The 78-year-old Mancuyas, Tita Naty or simply Mommy to diners, was a constant and calming presence at the Frazzled Cook.
Although she wasn’t an employee of the restaurant, Mommy, a retired dentist, whiled away the time greeting guests and making sure they felt welcome and comfortable as she waited for her two sons, Boy and Jude, to do their work.
Boy is the restaurant’s maître d, while younger brother Jude, a good friend of mine, is the head cook and overall creative director of the place.
Chic and soft-spoken
Mommy passed away in the wee hours of November 5 from an apparent stroke. What made the news of her death all the more sudden and unexpected was the fact that she was her usual chic and soft-spoken self as she greeted the Frazzled Cook’s Sunday evening crowd just hours before.
“She was complaining of a migraine in the afternoon,” said Jude. “I thought it was just the usual headache. After I gave her Flanax, she was up and about in no time. She even attended early evening Mass with her friends.”
Mommy, whose remains lie in state at Loyola Memorial Chapels in Guadalupe, will be cremated this Saturday, November 10. Whether in life or in death, she remains as fashionable as ever in a sleeveless coral dress by Emanuel Ungaro worn under an embroidered and see-through Vivienne Tam ecru blouse.
Of course, Jude, who inherited the lion’s share of Mommy’s fashionable gene, had a hand in choosing her going-away outfit, including accessorizing her with a pair of rectangular-shaped eyeglasses and emerald-cut diamond earrings.
Blessed with slim, relatively firm arms even during her senior years, Mommy never felt ill at ease wearing sleeveless numbers that would instantly make not a few women half her age self-conscious. As for the glasses, it was one accessory she seldom left home without.
“She always complained that no one seemed to recognize her without her trademark glasses,” said Jude. “I was actually looking for her bangaw glasses (Jackie O-style), but I couldn’t find them.”
But Jude would never do anything that Mommy wouldn’t, pardon the pun, want herself to be caught dead wearing. She now joins husband Dave and eldest daughter Davelyn, whom I’ve had the privilege of knowing, in the ultimate after-party event in the Skyroom.
While Jude was rummaging through her things recently, he chanced upon one of Mommy’s hand-written notes that proved how proper, orderly and prescient she was until the very end.
Written on the note is a list of friends and relatives she wants invited to her wake, with yours truly occupying the 12th spot. Did she foresee her impending death? If that were a list to some beauty contest, I would have made it as one of the 12 semifinalists.
Cecile Zamora van Straten, a.k.a. Chuvaness, also a friend of mine, is second on the list. Since she and Jude also go back a long way, Cecile also knew Mommy fairly well.
I don’t know about Cecile, but I’m devoid of any talent when it comes to seeing dead people. But knowing how calming Mommy’s presence was, I probably wouldn’t mind getting a visit from her. In fact, I’m deeply honored to be included in her list.
Jude’s high school friends, including myself, paid our last respects to the lady two evenings ago. Jude, who happens to be very close to his mom, was probably hurting more than he would want to let on. It’s so typical of Jude, really. 😉
“My only consolation is she didn’t suffer much,” he said. “She was spared of the pain most people with a lingering illness go through.”
Whenever an old timer passes away, I’m always reminded of my folks, who, despite suffering from a host of age-related health issues and unexplainable bodily aches (real or imagined), are still with us today.
Since nothing is really given to us without an attendant flipside, having your folks around in the twilight of their years is both a blessing and a curse.
It’s a blessing, of course, because, in spite of their age, they’re still able to, especially in my Dad’s case, give my two US-based siblings and me sound advice. Their presence also provides us with an assurance, no matter how tenuous, that life as we’ve come to define it remains somewhat unchanged.
While living with them, you also gain a better appreciation of life and its numerous unsolved riddles and unexplained mysteries as you yourself metamorphose. In plain speak, as they age, so do you.
Let’s face it. Even if you were a so-called menopause baby, you could never succeed in passing yourself off as a 20-something lost soul trying to find your place in the universe once your folks, especially your mom, hit their 80s. Sooner or later, other people are bound to deduce your actual age range once they start doing the math.
As an aside, I was once reminded of a publicist who seemed extremely proud of her dad’s accomplishments as a pioneer and veteran PR man.
She kept on yapping over lunch about how sharp and active he still was despite having spent decades in the business and outliving most of his contemporaries. But when I asked her point blank how old her dad was, she suddenly turned coy and told me that it was “confidential.” Putting her on the spot was farthest from my mind. But once you (or someone close to you) reach a certain age, shouldn’t you view the milestone as an accomplishment and badge of honor by declaring it to the world?
“He’s in his 70s,” she said vaguely before looking away.
But when I myself did the math based on the daughter’s story, the old man could very well be in his early 80s. It was only then that it hit me that she was probably more concerned about not revealing her age than she was about her dad’s. 😀
At the same time, it can also be quite painful to see your parents grow old and diminished physically and mentally right before your eyes.
Despite a wellspring of resources and goodwill, not that I have limited amounts of both, you can only do so much to alleviate your parents’ miseries.
Reduced to acceptance
Apart from merely reacting to certain health issues that might suddenly crop up concerning your parents, you’re eventually reduced to accepting various outcomes because there are certain things, which, despite your best efforts, you have no control over. At the end of the day, you’re as helpless as they are. Sooner rather than later, you’ll find yourself face to face with the inevitable by seeing them go.
Natividad Mancuyas, I wonder what would have happened had you reached the ripe old age of 80 in good health. Had you been given the chance to throw a party to celebrate that milestone, would you still end up jotting down my name on your guest list?
Well, it doesn’t matter anymore. Being ranked 12th on your list of people to send you off is good enough for me. May you rest in peace with the Lord as you revel in the company of dearly departed friends and loved ones.