“TILL DEATH DO US PART….”
This was the response of Aling Elma when I asked her what made her visit her imprisoned husband when the latter was an irresponsible partner.
Aling Elma’s hair, although white as driven snow, was still properly combed and her 70 year old frame could still withstand bureaucratic waiting. She would outlast those forming a line to pass through the gate into the prison camp. She was still strong. She may look snobbish because of the way she carried herself, she was a retired teacher after all and with scholarly bearing, but she was very settled and completely focused with her mission—to visit her ailing prisoner-hubby.
All their children have families already and have been living in provinces far from their community of orientation. Even if they wanted to visit their incarcerated parent, practicality dictates that the cost of the visit does not equate equal fulfillment. But not for Aling Elma. She would scrimp and save, set aside and conserve so that she could travel to visit regularly her better half.
“My husband is a former school principal and he was very strict. I know because I am a teacher and I oftentimes visit his school which is just a few paces from the school where I was teaching. I would even confront and advise him not to be too severe on the playfulness of students. But he had nothing of it. He would rather whip erring students not to toe the line.” She explained.
“He would ignore my reminders and would even treat me at home as one of his personnel. His world was the school and everything else was secondary to him. “She continued.
I asked her, “What was the offense charged on your husband?”
“He was very exacting and harsh on students that was why he was charged for abusing a number of them. Worst, a case of rape was even brought up to teach him a lesson. My husband was never a lady’s man. As a matter of fact he may even be suspected as a homosexual and “matandang binata” because of his attitude and brusque manners. At home, he was literally a spinster in a man’s clothing. A lot of teachers I personally know hated him actually. When he was charged of committing a sexual crime, I was surprised. The whole school was even amused. Well, but not the judiciary. He was sentenced accordingly. “
I said, “You must love him very much.”
“Well, yes. I married him. And despite his arrogance, despite his high handedness, despite rudeness, vulgarity and boorish disposition, despite his utter disrespect on me, I still understand him. I have never been remised in telling him, cautioning him that his acts are accumulating collective hatred on him. But he was that hard headed. When he was brought to court, nobody from his school ever sympathized with him. Even our children tried to be distant too. It is only me whom he could count on.”
“He was probably there always for you despite his behavior.” I submitted.
“No sir. He left me for years. He loved the school so much that he treated it as his world already. He never even helped me in financing some domestic concerns. It was a good thing that I came from an affluent family that is why my parents and relatives could still provide me and my children the necessary support.” She nonchalantly declared.
“I thought that he was always at home after school?” I asked a bit perplexed.
“It was only when he suffered a nervous breakdown that he was forced to go home for good. But it was only lately. He was already battered. I nursed him to full recovery until he found time to get employment in a nearby school. He never changed his ways. He never in my estimation appreciated family life. But I still understand him.”
“Pardon me for being too investigative, but you have an extra patient attitude which borders on something not normal already. What made you understand your husband despite all the negative traits he has?”
“That was the vow I took, Sir, and I have never forgotten it.”
(I always find time interacting with prison visitors and would indulge them with probing discussion to get a better perspective on the tenacity of those persons drawn into the correctional system.)