When my very own favorite grandma and grandpa died, we weren't there in Antique. We were not even there to pay our last respects because of school and financial limitations. But before we came here in Mindanao to join our parents, my Lolo and Llola cared for me since birth and until I turned Grade 5.
Entering Grade 6, I left them for Mindanao to join my sister and my parents. It was a heartbreak.
They were already in their Septuagenarian days when we left them. And I remember my Tatay Salus, as we fondly called him, roaming the streets near our house and peeing in his pants; he was already in his incontinent state.
My grandmother, sickly and with an enlarged heart at that time, would carefully and patiently dress my grandfather, bathe him and turned him smelling good again. I still remember the two of them going to church together, and leaving church separately. Nanay Connie would bring me home, expecting Tatay Salus to be home earlier until we had to search for him, in neighbors' houses, nearby streets but mostly, we would find him visiting the nearby high school where he used to teach Spanish.
Tatay used to eat sugar after each meal, his simple way of taking in dessert. Nanay Connie would buy him muscovado sugar, at times, that with unrefined stone-sized kind. His favorite pastime was playing solitaire with his deck of cards, something he would consider taboo for us his grandchildren to play with. He never allowed us to play with his cards.
Nanay Connie was so patient with Tatay Salus. Despite his loss of memory, Nanay never lost hers, she was the ever-loving wife to Tatay Salus who would tell me to buy Tatay Salus his portion of pork each time the mailman delivers his pension check. I remember having to ask Nanay for my snacks, sometimes a few centavos would suffice or none at all but a measly piece of bread, but I will always have calamansi juice with me. She was very caring.
I was young then, and I never thought about the hardships that Nanay Connie was experiencing because of Tatay's Dementia or Alzheimers' Disease (we didn't know, we were too poor we never had the chance to have him checked).
Until this time when I had to care for Ric's octogenarian old-maid aunt and two septuagenarians, his Mom and another special old-maid aunt. I have considered it fate that I am stuck with taking care of them. True, we have our very own house away from them, but considering their status, I still have compassion not to leave them three alone in their old house.
And the painful thing is that, the kids and I have to deal with daily banterings of the special aunt and the octogenarian aunt. They don't seem to mix in well especially on the table. (Thank God his Mom is still normal.)
More painful thing is that I have very little patience and I tend to react badly on different scenarios in the house. I would always reprimand the octogenarian aunt for some mishaps like pouring Joy dishwashing liquid on her laundry (yes, she still does her laundry sometimes). At one time it wasn't dishwashing liquid but a sachet of Unique toothpaste she bought from the store.
My daughter would actually cringe at her for eating biscuits and leaving one biscuit uneaten, and left at wherever she last seated. Also, at one time, she kept her toothbrush inside a Lysol bottle, the brush fully soaked in Lysol. So I had to clean it away but she reprimanded me for doing so. And then she said she wanted her toothbrush left untouched, so I did.
Her usual thing would be to harvest malunggay leaves and carefully pick on each leaf to prepare it for use. On a daily basis. And when we see her doing that, we leave her alone, and the malunggay leaves to dry or rot because she would do it over and over again.
Once, maybe she got bored, and there's this newly opened pack of table napkin she would waste time folding. The MIL would be too tired to tell her over and over again to drink her milk only once, and her tablets after every meal. Sometimes when the MIL is at her bad mood, she would shout at her siblings and tell them how cruel God is for not letting her experience good things but these...
Sometimes I thought she would cry but she didn't, I never saw her cry. She is a tough one, my MIL. While the special aunt would bring her walker around, and just sit to watch TV, just like a cat, she would always roar at seeing the octogenarian aunt, especially on the dining table as she would always tell the special aunt what to do and what not to do while eating her meal. And so the big divide happens. The special aunt eats at the kitchen table, the octogenarian aunt at the dining table.
This is an everyday struggle for me and the kids. I have always referred this to Ric, and at times I cry telling him to get us out of this situation, though I always fail. Not because my husband does not allow me to separate from his oldies, but maybe because my conscience continues to convict me every time I think about leaving them. Perhaps, my human side is still acting like that kind person I was raised by my Nanay Connie, patient yet tough.
As to when we will be here with them, struggling with this daily crisis, I do not know. Perhaps God has a reason.
Perhaps it is fate. Perhaps it is love. Perhaps because we are Family.