My Grandmother Lolita on International Women's DayFriday, March 08, 2019
|Dolores Reyes de Irureta Goyena - Madrid 1916|
In my almost 77 years of existence I have been lucky to have met three feminists. One was my mother, Filomena, another my grandmother Lolita and the third my wife Rosemary.
I have written about them many times. Here are two citations on my abuelita.
Abuelita and elephants
Abuelita and Manila mangoes
It was my mother who so often told me that I would never understand as I would never be a mother. I felt left out. It was only after she died that it came to me that I could have countered, "Mother you will never understand because you will never be a father." By then I was a father of two.
But it is my grandmother who has been in my thoughts today. She was a young widow with three children in a Manila of the early 20s. Her "only" talent was a wonderful coloratura soprano voice. She could not be an opera star in the Philippines as opera stars were seen as prostitutes. She left in the early 20s with her three children to the Bronx and worked as a typist for Sydney Ross. She became a fast typist and a competent stenographer. She left it to my mother, who was 12, to handle the finances and to buy the food. By 1950, after abruptly leaving NY before the stock market crash for Manila and then to leave before the WWII began, in Buenos Aires she secured a job as a diplomat in the Philippine Ministry (not yet an embassy).
This woman, who then revealed her talent for painting, became my ally as she informed my mother that I, too was an artist and that more indulgence and less discipline was needed to raise me.
My mother was a busy teacher trying to make ends meet so my abuelita virtually educated me. She never told me not to do this or that. Her approach was, "If you do this the consequences will be these." Unknown to me at the time she would use Sancho Panza refrains from the Quixote which have been seared in my brain. She taught me about opera and music and with smiles told me about the wonders of Goya, Zurbarán and Murillo.
Whatever it is that I am today I have to thank my mother, grandmother and my Rosemary who takes all the unwarranted fits of temper of this "so called artist" in stride, with patience and equanimity.
I have no idea how my Rosemary inherited all those qualities that my mother and grandmother had in spades.