When Life Turns on a Dime

I wrote this piece last Saturday night when news arrived from the Philippines that my great-granddaughter had been taken to the hospital in Manila after falling down the stairs at home. I have never met her or her mother, my granddaughter, in person. Only on social media. We had lost touch with each other until recently, when the Taal volcano erupted and I contacted her to see if they were safe. Though we were connected again, I was unprepared for the effect that this grave situation would have on me. So what does a writer do? She writes.


“Life can turn on a dime.” That should be a famous saying for all the times I’ve said it. Maybe it’s not on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but it’s true nonetheless.

I have a Philippino/American granddaughter in the Philippines whom I’ve never met. Long story. Carolyn has four daughters whom I’ve never met, either. But meeting face to face isn’t a prerequisite for love. Not when your ancestral blood flows in the veins of the unseen parts of your human family.

I’ve seen pictures of their sweet little faces over the years as each one has come into the world and grown – the eldest is 8 now and loves lip synching on Tik Tok (whatever that is…) and sending videos to her American great-grandma. She is, of course, cute as a button, as they say.

We had lost touch with each other for long spaces of time but always seemed to reconnect just in time.

They had to evacuate several weeks ago when the huge Taal volcano erupted too close to their home in Cavite. They made their way to Manila and live temporarily with William’s parents…grandpa and grandma Martinez. They were safe. We were reconnected.

My three-year-old great-granddaughter is named Mia. Mia fell down a flight of stairs today in Manila, landing on her head. It happens. In a flash, life wasn’t safe any more. Life becomes fragile and terrifying and time stops somewhere and doesn’t start again because now there is no time to waste.

My granddaughter sent me a message, the grandma she’s never seen but whom she loves, telling me that they are at the hospital. She sends pictures. Sweet little Mia’s eyes are closed in all of them. Her vulnerable little body lies still, but inside it is a pocket of blood in her brain. That little brain that has seen so much for someone so young. Carolyn says they are talking of doing a CT scan.

The CT scan shows that little Mia has a hematoma.

As I sit here thousands of miles away, I rush to the Mayo Clinic website to find out just what hematoma is and what it means. I need to know what is happening to my little Philippino/American great-granddaughter whom I have never seen. A hematoma is dangerous, it turns out. Too dangerous to send her home. She is admitted as a patient, this tiny little munchkin that is my unseen piece of my family roots.

The next message says that there was also a skull fracture. I don’t have to look that one up.

Prayers, prayers and more prayers, and there is the helpless feeling that we can have when someone we love is so vulnerable and even prayers feel inadequate because sometimes the answer is no. Knowing that life happens, and that it sometimes happens tragically, hangs in the air. And so does the power of hope and endless, boundless love.

I had never realized how much I love those little girls whose laughing faces I only see on a screen from time to time. But this love was washing over me beyond my control and I had no thought of containing the tears as they fell.

I am old and she is so young, barely beginning to know the wonder of life. Yet we share this unfathomable, unbreakable bond that is family, that is ancestry and generations all woven together by chance…or by design. By a love that is surely divinely disposed.

I do not know what lies ahead now that life has turned on a dime. What I do know is that life is a bit more wobbly again. I am also reminded once more that there is no end to what love can do when we’re not even looking.


Update: On Tuesday morning, the “ping” on my iPad rang out to alert me to a Message. It was a video. A 17-second video of “mwa mwa” kisses from this little angel to her great-grandma so far away, as she was on her way home. Another scan will be done in two weeks, so another breath-holding moment will arise, but the connection is powerful now. We will not lose touch. All is well. And love abides. We are family, after all.