Come to think of it, I don’t think I mentioned here that she had gone back to the Philippines last July, but, yeah, she had to because my sister wasn’t able to apply for Mama’s Residence Visa before her Visit Visa expired.
Naturally I was so, so happy to see her. And considering the circumstances, I really hadn’t expected it at all, so it really was a great surprise.
Before I get ahead of myself though, let me share with you the background. It’s a bit long but I need to mention some details for you to get the whole idea why her arrival was unexpected...or maybe I'm just totally clueless when it comes to these things =)
When Mama left Dubai after her three month visit, Gabe went with her so that he could spend the rest of his summer vacation there. Soon after, Ate Ning managed to apply for Mama’s Residence Entry Visa. The plan was for her (my sister) to go home in August so that she had the printed document in her hand and they (her, Mama, Gabe) could all travel back here together. However, Mama had to undergo a minor surgery that time and her doctor said she wasn’t allowed to travel until late September for the wound to heal, so it was only Gabe who returned to the UAE with his mother.
Mama’s Residence Entry Visa was valid until the 1st of October. Sure there was time, but because the doctor said she wasn’t allowed to bend down too low and/or carry anything heavy (i.e. luggage), she couldn't travel alone. And unfortunately, none of us (me, my sister, hubby) could go home for a few days to fetch her. For one thing, the tickets aren’t cheap. For another, none of us had the time to travel, especially me and hubby since we have two kids, one of which goes to school.
Another option was to ask around if any of our friends were returning from their vacation, but my sister was always uncooperative when I asked her what the plan was. She would usually answer “Ewan ko” or “Hindi ko alam” or “Bahala na” because she “didn’t have enough money.” Actually, she often answers that way whatever we ask her so I just figured she had other plans.
During our weekly conversations, Mama and I would ask each other if Ate Ning had decided on what to do, but we always replied the same thing: we didn’t know anything.
It seemed that my sister was going to just let the validity expire and either request to extend it (if that was possible) or try to apply again. I admit I was disappointed when I realized that Mama wasn’t going to be able to be here for her youngest grandchild’s birthday, but what to do? Ate Ning was Mama’s sponsor, after all.
Then early last week, my sister called me and said that she had a training in Abu Dhabi from Thursday until Saturday afternoon, so she needed Gabe to stay with us during that time. Since she usually does this, I didn’t think much about it. She dropped him off at our apartment on Thursday night and that was that.
Friday afternoon, I called Mama as I normally do. We talked for a bit, but since she was in the mall waiting for my brother to take her to his place and it was pretty noisy, our conversation didn’t last too long.
On Saturday, Sophie’s birthday, we were all busy with the party preparations. A part of me wondered why Mama hadn’t called to greet (because she’s usually the first one who does), but I figured that maybe she was out or busy. I tried calling her number once, but it was switched off so I just thought she didn’t have signal wherever she was or her battery was empty (which is usually the case).
Saturday afternoon, Ate Ning called me saying that she had arrived at her apartment from her training and she would just take a rest, then meet us at the party venue later.
Fast forward to 6:50pm. We were at KFC in Al Nahda and the party hall was still being used by the group before us, so we just sat around waiting and mingling with some of our friends who had arrived early. When my sister arrived, she told Sophie and Caila that she had a surprise for them. Since Sophie wouldn’t let go of me, I carried her to where Ate Ning was leading us. I thought the surprise was her boyfriend carrying a gift, so imagine my shock when I saw Mama in the flesh standing on the stairs smiling at us.
I couldn’t help it; I immediately hugged her tight for a long time (with Sophie still in my arms) as I cried tears of joy, grateful that she was actually here. You know I'm really close to her right? So you can totally understand my reaction that night.
Thank you, Mama. And thank you as well, Ate, for the absolutely perfect birthday gift to Sophie…for me. It absolutely made my day.