A Friend's Birthday Opens Door To My Past

Tess Famorca's birthday at her employer's home, Sep 25, 2021.

I've known Tess Famorca as far back as 2014 at St. Therese Church in Courtice where I was asked to start our traditional pre-Christmas Filipino Mass we called "Simbang Gabi" by Mother Ulrica (Former Mother Superior) of the Daughters of St. Mary of Leuca. Tess was one of those who joined and supported the 10 day evening masses we celebrated each year from 2014 during the Advent season. A long time tradition in the Philippines now deferred because of the pandemic.

Every night we asked for Sponsors to take care of that day's activity including Offertory and the Fellowship that will follow after; a feast full of various foods and Filipino delicacies for everyone. Tess at that time does not have her family yet. They were still in the Philippines while Tess worked on her requirements for her landed immigrant status. I think one time she told me that her Simbang Gabi prayer intentions was for her family to be able to join her here in Canada.

Fast forward to a couple of years, her dotting husband and daughter finally came and were reunited with her. For married women leaving home to find a brighter future in Canada as a Live-In Caregiver, this I knew, is the ultimate success for a mother and wife long separated by distance; family reunification. I knew that Simbang Gabi have many attendees offering prayer intentions were answered. You know, devote catholics knew in their hearts when miracles happened in their life. I can attest and I can document it.

I think since her family came, she'd been celebrating birthdays and invite closed friends to celebrate with her. Last Saturday, Sep 25th was no different. Her celebration was held at her employer's home. As soon as we enter, the couple, a University Professor and a wife who is a medical practitioner were busy entertaining us. They also have their own families enjoying the foods which of course with lechon.

The couple's kids were playing around and I simply recalled my life as a Live-In Caregiver myself in Edmonton, Alberta. Similar kind of employers working on building a relationship to the one whom they entrust their kids at home while they are away working. The couple were so friendly as well as the kids and everyone around. I knew it, once an employer builds a relationship with their Caregiver, any job for Tess will be a lot easier. It was an intimate celebration and very welcoming, noting that some employers are shutting their doors to their Caregiver's friends. This family, like mine, is the opposite.

The way Tess' employers treated her and treated us brings me back a recollection of my life in Edmonton. They were both in the medical fields. Dr. Chris de Gara, the husband, was a high profile Surgeon and the wife, Dra. Peggy Sagle was a doctor who is equally brilliant, a Lecturer and sometimes travelled out of town for speaking engagements. She will tell me on her return that she was picked up by a Limmo at the airport. She could be telling me that to strike a conversation as they find me quiet, yet, she was the most humble of all the person I knew despite her professional status. 

Imagine how my interview looks like with two doctors grilling me how to care for their two daughters when they are not around in case an emergency occur? I think I was able to convince them I was the one they were looking for. But the one who sealed the deal was their youngest daughter who was 8 months at that time of interview. When the interview was almost over, the mom went upstairs and brought down their 8 month old daughter, laid her on the carpet below my feet. I recalled in my training about "reaching out to the kids" when they are around. If the kids reciprocate your move, you are guaranteed  the job. 

I extended my hand to a staring beautiful eyes of Julianne de Gara who was drinking her milk. Luckily, she responded by taking my hand as she extended hers as well. I got the job. Two beautiful girls, the eldest was about 7 y/o and the youngest was about 8 months old. I was their first Live-In Caregiver. The adjustments for them and the kids to have me around must be hard at the start as they are very private. 

My room in the basement was fully furnished with a large bed, a walk- in closet, TV and my own bathroom. The house was so big but they have a cleaning lady to do it. My job was the kids.  When they came home for the day and after our dinner, I am down in the basement and done for the day. They won't call me again and the kids are off limits to my room especially on weekends. Weekends and evenings gave the de Gara's a private family time. I became invisible after my work. We fit in perfectly. The only thing Dra. Sagle nearly fainted was when I came upstairs to go out on my day off wearing a -40 C degrees winter jacket, a toque and a Timberland winter boots for -40 C degrees on a 12 plus temperature. I can hardly walk on the carpet. I didn't know what she did after I left. I can see her eyes so wide but never say a word. She must have regained her composure and was able to respect my ignorance about Canada's weather. 

The De Gara's became my family, a very supportive family where they allowed me to leave at night and sleep outside with friends. This was the opportunity I ceased to create a non-profit organization in Alberta helping fellow Caregivers with problems. I was able to rent an apartment which was used as a refuge to Caregivers who have no place to go. Every morning, I reported to work and perform my job to the de Gara children. I was given our own car to drive the kids to school. The kids loved me and has no problems being with me while their parents were hard at work. I was also like a hawk watching them and never letting them out of sight. They were my precious, precious angels and the trust  between me and the kids were so great.

The De Gara's welcome anyone I will bring to my room. So they knew my circle of friends. During Christmas, Dra. Sagle will drive all the way to my church with the eldest and joined me for the mass. I knew that she wasn't a devote catholic so this gesture really left an indelible imprint in my heart; my employer sitting beside in the church to show her love and gratitude for loving their children. She kept increasing my salary. But things must end...

In 2002, after working for over 4 years, I decided to pursue my dreams of working in my professional fields. I enrolled for an upgrade and became a Licensed Security Professional and moved here in Ontario where I worked on a private firm as a Private Investigator for Retail businesses and into Canada's largest Supermarket, Loblaw Companies Limited before retiring. 

Breaking the news of my departure affected me and affected the kids.  So what I did was replaced me with one of my closest friends whom they knew and whom I knew can care for the children with the same love and affection I've given them. I asked that I will not have anything as I depart. I just want to disappear. Goodbyes are always tough for me. Dra. Sagle wrote me a reference letter I kept and treasured until now. It was the best reference letter I got from the best family I had in Canada.

I thanked Tess for the invitation and of knowing her employer, Clayton and Katey. Tess birthday was an occasion for me to think about the de Gara's and the kids I left behind 19 years ago. A very part of me in one chapter of my life as a newcomer in Canada. When I came home, I Googled them and here's what I found: De Gara Article

The eldest, Lisa Jane de Gara has her profile too in here: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/lisa-jane-de-gara-a8087959 I do believe this is her and soon I will connect with her. This information I discovered about the Canadian family who were instrumental in my landed status and citizenship and who made me love Canada so much are flying high on their professions and the kids are also carving their own path to success. 

If not for Tess' birthday, I would not have the moment to search for them and even remember them. I wouldn't be able to realize how much of them lurks in my heart after all these years.


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