The Queen, and The Master no more. The girl who used to spend her free time stretched out lazily in the sofa with her feet  propped up high in front of the telly happily watching an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians or some other reality flicks now finds herself dog tired and just about ready to collapse in bed every night. So next time you see me and notices the few extra weight I’ve lost, please be polite not to mention it, its not because I went on a crash diet or been too depressed to eat, it’s actually because  my muscles and bones are now hard at work. In tagalog, nagbabanat nako ng buto ngayon! Tapos na ang maliligayang araw ko at hanggang dito sa lupa naririnig ko si Nan na humahagalpak sa tawa  sa langit.
Anyway, the most difficult among the thousand tasks that I have to do now is driving and maintaining the car. It has been giving me so much stress (read: pimples. I wasn’t born to love driving I guess, I was born to be the pain-in-the ass passenger, and man! was I good at it when Nan was alive. Anyway, since I now value every peso even the 5 and 10 centavos, I had to ditch the driver which I had for only about three weeks (who am I kidding, I am no rich kid) and take over the steering wheel. Last time I drove was five years ago and I used to bribe Nan everyday before with a promise of a full night of passion just so he would drive us till at the gate of Ayala Alabang Village where I would take over and try not to crash the car until I reach my parking space in Woodrose (which is in sort of like an open field). So technically it wasn’t really professional or even non-professional driving, it was only student driving.
Anyway, of course when you drive you have to learn the tricks of the trade right. I noticed before how Nan and the other drivers seem to communicate perfectly  just by flicking the lights . I find it rather cool actually but never really tried it before. And so I asked my good friends at work how to do it, and they just said you just flick this stick behind the steering wheel. So one day when on the road, a car did “The Flick” to me, and so I had to flick back right? Excitedly I flick the stick behind the steering wheel, and ‘lo and behold, water squirted out and the wiper came woooshing back and forth, I flicked the wrong one. And you know, this little monster beside me a.k.a my daughter just had to let out a loud guffaw. I had to redeem myself so I practiced and practiced until I was ready to do it to other drivers. I was waiting for the perfect moment to strike and when it did, I flicked perfectly, at every car turning, every person crossing, and every jeep in my wat that the little monster beside me had to shout, “Come on!” and “What the heck!” all in one breath.  Next time you see me on the road, please please respond to my flick.
One of the tiring part of maintaining the car was of course cleaning it. I never really understood why Nan had to clean the car everyday, I do now. Dirty car is a sight for sore eyes especially if you are the one driving it and you happen to be a girl. I don’t want to see the look in people’s eyes when I step down from my dirty car and hear people whisper behind my back, “Ay yan yung balo, depress sya dipa sya makapaglinis ng sasakyan.” And so I went to Ace Hardware and bought myself  those chamois rug thingy that absorbs water and some tire black. I refuse to use Nan’s old ones, I want my armory new. I did manage it to clean it good the first time. I was so proud of myself. I have watched Nan a hundred times before that I got it  right on the spot. Oh well, except for the tire black. Okay I didn’t know you have to apply it using a sponge. The first time I applied it on my tires, I used a rag and they looked like they’ve were peed on by dogs and not like brand new looking tires. It didn’t help also that the birds like to poop on my car after I cleaned it. I can’t understand why of all the cable wire hanging in our street, they like to stand and hang out on the one that is directly on top of my parking space.  I did try to move the car  a little a couple of times to avoid getting shot by bird poops, but somehow they still manage to do it. Among the 6 cars parked in our streets, mine was the only one getting bird poops everyday. Why these birds like to do that to me is beyond me.
I’d like to believe that I am getting rather good at driving everyday day though. I have managed to  avoid running over the traffic enforcer in the middle of the road by a hair line, stopped the gas man just in time before he pour the unleaded since I forgot to say diesel, park the car decently in front of our house everyday without having to go down and check (okay, well not as often as I used to now), bring the car to the autoshop for oil change (good thing I was able to track down Nan’s patient mechanic, if it would have been another one, he would have just about pull his hair in frustration with my no-brainer-car-related-duh questions) and expertly avoid getting a ticket for coding by waiting surreptiously at the corner before I make a turn where the traffic enforcers are. I’ve mastered the trick of waiting and trailing closely behind cars with the same number codes as mine (it never fails, they get flagged down while I speed away). I have also proudly avoided ramming the car in my front and at my back the first time I tried squeezing in between two cars to park (I saw the drivers of the cars run in panic though and laughed at their helpless expression as I do my trial and error parking thing). I also can drive now with the radio/ipod on unlike the first week I went back to driving where I want nothing but complete silence lest I loose my concentration. I also don’t hang on to the steering wheel for dear life and has allowed myself to adjust the seat a little far back and relax while driving.
For the longest time, driving or anything remotely close to is has been at the top list of  my greatest fears. Loosing Nan has forced me to face this fear. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be, it is still my number one stressor but I think I can really do this now. I know he would have been proud of me, he even told his friends a week before he died, “Yung misis ko mas matindi magmaneho sa akin yon, sya na nga magdadala nito e (referring to our car and me, e hello ako lang naman misis nya e so ako yon diba).”  He had so much faith in my driving capabilities that I really wouldn’t want to let him down. If Nan knew that he was going to die that day, I am sure he would have told me all the tips and tricks he knew about driving but as it is he himself didn’t know so I am left to discover them on my own.
There’s this one road that I have been avoiding to take because it suddenly slopes up way too high, a climb as Nan and I would call it.  I have been avoiding it.  I have been so afraid to take it because it is steep, sharp and you can’t see way beyond it ( yes it is that high). I always hold my breath everytime Nan drives up to it before and he always executes it perfectly. I guess that somehow explains most of what I am feeling now, I am so afraid of so many things because I can’t see beyond them since my compass, my Nan, is now gone. Last Dec. 27, I decided to take the climb to  finally put an end to my misery since I know at some point I have to muster the courage to take it. I simply can’t avoid it forever. And so With Bianca beside me, and my mom at the back, I hit the accelerator, did some magic with the clutch, and took the climb. And surprise surprise, I did it, I actually did it. It wasn’t as high as I thought it was and it wasn’t as hard as it seems.  When I managed to get us to the top, we were so relieved, happy, and jubilant that we all shouted while raising our fists in the air, “Wooohoooo!” And oh, I also did manage to grab the steering wheel just in time before it hit the tricycle on the opposite lane. I have to remember that I am not supposed to let go of the steering wheel especially during moments of extreme excitement.
I think, I really am driving myself nuts.

About Me

I am better known as Nan’s widow, Bianca Angela’s mom, and Woodrose’s Mrs. Dela Cruz.  I am a full time teacher and mentor, a freelance writer for various print and online publications, a marathoner, and a curator of inspiring faith stories.
I am also the author of the best selling book, Grace Upon Grace: A widow’s journey.:)


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