Sunday, April 7, 2013


Auntie Chong and her brood of grandnephews and one grandniece.  Yours truly standing in the middle.

In Chamorro, an elderly lady who never married is called a sotteran biha.

Sottera = single lady, from the Spanish soltera
Biha = an elderly lady, from the Spanish vieja

My family had two of them.  Two of my grandmother's sisters never married; Rita, whom we all called Nina, and Asuncion, whom we all called Auntie Chong. 

Thank the Lord for aunties who never married

Because she never married, Auntie Chong put all her attention on us, the grandchildren of her sister, our grandmother.  Because I lived either with her, or in my parents' house right next door, she takes a lot of credit for being one of several people who raised me.

She didn't spoil us with a lot of material things.  She wasn't a great cook, either.  She wasn't one to take us to the movies or the ice cream parlor.

She spent time with us.  She'd take me on her errands, and then we might get something to eat.  I'd sit next to her at night and watch TV.  I'd lie next to her as a kid and listen to her stories.  Stories about Guam, about the war, about saints.

That's where her impact was.  Just spending time with me; a lot of time.  And talking to me, and listening to me.  Anything she may have bought me has long since gone.  But she is with me to this day in the person I am.

Mixed Feelings

As I got older, I started to wonder about her.  Why hadn't she married?  In that bewildered child's mind at the time, I wondered if there was something wrong with her.  Did no man ever find her desirable as a wife? 

I later found out that she had a romantic interest many, many years before.  In the 50s, if not the late 40s.  He left Guam for the mainland back then, but when he visited Guam in the early 1980s, he came to our house.  I saw him arrive.  Someone, I forgot who, told me, "That's Auntie Chong's old boyfriend."

Why they never married, I never found out.

But...where would that have left me, had she married and had her own kids?  Sure I had my own parents and other older relatives.  But Auntie Chong gave me a huge amount of time and interest.  It would have been a loss for me had she had her own children, as it was a loss for me when she died.

At the same time, I often felt sorry for her.  There were times I could feel a sense of loneliness in her.  Maybe at times she felt under-appreciated.  One by one, her siblings died.  One by one, her grandnephews and nieces got bigger and moved on with their careers or family life.

Every life has its joys and sorrows.  Married people sometimes dream of being single, and single people sometimes dream of being married. 

The Holy Siblings

Jesus benefited from the friendship of three siblings, whom we think were unmarried : Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  They hosted Jesus at their home, and Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus.

Single people are often in a position to do much good; for their relatives and for their parish.  God bless them, and God reward Auntie Chong for her big impact on some of us.

1 comment:

  1. My paternal grandmother also had two who never married. Auntie Chai(Rosa) went to work for years at Big Navy and helped my grandparents financially. Auntie Tinta (Maria) stayed home and cooked and attended to the needs of the house. After Sunday mass, we would always stop by our grandparents house and auntie Tinta ALWAYS had something baked for all her nieces and nephews who visited. I always looked forward to a sweet treat on Sunday and always a warm welcome from Auntie Tinta. On the other hand, auntie Chai was always uptight about something and I avoided her as much as possible. Over the years, Auntie Chai mellowed out and it is always pleasant to visit with her. The two aunts raised two nephews of one of their sisters who are very devoted to their needs as elderly adoptive moms.