An Ode to My 90-Year Old Mother

The author with his 90-year-old mother, Pitang


Saturnino P. Javier, MD, FPCP, FPCC, FACC

Dr. Saturnino P. Javier is an interventional cardiologist at Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital and Medical Center. He is a past president of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) and past editor of PHA’s Newsbriefs

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She definitely could not walk without a walker or a cane anymore. She now needs to be assisted in her ambulation. She resists traveling far. She refuses eating out – preferring to enjoy home-cooked food – preferably fish and vegetables – served with a small plate of dessert mandatorily. She can recite all usual afternoon telenovelas and name the usual actors and characters in these shows. She can be charmingly stubborn (do not even bother to tell her what to wear on any formal occasion because you will fail – miserably).

The women of the Javier family

Now all of 90 years, she thankfully remains cognitively sharp – instantly reminding me to be hopeful that I remain as sharp as she is if I am blessed to reach 80 or 90. (The running joke in the family is that the best gauge of her mental astuteness is that she still remembers who owes her what and how much.)

That she has reached 90 – with no major hospitalization for any natural illness (though she had a forearm fracture sustained from a bad fall more than two decades ago) is certainly a milestone that the entire family is eternally grateful for. After all, not many people are blessed with longevity this far, or this health this enviable. Her cholesterol level is below normal, her blood sugar is within acceptable range and her blood pressure is a delicious 120/80 mm Hg – with no maintenance medications on board.

The 90-year old celebrant with the author, Melinda (standing), Angelita (seated, L) and Romeo (seated, R)

Along with my other siblings, I always view each day as a blessing – a veritable bonus for a journey that has lasted this long. I am constantly in awe of the gift of life that the Almighty has bestowed on her – like other patients of mine who have reached the big 9-0.

This May 2019, we celebrated her ninety years with a special luau-themed gathering of relatives and friends in Tanauan City. With my California-based sister Melinda and nephew Richard (with wife Jean and son JJ), along with my Canada-based sister Angelita and husband Delmo, the thanksgiving luncheon sought to share with everyone this great fortune that our family has been blessed with. The festive celebration certainly created memorable fun-filled moments, along with some painful reminders – mostly captured by my sister’s – “We wished Tatay was still with us.” (He passed away more than 30 years ago.)

A light moment with the 90-year old celebrant

Starting a family life with very modest beginnings – a small store then a restaurant with some other small businesses on the side, my mother and father had to work hard to send us to private schools and Metro Manila colleges. In the last several decades, life certainly had been kinder to my mother – initially spending years in Toronto, Canada and Union City, California before deciding to return home when the winter cold of the Western hemisphere was too much to bear – particularly the subzero temperatures of Toronto.

The blessings we have reaped for ourselves – thanks to the hard work of my parents – have extended to our own brood. Our own children somehow enjoy more comfortable lives than what we had for ourselves. Our fulfilling careers – painstakingly crafted and passionately driven by our parents – have ushered in comforts, not only for us, but for our children as well.

My mother, Pitang, as she is fondly called, is not the average, timid, soft spoken type of wife one would usually associate with a provincial lass. While my father is the more cautious, systematic, fact-based, numbers-guided type of entrepreneur – depending so much on keenly analytical projections and calculations, my mom is the risk-taker, the opportunity-seeker, the challengetaker. My mother is more dependent on gut feel, street smarts and pragmatic expectations. Throw her in an island and I am sure she will find a way to survive. Feisty and strong, Pitang will willingly explore unchartered territories.

The Javier brood (partial) with Pitang

Two days after her birthday celebration, in a dinner gathering that also served as despedida for my sister Lita and husband Delmo who would then fly back to Canada the day after, my sister-in-law Flora aptly stated in her remarks that the best proof of how worthwhile my mother’s life was could be gleaned from the real-life paths that all of us, her children, have taken – the lives we live, the stories we tell, the choice we make, the successes we reap or the falls we make and eventually rise from.

We wish Pitang many, many more years. Cheers to my 90-year old Mom.

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