21 August 2008


Fyi: Inay is one of the many ways to call your mom in the Philippines. Some other terms are Nanay, Nana, Ina, Mamang, and many others in every other 100++ dialects in the land; Mommy and Mama are also commonplace in cities and urban areas.

I still recall Inay in her youth. She is a very strong woman. In many family crises we have undergone, she always had a way of keeping her family above the waters. My father used to be the strong man in the family during his children's formative years. He worked in a stable company and gave us good primary education. But when Martial Law was declared, he lost his job and ended up doing odd jobs just to fend for his family. That is when Inay unleashed her powers, so to speak.

She did all kinds of jobs to keep her family afloat during the dry spell of the seventies. She bought and sell in the local market, she sewed whatever she can lay her hands on (she was a dressmaker), she made buko salad which she sells in the city and many other odd but honest ways to feed her children. But in fairness toTatay (Father), he helped a lot in the background; did his things and managed to do the same for his family. He went to be with the Lord eight years ago.

Inay today is partly disabled. Half-blind due to cataract, she has been disoriented for years and is starting to show symptoms of Alzheimer's. With all my siblings gone, tending to each his own family, I was unceremoniously left to care for her.

She is quite a handful, being the obstinate woman that she is. But she is slowly adapting to her situation. She is learning to listen to my instructions, when I tell to turn left or right, she tries but almost always, falters. Sometimes I can't help but be amused when I am giving her directions as she walks around the house. I would tell her to "turn left" and she would continue walking forward after turning a teeny weenie left. When I stop her and tell her to "turn left", she would be quite irked and say "isn't this left?", raising her left arm but mistakenly pointing it on her front. Thus, she continues to move forward. I can't help but think this is because she isn't used to taking instructions; she had a long time doing the giving of "orders".

But even today, she is a delight to some ladies in the neighborhood. I occasionally bring her to a nearby sari-sari store to chat with the store owner who endearingly calls her "Mommy." She needs go out and mix, I guess, to revitalize her sharpness. She remains the crowd favorite and the "life of the party" in our surroundings. She has a way with words, and she can still exchange smart dialogues with younger ladies beside her. But in church, fewer and fewer people notice her. Maybe because she lost her congeniality. She became laid back and silent in the church. But in occasions, she manages to answer back as the pastor speaks, and still have a strong hand in clapping through the "welcome song". Once in a while, she remarks aloud, "Amen!" Several years back, she has been a very popular woman in women's inter-church fellowships and rallies which she regularly attends. She can join every parlor game and never fails to bring home something for her feats. One time, she brought home a sash which has a caption "Miss Friendship" on it:. She wins in most games and shines in role play skits.

I am thankful that this lady store owner momentarily takes the time to chat with her and give her back rubs which she truly enjoys. After about two hours, she will be accompanied home in time for her afternoon glass of milk. And she goes back to her precious radio which delights her twenty-four-seven.

I am not complaining. It has been long due; the time to serve her. She had a full life lived. On this her mellowing days, I am her constant companion. Although we seldom talk during the day, I try to initiate conversations to let her feel that I always remain beside her. And she always requests to be given back rubs and massage. She can still take her bath alone though. I think that she will never allow herself to be totally dependent. And she finally learned to take things slowly. After many falls and bumps, I think she finally admitted that her heydays are over. She walks and moves more discreetly so as to avoid crashing on things in the house. She was used to fast paced lifestyle, when she was still able. There was a time she cannot admit, (without verbalizing) that she can't move as quickly as before. She drops and spills things, she bumps on doors and walls, and forgets where she last put her radio. Slowly though, she adjusted. Nowadays, her moves are calculated and slow but sadly she remains disoriented so she calls me many times during the day.

Once in a while she would call in the middle of the night and demands breakfast thinking it is already daytime. She sleeps a lot and everytime she awakes, she asks for a glass of milk. There were times we argue about the time. She always thinks it's breakfast time. Imagine, as I am about to sleep late, and I would hear her slowly walk in her room towards the door. When asked where she is heading, she would say, "prepare me a glassof milk", and asking me what day it is.

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