Before he died in March, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Alex Tizon filed one final story to The Atlantic.
It was his first-hand account of the life of a woman who lived with his family for more than five decades.
Her name was Eudocia Tomas Pulido – “Lola” – and she was their slave.
The long-form piece describes how, from 18 years old until her death 56 years later, Lola was forced to serve Tizon’s family, first in the Philippines and then the United States, after she was gifted to his mother by his grandfather.
“No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived,” he writes.
“Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed… My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been.”
It wasn’t until he was 11 that Tizon began to understand Lola’s status within his family, witnessing her daily abuse at the hands of his parents and later his stepfather:
“So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I’d spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding.”
As he grew older he says it took a kind of “mental surgery” to stop him hating his own mother for her despicable treatment of the woman she relied on in every sense and who, in many ways, was a second parent to him and his siblings.
When Tizon’s mother eventually died of leukemia in 1999, Lola moved to Seattle to live him.
She was 75 and had never be allowed to return to the Philippines, despite desperately wanting to.
“I had a family, a career, a house in the suburbs—the American dream. And then I had a slave,” he said.
“We gave Lola a bedroom and license to do whatever she wanted: sleep in, watch soaps, do nothing all day. She could relax—and be free—for the first time in her life. I should have known it wouldn’t be that simple.”