by Carmelita C. Ballesteros
Tio Primo, my father’s brother, was my last living uncle. He was 79 when he passed away on November 10, 2007. I don’t think he ever wrote a book nor planted a tree. But he had definitely assured himself of immortality with his fourteen children. In fact, he has scores of grandchildren and great, grandchildren.
Auntie Gloria, Tio Primo’s wife, is 80 years old today. She took care of Tio Primo who never fully recovered from a stroke for thirteen loooong years.
There are wives who always complain about their husbands, but not Auntie Gloria. And there are husbands who openly criticize their wives, but not Tio Primo. I never saw them argue nor hear about any argument between them.
There were, of course, many problems and many issues to resolve with such a huge family. They probably talked them over in private.
I have always marveled at Auntie Gloria’s fortitude. Giving birth to 14 children is a feat! What’s even more marvelous is that she has aged gracefully, elegantly, and with a quiet dignity.
Her hair has turned pure silver, but her eyes still sparkle like a child’s full of curiosity and joyous anticipation of simple things like hot pandesal.
It must have been an unshakeable faith in each other and in God’s providence which have kept Tio Primo and Auntie Gloria’s marriage solid as rock till the very end.
Other couples with fewer children always complain that they don’t have enough of this and that, but not Tio Primo and Auntie Gloria. I never heard them complain. And they always had enough. They were never rich but they were never in need.
It must have been Grace from Above which has kept their family together through all of life’s rollercoaster rides. All 14 children, kids-in-law, and the scores of grandkids and great, grandkids are alive!
All 14 children, kids-in-law, and the scores of grandkids and great, grandkids were at Tio Primo’s wake. Seven of the 14 children are Canadian citizens. Would all of them be able to make it to the wake and funeral? Would they even bother? They did.
The final wake was a riotous informal reunion among cousins, nephews, nieces, grandkids from this branch and that branch of the family, friends, and relatives from all over.
On the day we laid Tio Primo to his final resting place, we were worried that Auntie Gloria would weep, faint, collapse, have a heart attack, etc. But she was composed. Crying quietly, she stood in front of Tio Primo’s tomb until it was sealed.
It must have been love in the purest sense of the word that have kept Tio Primo and Auntie Gloria together through more than 50 years of marriage. When they took that vow on their wedding day, they must have meant it:
“… to have and to hold,
from this day forward,
for better or for worse,
for richer or for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish
until death do us part.”