I Do Not Know You
In March of 2008, I filed my resignation letter. It was actually an early retirement move to leave my job permanently. I have to do this for someone I love.
She was always quick, very witty, mentally alert, strong and exhuberant. Her personality attest to that. In her heydays, she would initiate tasks or activity to influence or motivate our small community. She used to be a high school teacher, majored in English and Literature and was no novice to young people's interest for learning new experiences and adventure.
It was always a delight to watch her dance. She was very good at it. Tango and waltz was her forte.
Then one day, she looked up and asked me, "who are you?" Then at side glance, she muttered, "I do not know you."
It was heartbreaking to see her like this. I turned my back so that she may not see me cry.
I Don't Want To Be Late
I became her friend as I took the daily task of looking after her needs. She was talkative and kept mentioning about old friends and relatives who in my knowledge have already passed on. I entertained her loquacity with genuine interest. She told me she liked me and is very comfortable with me. The past few months, as she recalled, she disliked the aides taking care of her. She told me they did not have the ear to listen and worse to converse with her. It made me grin, as who would have that enthusiasm to listen to Walt Whitman's O' Captain My Captain or Shakespeare's Sonnets. I just could relate when she told me such.
When it was time to prepare her for bath, something in me pained like it was more of a hurt expression than upset. Looking at her, the image of a capable, tenacious lady I fully remember, diminished to a pale, weak, vulnerable being. Once again, I hid the tears that she might not see.
One early morn, sitting erect looking out the window, as she noticed people getting ready for work, and students in their school uniform, she called me to asked in a hushlike whisper, "please give me an answer without humiliating me," "do I have to go to school?" "If I do, I don't want to be late!"
Morning Walks and Long Afternoons
In the same year of December 2008, it would be our last Christmas together.
She was her usual self in high spirits and telling me about the people she met and talk with, though I knew she never left the house without me beside her. I went along listening intently to her storytelling.
She spent her days with morning walks, taking her to the neighborhood park to sit down and appreciate the whiff of cool breeze, the older children running around laughter so shrill, and moms with their babies on stroller. An airplane flew overhead and she waved her hand happily saying, "have a happy trip!" I asked why did she do that? Her reply, "oh! didn't you see?" "The person on the window was waving back at me."
The long afternoons, she delighted in playing the piano. It was amazing how she remembered the notes while playing "Maalaala Mo Kaya" her favorite "Kundiman," it was the traditional means of serenade here in the Philippines.
I Lost Her to Alzheimer's
Gradually watching her lose her memory of places, tasks, faces of loved ones. So tragic it felt like losing the person before she dies.
It was in January 2009, she passed on peacefully leaving a myriad of memories with me, her friend, as she thought of me that way.
The woman I cared for and loved, the reason I left my job, that I may dutifully look after her full time, was my "Mother."