I was warned. It was Friday, and payday, and the day after Valentine’s. But I had this long-standing dinner date with friends from New York and couldn’t miss it.
It took three and a half hours from Alabang to Makati. We were stuck on the Skyway for half of that time. There was no way out and it was impossible to turn around.
It was even worse when we finally exited the Buendia off-ramp. Waze kept rerouting us in and out of side streets and making no progress. Grrrr.
In the meantime, we were surrounded by motorcycles, tricycles and hordes of people risking life and limb as they darted between the vehicles just trying to get home. And they were smiling. But here I was in a comfortable air-conditioned van, munching crackers and listening to soft music. Grumbling. I felt like a spoiled brat.
Dinner at Caruso was good, as expected. But we were harassed and starving. My companions were all nursing or getting over a cold and it’s all I could do to stay at arm’s length to avoid contamination. All anyone could talk about was the traffic. They ordered the best wine in the house and I quickly downed mine. I needed to calm my nerves. Besides the cardiologist sitting next to me said it was good for the heart.
My knees were a bit wobbly when I left the restaurant. I dreaded the long ride home. Thank God, it took us under 25 minutes door to door.
Early the next morning I got a phone call from one of my dearest friends. Her voice was breaking as she tried to tell me about a falling out with her son and his wife.
Before she even started giving me the gory details, I warned her: “Please don’t get involved! Stay out of it!” But she was not listening.
I have learned through the years that it is folly to give advice to a quarreling couple or to take sides, because when they kiss and make up, you end up the villain in the story. This is especially true if blood or law relates you to either protagonist.
I have often asked myself if mothers should speak up only when our advice is solicited. Or should we dare raise a red flag when we see a train wreck on its way? I intentionally stay away keeping in mind that no matter what you do, someone will call you meddlesome. And good intentions never count.
Anyway, my friend has been a supportive mother, involved with her son’s struggle up the corporate ladder, helpful and loving in every way. She has catered to their every need.
Except something went wrong with the couple’s vacation plans and the daughter-in-law blew a fuse. She was loud and said nasty things. Of course, the son heard about it.
Compelled to take sides, he told his mother to forget about the argument, that his wife had been stressed, and if only to keep the peace, “Mom, please just say ‘sorry’ to my wife.”
Sorry? For what? I was stunned. I seethed quietly for my bosom buddy. I was speechless for the moment.
When we talked again later that day, she tried to sound normal, almost upbeat.
I tried to picture myself in the same situation. And I realized that this friend of mine is a far better person than I could ever dream or hope to be.
Without a second thought, she had actually set her wounded heart aside in order to spare her son. She had accepted the disrespect and turned the other cheek. Her sister said it this way: She embraced the offense as part of her role as a mother.
I am in awe.
The following day I spoke to a few people about it. I got reactions quite similar to mine. One woman howled her displeasure: “The son should be whipped and flogged. That’s his mother, for goodness sake.”
But once again I need to ask mothers: Are we not overstepping our bounds? Could we perhaps be overstating our case? Is the respect we think we deserve and sometimes demand, really due us?
Someone traced the wife’s rude behavior to her family background. She was not raised right, I was told. “After all, like they say, home is where your story begins.”
Let me just say that one could be raised by a pack of wolves and still have finer instincts than this woman who seems to see nothing wrong with being abusive to the mother of the man she supposedly loves.
Besides, one learns, doesn’t one, as life goes on? Can she not picture herself, also a mother, someday being treated in the same manner by her own children?
I don’t know about you, but I am all for the whipping and flogging.
It has been a week but the incident still bothers me.
And I remember precious lines from “For One More Day,” by Mitch Albom; the story about a mother and her son and about the lessons he learns too late.
“It’s such a shame to waste time. We always think we have so much of it.
“Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time you thought they would be here forever?
“If so, then you know you can go your whole life collecting days and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.”
It happens. But only in the book.