Thanks For Your Help
All her belongings fitted into a suitcase and a small carry-on bag.
After 18 years, my helper was going home for good.
During those years, not a dime ever went missing in the various apartments we’ve called home, she waged daily war with the invading dust, soot and dirt spawned by the city, and my son went from a yawning little squiggle in cute swaddling clothes to a self-absorbed teenager.
The first time he was in a school play, aged 6, we took her to see the performance. After he came out on stage, I happened to look over at her. There were tears on her face.
Her cooking never quite reached the heights we hoped for, and she had her crusty moods that made us wonder who was working for whom. But she did her job religiously.
She scrimped and saved for us. Somebody had to be the house scrooge if her employers didn’t know the value of a dollar! We did, but that wasn't the way she saw it. In secret, she must have shaken her head a hundred times at our ‘extravagance'.
She never married, and almost all the money she’s made over the years has gone to building a modest family house back in the Philippines for her parents.
On her last night with us, we took her out to dinner. She ate little, ill at ease at a restaurant where a meal could easily cost half of her monthly salary.
After dinner, we forced-marched her to a Swatch shop to get her a farewell gift. In front of the displays, she kept mumbling, “Too expensive.” So we picked one out for her, something with a white dial and beige strap.
“This is nice! Stylish and young!” we all chimed in.
“But I’m not young,” she said softly.
In the end, she chose something subdued with a gray dial.
Early the next morning, we went out to the airport with her.
She checked in her bags, and we chatted for a while, taking pictures with our phones. Then it was time to say goodbye.
She hugged each of us, fighting uselessly to hold back the tears. It was the first time I'd hugged her. My wife was doing her best impression of a brave face, which might have worked if it hadn’t dissolved into a gush of tears at the last moment, while my son stood by stolidly, having cried once already a few days ago over the imminent departure of his ‘half mother’, much to his embarrassment.
She kept waving at us on her way into the restricted zone, her face flushed and blotchy.
Then she was gone.
She’d earned her retirement, and we were happy for her that she was finally going home.
We’d just have to deal with losing family.
Copyright © Bernard Chan | Year Posted 2017