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Health And Family

My sister, my friend

HEART AND MIND - Paulynn Sicam - The Philippine Star
My sister, my friend
Author Paulynn Sicam and her sister Tictac: ‘‘Tictac, you are a hard act to follow, and even harder to forget.’’

My sister, Patricia Paredes Magee, whom we called “Tictac,” left us at 7 a.m. (San Diego, California, time) on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. She was two weeks shy of 78.  She is the first of us 10 siblings to pass away.

Although she was four years older than I, the age difference quickly faded when we I reached adulthood. Tictac was my best friend, my confidante and defender. We had no secrets.

The news spread quickly about her demise and the tributes came quick and fast. Friends and family wrote about how Tictac always made them feel special. My sister had a gift for openness. She was a good listener who got the nuances of what people were really saying and she connected with them in a very personal way.  She could have been a counselor. Instead, she became the go-to person when a friend needed a sister, a sister needed a mother, or a niece or nephew needed a cool aunt. 

Tictac was probably the most favorite aunt of her siblings’ children. She made Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls for all our kids, and quilts for those who were her favorites. She sewed dresses for my daughters and sent them what she called “eternities of cutities,” like stationery, stickers, and folders; fed their interests in dinosaurs, fossils, games, art and other things that enriched their childhoods — all these by long-distance from California, where she lived.

She and my daughters wrote copious letters to each other, letters I never read because I was told they were private. I never resented their closeness because I knew my girls were in good hands. They were blessed to have Tictac as their other mother in our shared motherhood. 

When we were young, Tictac held card-making contests for the younger kids. She made us design our own Christmas and Valentine cards and promised prizes to the best artist. Then she had prizes for the most colorful, most original, most artistic, best dedication, etc., so that every one of us won a prize. No one was left behind. And we all thought we could be winners. Tictac taught us to believe in ourselves.

When I reached my teens, she was both my tormentor and my enabler. She teased me relentlessly about the most absurd things, such as my alleged crush on Mom’s elderly friend, a neighbor’s son, and our brother’s classmate, who had the funniest face in the college yearbook. She even composed a jingle using their names!

But she was also a generous Ate who, when she was already working, openly shared with me what she had and I needed, such as new dresses that she hadn’t yet worn, to wear to the parties I was invited to. 

She also made it her project to find me a date for my high school senior prom, clipping from a newspaper, pictures of cute and hopefully available guys whom I could possibly invite.

Tictac went to Ecuador for a year, where she taught English to children as a volunteer with the Sisters of the Assumption. She came home with parkas of llama wool for me and our sister Lory, interesting books she picked up along the way, and records of the Swingle Singers and folk songs by Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Baez.

She bought Jim his first guitar and encouraged Lory, Jim and I to sing a la PP&M, which we did, for a while. This opened us up to a world where Jim would flourish, and Lory would shine. Me, I credit her for exposing me to books and newsmagazines.

We would also spend Saturday afternoons at the Tomas Jefferson Library attending readings from American literature, where we were introduced to the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss, among other authors.

Tictac credits me for introducing her to her husband, Doug Magee, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Surigao, where I worked as a teacher after college. It was a good marriage that lasted more than 50 years. Doug took very good care of her, through good and bad times, especially through the debilitating illness that took her life.

Five years ago, Tictac was diagnosed with Lewy Bodies Dementia, the worst kind there is. She came home to Manila that year to commemorate with family the 100th birthday of our dad, Jess Paredes Jr., who perished with President Magsaysay in 1957. Tictac was not well then. She was disoriented and forgetful. It was her last trip home.

She had worked in an NGO in San Diego that handled mental health cases, so she knew what lay ahead. We would talk on Skype every Saturday morning, where mostly we had happy chats sharing secrets and recalling distant memories that were still clear in her mind. But she also shared her fears about her illness and how she didn’t want to live long under such painful circumstances.

In 2017, all four of us sisters and two of our daughters converged in Tictac’s house in San Diego, where we held what would be our last Sisters’ Summit: three days and four nights of what we call “kalabawan,” sweet and slow days of togetherness — cooking, baking, singing, laughing, weeping, and staying up late.

In 2018, she was placed in a nursing facility where she could be cared for more closely than at home. We visited her as often as we could, and each visit was gold. How she perked up when she saw her siblings, nieces and cousins! Her long-term memory was so clear she shared stories from our childhood that I had never heard before. She enjoyed our old family jokes and sang along with every song we sang. 

At about this time last year, we received word that Tictac was not expected to last very long anymore, so a large delegation of family members converged in San Diego to say our goodbyes. We were more than the facility was comfortable with. Her husband was upset. We broke some rules and made too much noise. We tired Tictac out. But my sister was so happy for the company, the singing, and the stories.

During that visit, we asked a priest to give her the last rites. Tictac sat immobile in her wheelchair receiving the holy oils and Holy Communion. At the end of the ceremony, the priest said he would pray for her and asked her to pray for him as well. My sister, who was quiet throughout, surprised everyone with a loud, “You got it.”

I could go on and on about Tictac, my sister, my best friend. She was one of the best-loved sisters, aunts, daughters, cousins, and nieces of our generation. She helped us, her siblings, find our strengths and talents; made our children smarter, brighter and feel more loved; and the world she lived and worked in, more compassionate and joyful by her service and presence.

Tictac, you are a hard act to follow, and even harder to forget. Thank you for being my sister and the best-est friend I could possibly have. 

PATRICIA PAREDES MAGEE

TICTAC

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