Our hedgehog was dying.
It was one of the hottest days in Manila, right smack in the middle of summer. We usually don’t usually keep pets inside the house but we do keep them in a nice, clean and sheltered place in the corner of our backyard garden. Our nanny brought Sonic inside to keep him cooler. Yes, I am aware of the hilarity of the hedgehog’s name. By nightfall, we were made painfully aware of just how irresponsible pet owners we were. Sonic was now unmoving, not even curling up to a ball. The once vicious and angry hedgehog wasn’t making any fusses about being touched, poked and rubbed.
I immediately wet a towel and wrapped him up in it. I took him up to my room, turned the air conditioner at full blast in the coldest setting and the fan turned on. I was gingerly feeding him drops of cold water from my fingers while softly whispering “You’re going to be okay. I’m here. You’ll be fine.”
For a moment, I had an out of body experience. I saw myself, sat with legs akimbo, whispering to a wet and probably dying hedgehog while rocking him. It was hilarious until it wasn’t. I started crying. Silently at first, then with sobs until I was heaving. Why was I so emotional?! It’s a damn hedgehog that my boyfriend bought for the kids so that they’d like him. They liked him – the boyfriend. The hedgehog was another story.
Sonic was the runt of the litter. He was also the grumpiest. I thought he had character, so I got him. The kids were amazed when we took him home. That amazement quickly ran out when they realized that this pet was not a touchy feely one. Sonic would hiss and try to poke you if you even come at a fraction of a foot near his cage. This made mealtimes quite problematic. He was still part of the family so we put up with his grumpiness like how you would put up with a grumpy loved one. He would have his moments though, like when we would let him have free reign of the garden for a couple of minutes. He would go bonkers and then stop and look at us watching him, as if saying “Can I stay longer?”
And now, the stupid hedgehog was dying.
I was emotional because I was projecting.
My mother has lupus. She was finally diagnosed after she had something that was medically called a “major flare up”. A major flare up was shortness of breath, joint pain – the Harry Potter Crucio type of joint pain, headaches, high blood pressure, dizziness and water retention. She’s been displaying symptoms for a couple of years but the doctors really never correctly diagnosed it until this major flare up.
To be fair, she isn’t dying as quickly as the hedgehog. But there is something about being faced with the mortality of your parents that knocks the wind out of you. Especially if she is the only parent you’ve got.
Coming from a long line of strong willed women, my mother refuses to be the centre of attention and brushes the whole thing off as if she just had a cold. Evidence of that is how she broke the news to me. She called me on the phone, asking for directions to an art shop that my daughter wanted to go to. In the middle of the conversation she goes “Oh, and the doctors finally figured what’s going on. It’s lupus. So, is it in this mall or the other one?”
“… Could you repeat that?”
“Is it this mall or the other one?”
“Not that! The sentence before that!!” My mother, the comedian.
“I have lupus?”
“Is that a question or a statement? MOM! Shouldn’t we be worried?”
I’m prone to bouts of exaggerations when I’m delivering jokes or funny stories but I wasn’t faking any hysterics at this point.
“I’m not worried. Why should you be?”
“Umm… because Aileen died from lupus not too long ago!”
Aileen was my cousin. She was in her mid twenties and she died of complications from lupus. My mother had to make the very difficult decision of taking her off life support because Aileen’s own mother couldn’t bear to do it. The heart breaking relinquished task was passed on to my mother and she took it on. Just like how she takes on every single hardship and curve ball the universe threw at her. Parental abandonment? Pfft. Teenage pregnancy? Bring it. Spouse abandonment with matching financial, emotional and psychological strife? I gotcha fam. Epilepsy? Let’s turn it into a rave party.
My mother is the living personification of resilience, survival and thriving. So, she is looking at this as just another curveball she’ll have to hit out of the park. Sometimes I wonder if she ever gets tired swinging. I mean, I want her to rest but I don’t want her out of the game. I spoke to her after a couple of weeks. I told her about how worried I am and how we should talk about this.
“I don’t think I’m ready to make the hard decisions, mom. I don’t think I can do what you did for Aileen.”
“Well, then you can always draw straws or maybe toss a coin.”
I laughed but I was angry too. “Mom!! You can’t cover the situation with humour. You don’t get to discriminate on my feelings because they are my fears and feelings and you get to leave me! You get to die and I’m left alone.” I say the last part in a whisper because I’m trying to stop the tears. “You get to leave me, Mommy… I don’t think I can handle that”
So, I’m projecting on the damn hedgehog. I’m asking the hedgehog to take a sip of cold water because I want my mother to be better too. After an hour of holding Sonic, I figured there was nothing else to do but wait.
I woke up the next day and bolted out of bed. I was anxious, expecting a stiff spiky rodent that I’d have to bury somewhere in the backyard. As soon as I lifted the blanket, the all too familiar hissing came out from the now active and very grumpy Sonic.
“He’s okay!!! He’s okay!!!” I screamed as I ran down the stairs to show my bleary eyed family that the hedgehog that was near death, who wasn’t supposed to live beyond 3 years (he’s 5 now), was grumpy and okay. My mother greeted me, turmeric tea in hand, peered in the box and smiled. “Yeah, he’s okay. Good job, mommy!”
Yeah… good job, Mommy. I saw what you did there. I smiled and let the kids fawn over the revived hedgehog. Yeah…you’ll be fine, mom.