Lola Julia was my grand aunt. And, a grand aunt she most definitely was. (Lola means grandmother in Ilokano, the Mama's language.) Lola Julia was a one-of-a-kind woman. Once, the Mama said that I was like Lola Julia. That's one of the best compliments I have ever received.
Unlike most Filipino women of her generation, Lola Julia had a career. Her father encouraged her to get an education. She became a nurse. During World War II, she worked at a hospital for mentally ill patients. When the Japanese solders took over the hospital, she and the other nurses pretended to be patients. By the 1950s, she was in the United States working as a nurse, first on the East Coast and then on the opposite side of the country. In the 1970s, Lola Julia retired from a supervisory nursing position for a San Francisco hospital.
Lola Julia married late in life. She was in her late 40s or early 50s when she married Uncle Sam. She knew him when they were youngsters in the Philippines. They were second or third cousins. I got the impression that they were kinda smitten with each other back then. By the time, they met again in the United States, over 30 years had passed.
They wedded twice. The first time was a civil ceremony. Because they weren't married by a priest, Lola Julia did not consider them being legitimately married. She laughed as she told me how she kept coming up with excuses to keep Uncle Sam out of her bed. Finally, he got the idea and quickly agreed to get married in the church.
Lola Julia was magnanimous to a fault. As long as I knew her, she made generous loans to relatives and friends, which were sometimes not repaid. Relatives didn't bother her too much when Uncle Sam was alive. He didn't mind loaning you money as long as you agreed to his interest terms which were far higher than the banks. After Uncle Sam died, relatives boldly charmed Lola Julia for large loans.
I cringe when I think about the time she paid me to clean her backyard. The yard was full of weeds and junk that needed to be thrown away or placed in her garage. I definitely earned my money, but I still felt like I had taken advantage of her.
When I married the First Husband, Lola Julia was among the few people who did not blink twice that I was marrying a much older man. She told me that the perfect age for a husband was twice my age plus seven years. And when I said, I was five years off, she assured me that I was close enough.
Today would have been Lola Julia's birthday. She would've been a sweet 107 years old.
Happy Birthday Lola Julia!