In the suburbs of America, one family's secret slave

From the outside, they looked like a model immigrant family - a father with a law degree, a mother studying medicine, well-behaved children. 

But inside, asleep in the corner, the family had a shameful secret.

"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," Alex Tizon wrote of Eudocia Tomas Pulido in The Atlantic. 

Aged 11, he would realise Eudocia - who they called Lola - was a slave. She was the woman who cared for him and his siblings, who fed them, washed their clothes, cleaned up after them. She was flown from the Philippines on false promises, was ridiculed by Mr Tizon's parents, isolated from the community and would spend 56 years working long hours without pay.

She could have left, but she couldn't have, Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg told NPR.

"From a very early age, she worked for this family without pay, she lived with this family, when the family moved to America, it was only natural that she would go with them, but she was a slave until the day she died," he said.

When Lola was 50 years old, her teeth began falling out. She had been brought to America as a servant, but her papers had expired. She was essentially concealed from the authorities and as a result, had not been taken to the dentist. It was the 1970s.

"That's what happens when you don't brush properly," Mr Tizon's mother chided Lola.

Mr Tizon argued into the night with his mother. In an honest and moving account of Lola's life with the family, Mr Tizon writes of the complicated emotions he felt for his mother, who had been 'given' Lola as a 12-year-old:

"The night ended when she declared that I would never understand her relationship with Lola. Never. Her voice was so guttural and pained that thinking of it even now, so many years later, feels like a punch to the stomach. 

"It's a terrible thing to hate your own mother, and that night I did. The look in her eyes made clear that she felt the same way about me."

It's a tragic and elegant story of salvery, complicated by a backdrop of love and family, colonisation, migration and history.

Lola died of a heartattack in the US at the age of 86 - after five decades a slave. 

Her final years were spent in the house of Mr Tizon. He paid her a $200 a week and asked that she stop working. She continued to cook and clean, sent most of the money home to the Philippines, took up gardening, and wouldn't stop telling the now-grown man she'd help to raise that he needed to put on a jersey.

At the age of 75, this remarkable woman taught herself to read, in English and enthusiastically completed word-searches.

Mr Tizon died in March at the age of 57. 

He left us with a fine piece of long-form journalism.

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