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Love that Lasts a Lifetime

I never got to meet my father-in-law, but I did meet his parents, my wife’s grandparents.

Lolo Ando Buzeta was born in 1919 to the first licensed pharmacist in Taal, Batangas. Lola Glicing Buzeta (nee Medina) was born in 1921 to a clan proud of its relationship to the national hero, Jose Rizal. (At least we think she was born in 1921. Lola used to say that her records were lost to memory and no one ever bothered to figure it out for sure.)

They grew up next to one another on the narrow streets of Taal, Batangas, their ancestral homes separated only by a small 18th century chapel. The chapel is a small affair, constructed by a family in the area, and has since seen its fair share of processions, novenas, pabasa, Santacruzans, and Reyna Elenas. It is but a shadow of the town basilica, but its walls kept mute witness to the affections Lolo had for Lola for twenty years.

Then, the great war came.

Lolo joined the war when the Japanese came. He was there when Corregidor fell. We know he was fighting a bad case of malaria on top of all the other hurts.

We know this only because Lolo was one of two Taaleños who lived to tell about the Death March. He assimilated into the civilian population and made his way on foot back to Taal, half dead from malaria.

As I later heard it from Lola, he returned to her. Lola was always one for romantic gestures.

After the war, and when normal life resumed, Lola went to Manila to finish her degree in English. Lolo followed, preparing for his own career teaching FEATI students physical fitness. Still, the conventions of the day meant Lolo and Lola needed to elope before their relationship went anywhere.

So, with the "blessing" of Lola's mother, Lola and Lolo "eloped" in their late twenties.

It took a few years for Tita Yay to come, and my father-in-law, Alejandro, arrived a year later in 1953. Much later, Tito Auggie and Tito Tony came and completed the picture in 1957 and 1961. The family of six eventually settled in a more modest area of Makati, putting all of their children through college. Two became dentists; one became a banker; another an entrepreneur.

When their children had their own children, Lolo and Lola had some of their grandchildren be with them. While it made for cramped living conditions, it was a time of laughter and mirth.

Happy days were here to stay. Or so, it seemed.

My father-in-law died on a January morning in 1992. He was shot as a the neighborhood pharmacy was being stripped of its earnings.

I imagine that Lola took his loss the worst. The day after the shooting, her hair took on its first streak of white.

Lola's tremors began not that long after. Lola could still move about but it was clear that Parkinson's was making slow progress.

Still, the disease progressed slow enough that Lola could get by with Lolo helping her about.

In an attempt to put the pains of the recent past behind them, Lolo and Lola moved the entire family to Parañaque to be closer to Tita Yay.

They designed the Parañaque house so that each family had its own space and place. For their needs, they chose a room on the ground floor, near the door. From here, Lolo had easy access to the kitchen, where he prepared their food, laced with Lola's prescription medication.

Through the march of time, Lolo kept taciturn; he never spoke nill of the disease before their children and their grandchildren.

One could see that it was physically tough for Lolo to keep on going but I always saw him with a smile on his face.

Having Lolo take care of Lola and her Parkinson's certainly did not come without its troubles. Lola got sent to hospital many times, for ailments and complications that afflict the elderly.

Each time, Lolo remained by Lola's bedside, without complaint.

Parkinson's is a relentless disease. Like other motor neuron diseases it can stay at a certain level for some time and then rapidly progress. Even with all of Lolo's love and care, the time came for Lola to be put into a hospital bed.

Over the course of the next few years, Lola had some close calls, but she managed to pull through. These close calls meant some worrying hospital visits. Lolo kept vigil most nights, and we all took turns as we spelled him from time to time.

After one rough night in 2002, the hitherto invincible Lolo Dardo suffered a stroke. As Lola convalesced at home, we kept news of their conditions separate from one another.

What was once one hospital bed became two. Tito Tony, being the youngest, took upon himself the mantle of primary caregiver.

By the time I married my wife in 2003, both Lolo and Lola were too ill for the physical demands of the social niceties of a wedding.

Parkinson's had taken away so much from Lola, and the doctors had told us it would take some time before Lolo Dardo could return to his former self, before the stroke.

Lola passed away a week after our wedding, in May 2003. Complications from Parkinson's dealt the final blow.

Lolo was asleep when it happened. Lola breathed her last, and she was wheeled out of their room and brought to the morgue. Tito Tony and I were waiting for her as her remains were wheeled into the mortician's office.

Lolo and Lola wanted to be cremated, so that their ashes could be mixed when they both left the mortal plane; they left verbal instructions to that effect. However, her more steadfastly devout Catholic siblings prevailed, and she was interred and buried unscathed in the Medina-Mercado mausoleum in Taal.

From time to time, Lolo Dardo would ask about Lola and her whereabouts, but we did as best we could to keep Lolo in the dark. We told him Lola was in the hospital. Still, it became clear to him that Lola was gone.

Disconsolate, Lolo refused to eat. He kept still, mostly, but from time to time asked where Lola was. Each time we stuck to the script.

By October 2014, ten months after Lola passed, he joined her with the Creator, dying of a broken heart.

Lolo's siblings were not as opposed to the idea of a cremation, and they kept his wishes. 

It was in an urn that Lolo finally came to see Lola in her crypt. For years, Lolo's ashes were kept at the mausoleum altar. In death, as in life, Lolo had to wait to be with his love.

Finally, after the requisite period for persons to be interred together came to pass, the hammers came to open Lola's crypt. I don't imagine either Lolo and Lola took any mind; after more than eight decades, they were finally complete.