Tuesday, December 31, 2013

...


From my sister:
"I've lived much of my life in some form or fashion with my aunt. Most of the people who have ever been to my house in L.A. or here have met her. It's why we called her "Auntie" without a name attached, because most of the time that's who we were referring to, so the "Rosie" just seemed superfluous. When I was a baby, my parents sent me to the Philippines for a couple of years and she was the one who took care of me. I have pictures of myself, almost completely bald, with rollers in my few strands of hair and her laughing in the background. As young children, my sister Leah and I would spend hours in Auntie's bedroom by the living room, doing what kids do, asking questions, talking about nonsense, wheedling her for money, trying on shoes and jewelry, asking more questions. She'd ask me to pull out her white hairs with a tweezer, and I'd charge her rates that were essentially highway robbery ($1 per hair). It was a pretty lucrative gig for an 8-year-old.

Auntie drove me to the mall when I couldn't get anyone else to do it, took me shopping with her at the smelly stores in Chinatown, tried to get me Christmas gifts I actually wanted, and made my Halloween costumes. I assume it's not easy to make a Cheetara costume when you have no idea who she is and what she looks like, and Google doesn't exist because it's 1985, but she did it.

I realize now that there are numerous instances in my life when I was freaking out about needing something and Auntie was there, giving it to me. When I was 15, I for some reason entered a beauty pageant and forgot about it, then the night before realized I didn't have a dress to compete in, so she brought one home. When I was 16, I decided I had to have my friend's mom do my make-up for prom even though she was all the way across town, so she raced me over. When I was 22 and getting married for the first time, there was an issue with the catering hall during the reception that I almost lost my shit over, and she handled it. When I was 26, the girls were 3 months old and I was exhausted all the time, and she moved across the country the week after I called. Just a month ago, at the hospice, she saved the ice cream from her meal because she thought the girls might want it.

In the second part of our lives together, Auntie and I clashed all the time. We're both stubborn, not afraid to voice unpopular opinions, and have clear cut ideas about how things should be. So fireworks would erupt when our two roads diverged. But after she got sick that changed for the most part. Not just because she was sick, and what kind of jerk fights with someone who has cancer, but mainly because it illuminated how ridiculous most of the things are that people think matter. I flipped out once because she randomly gave the twins bangs when they were 2. Today, I'd hand her the scissors and say "Go to town."

There was such grace and dignity in her fight, despite the indignities that come with a terminal illness. She had breast cancer that had spread to the lungs, liver, skin, brain, spine, reproductive system, everywhere, and she rarely complained about the pain. She battled for six and a half years, undergoing surgeries and the most awful treatments ever, and still tried to take care of herself so that others wouldn't have to. If myself, Geo, or my mom had to take care of her in any way she'd apologize the entire time. She fought to the end, that one warrior facing the horde, even when the doctors told her there was no hope. A lot of the time, when she'd be relaying what her oncologist said about her worsening condition, I'd get the feeling she was actually trying to let me down easy. I feel like on the day she died, she was still just thinking of others, knowing that if she passed away when I wasn't there, I'd hate myself for the rest of my life. So she waited until she felt my hand in hers, then let go.

So anyway, I hope you all got a sense of the woman I loved even more than I myself knew. She wasn't perfect, but she was real. Happy first birthday in heaven Auntie, and thank you for everything you've ever done my entire life. I hope you're celebrating with Lolo and Lola, and know how much we miss you and your smile."