"Mom, tell me about Hawaii and how you met Dad?"
There it was, point blank. I wanted to know the past, the past never talked
about. She sat silent; a tear welled up and zigzagged
down one wrinkled cheek.
"Please Mom, don't cry, I didn't mean to make you cry. Let's talk about something else. Do you need some help in the yard?"
Her face crinkled in concentration. She was struggling with memories, scabbed ones, now scraping them open. When she finally spoke she reverted to the Pidgin English of her Hawaiian origin.
"Okay, okay, I tell you. You must know. You must know your mother now. Not good, not good. It bad, very bad. You must not tell I was bad."
"Ha! Mom, you make me smile. I know you. You can't lie to your daughter, the daughter who always went to Mass with you. You’re not bad! You’re the goodliest!"
I thought she was going to tell me she was not a virgin when she married Dad or her and Dad never married. I repressed a smile thinking of how her bad would pale before mine.
"You never say what I say now. Very bad….. Rickie… he… he only…."
She fell silent needing a nudge to continue. My mind flashed to thinking she was struggling to say something about Rickie being killed in Vietnam, somehow twisting it into being her fault. I needed her to get over the Rickie bump to get her to tell me how she left Hawaii and met Dad.
"Mom there’s nothing you can say that would make me think less of you. I know you. I’m your daughter. Trust me. I have some sins. I'm not the goody daughter you think. Please tell me about Rickie and then how you met Dad"
"Rickie, Rickie, he, he is…. your..... half -brother."
It came as a whisper. Boom! It exploded in my ears. Out of nowhere came, half-brother?
We sat to let this sink in while I mulled over what would come next. Racing, no bouncing to and fro in my mind was.
Who the hell is Rickie's father?
Trying not to look shocked, I broke the silence.
"Mom, Mom, that's okay, I am glad you told me. You’re good, you’re wonderful. I love you. I love you more. Trust me, tell me how it happened."
The truth was my mind was in confusion. A basic fundamental precept of my family structure had just been swept aside. What else was to crumble? She struggled for words then began letting them flow, reverting more and more to pidgin, inserting Tagalog too. She stutter released the dam held back so many years.
"Hard, hard, me to say; hard me to tell you. Tatay, Ina from Philippines, work on pineapple company, Maui, we live Maui. War over…..
High price no more. Plantation now poor time, poor, very poor, we were… poor.
Nine of us Tatay, Ina and 7, me, like you, only girl.
We live in little house, 4 room house. House is on poles, bathroom outside.
I good girl. I help Ina, like you help me.
Tatay work hard but still owe money. We… always owe, store money.
Store man, …, China man, nice to me. Always give me sweet. ….. He yell at Tatay, want money owe.
I go to shop, buy spam for dinner…...