Thursday, August 26, 2010

PAGBABAGO

Mama was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in August of 2005. Since then, our family, my brother and I, particularly, have been knocking ourselves out, trying to make sense of what pseudo-sympathizers call “rich man’s disease,” looking for doctors (now Mama has five-a neurologist, a psychiatrist, an internist, an ophthalmologist, and a rehab doctor), caregivers (struck out seven times already), funds (no weekends for my brother and me), and answers (???). PD is already a big bad force to reckon with, but Mama’s recurring depression, brought on by a childhood of isolation and self-doubt, and by consecutive family tragedies (the passing of Daddy and her older sister), is the whammy that’s most difficult to challenge.

From Blogger Pictures
Christmas 2007: Mama could still smile into the camera

From Blogger Pictures
New Year's Day 2010: Mama sees less...

From Blogger Pictures
...But still has a healthy appetite!

There are happy changes, though. The trembling, drooling and choking are now a distant memory. Her voice is now audible, her speech patterns, less garbled and repetitive. Despite her confinement to a wheelchair, she regularly shoots hoops, sings Frank Sinatra songs from memory, and when her vision was still unimpaired, beat us all at Scrabble and watched her favourite WWE wrestler, Triple H, in action. Her once-69 pound frame must have doubled in the last 36 months, thanks to a steady, physician-approved diet of wheat bread, chocolate cereal, milk, white meat, rice, mixed vegetables, papaya and pears. But her absolute, hands-down favourite is the Goldilocks Crema de Fruta, and everybody knows it, as visitors never fail to visit her without the familiar festive fruit toppings and luscious cream filling nestled inside the unassuming brown box. Needless to say, if no visitors happen to drop by within the week, I am more than delighted to present her with her favourite Goldilocks dessert myself.

What makes her Crema de Fruta experience extra-special is the fact that she simply has to put a slice on her tongue, and her mouth , through all that chewing, will curve up in a smile. Then she’ll say, “Crema de Fruta!” And I’d say, “Mama, you’re psychic! Or your taste buds are just super active!” The truth is, she’s half-blind from glaucoma, and could no longer see what she’s eating. So it is my pleasure to spoon-or-fork feed her until that big fluffy chunk of Crema de Fruta is all gone from her saucer.

For our family, living with a loved one totally dependent on others, changes are not really major breakthroughs, but small yet significant steps that each one must take in order to get through the day. Sometimes, change is beyond one’s control; it just happens, and you have to live with it, or overcome it. But the change that I am most familiar with is the change that is based on personal choice. Many people have suggested that we bring our mom to a hospice, or that I go abroad so I could afford a private nurse for her. But those are not my choices. I choose to be physically present and actively involved in my mom’s life, no matter how back-breaking it is. I choose to bathe her myself, to shop for her clothes, to personally talk to her doctors. Mama’s chronic and incurable condition has changed my personal lifestyle, turning me into a homebody, and—I’m happy to note—a prolific blogger.

Sure, I work 8 hours a day, and the pressures of being a school administrator linger with me at the end of the day, but coming home with a Goldilocks Crema de Fruta, knowing my mom is waiting excitedly for me, and the Crema de Fruta, of course, makes everything worthwhile.

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