Care Not StashBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
IT started with a phone call.
My Grandma was holding the phone telling me that one of my aunties wanted to talk to me about something. What it was about I didn’t know but from the get co, it didn’t sound good. On the phone was my auntie, who was telling me about her ‘plan’ to handle her mom’s Alzheimer’s, which according to her was already way bad.
She explained to me her options and gingerly pointed out in the end that basically, “… If she gets to hard to handle… we’ll just put her in a nursing home.” A hint of a chuckle ensued.
Alarms bells started ringing in my forehead. Asians usually never talk in that kind of context. Whenever Asians mention the word ‘nursing home’, it’s either because you work at one or you actually own one. Not because you intend to actually use one.
If you’re wondering, the woman in question was Feliza Dominguez Sanchez. The person on the other line happened to be her daughter. I, on the other hand, happened to be Feliza’s grandnephew.
My auntie, at the time, was determined to find a solution to her mother’s problem on her own and after having seen her throw leftover vegetables into the backyard and upon learning that she had misplaced her dentures in the middle of the night, she was utterly convinced that the ‘disease’ was finally progressing to the point of ‘craziness’.
Of course, losing your dentures may have disastrous consequences, especially at 1 O’clock in the morning but hell, I’m sure my grandma will find them 6 hours later at the back of the television after watching some nice morning news on KRON 4.
But, apparently that didn’t matter to her. All in all, that and everything else was enough evidence to convince her that she had to do something drastic.
And drastic she went. Her plan consisted of bringing her mother to a state-of-the-art facility with other Alzheimer’s patients, where some of the most modern techniques in this field would be available to them and with time, if this all worked, the hope was that this would at least slow down the effects the disease will have on her cranial activity or just her memory in general.
Now, as nice as the plan seemed on paper, the plan also required my Grandma to move out of her house, leave everything she called home to the dust, and in effect, lose everything that she remembered.
Well, it’s been well over a year, since that plan has gone into effect.
My Grandma is supposedly having the time of her life, painting flowers diligently and according to her television escapade, making the most of herself at the facility.
But, apparently, her home away from home isn’t as welcoming as it was before and according to those handling the grapevine in my family, my Grandma has become intolerable to the point that she will definitely end up in a nursing home in the near future.
So much for the ‘plan’. So, why is my Grandma still acting up at her daughter’s place even when there happens to be so much attention given to her at the Alzheimer’s center which was supposed to relieve all these problems?
You could say that perhaps the treatment takes time and hasn’t exactly kicked in yet. Maybe. But, I think I have a much better, if not simpler answer to this question.
I’d say that though bringing my Grandma to functions like Arts and Crafts may seem helpful and/or entertaining to her and the staff in some respects, let me assure you… this is not her.
Like many before her, she is a product of the province; a world away from any of the melodic paints and what-have-you she is exposed to now.
Their appreciation doesn’t stem from the seizure of nicely applied brush strokes of a grimacing flower plastered onto some canvas for all to see.
This may work for older folk who lived in America, who as children touted their Crayolas with outward glee and happened to get most of their vegetables form under the quasi-lights of a supermarket. But this isn’t someone would grew up in such surroundings.
Her appreciation stems from being outdoors in the garden, where they are one with their plants, one with their ‘own’ vegetables, grown in their ‘own’ ground, in a place they call ‘home’. Being in the garden, raising their plants, gives them a sense of independence, telling them that that they are still fully alive and kicking, something that drawing on canvases cannot do.
And this concept doesn’t just apply to just my Grandma’s situation but is fundamentally grounded into anyone who comes from a “back home” setting.
Here. Try convincing someone who is Chinese living here in America all you want, about the latest data proving such and such is proven to work on such and so, but no matter what, that very person is still more likely to turn about to their local Chinese medicine store and rely on that old, true-to-that formula they’ve been using for centuries.
And however much you force them, they will still search out for their roots, and try as you may, they will never be pleased till they get exactly what they believe has proven to work for them, time and again.
My own Grandpa happens to be a testament of that statement. You could take him around the world, show him new sights and new adventures, but no matter what you do, his 87-year old senses still bring him back to the wonderment of the tomato plants in his front and backyard.
Still, it seems that even with all the grandchildren he seems to have, nothing truly makes his day till his out in the garden, tending his plants from sun up to sun down.
Truth be told, there maybe a lot that America may offer that may, in many ways, make many of our counterparts in our former countries of origin, envious with glee. But there is one thing that keeps us fundamentally apart form Americans living here… that is, the Asian culture that was carried over from there years ago and that continues to flourish here.
Even with all this though, my auntie seems undeterred, fully rapt in the belief that the use of hundreds of dollars on the latest trends in psychological technology would ultimately salvage any remaining hope of her mother’s sanity.
Of course, little does my auntie realize that she’s not fighting the effects of an incurable disease but of a culture rooted inside her mother that will never change her way of thinking and that will always fight in frustration for exactly what she believes her life was beforehand.
When it comes down to it, it’s her culture, not science that will ultimately solve her supposed condition. And sadly, since my auntie barely realizes this, she may end up throwing her mother into a nursing facility for all the wrong reasons. And that would be unfortunate.
As I pulled out from underneath the garage, I remembered watching as my Grandma Feliza was slouched over, with gloves over hands, tending to her plants.
With her straw hat placed promptly on her head, like those Asian rice paddy workers, she worked away, plucking at the foliage of one of shrubs in the front yard. As I looked more closely, I realized the shrub she was working on was dead already. I thought about telling her but I stopped.
I realized it didn’t matter. At least she’s happy…
And that’s basically all that matters. – PDM
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