Neriza Sarmiento Saito’s
ON THE ROAD TO:
STILL A FAMILY ACROSS COUNTRIES
It was almost the end of August, but Osaka still sizzled and wiggled in the excrucia-ting heat. Dennis, my editor-friend, had always been patient waiting for my long overdue article while hooked to an intravenous drip.
Going through my incomprehensible notes, I saw the draft of what I was supposed to write, the UP Los Banos Choral Ensemble, the Philippine representative to the Takarazuka International Chamber Choir Competition and winner of two gold medals. Right after the concert, I wrote the draft, finished a page but due to a sudden flight home to take care of my mother, I forgot all about it! Sign of aging or just simple forgetfulness or something else? Respect for the Aged Day is on September 17, perhaps a very good topic to ponder upon and a good time to realize some difficulties faced by the elderly who are mostly alone and lonely.
Sa araw ng pagdating ko, normal lang... kuwentuhan at balitaan, kainan, tawanan at hagikgikan. Nang sumunod na araw napansin ko na nagkakamali ang nanay ko sa pag-inom ng gamot at posibleng nadodoble pa. Naroon namang panay ang kwento niya ng mga nostalgic events noong bata pa siya.
Minsan naman, tanong niya sa akin "E, sino ka nga ba talaga at taga-saan ka?” Tuwing hapon, nagbabago ang mood niya, binubuksan ang lahat ng kwarto at hinahanap yung "iba pa raw naming kasama sa bahay."
Until her retirement at age 65, she led a busy and fulfilling life as a schoolteacher. We were a big, happy family. One by one, we left the Philippines to live abroad. After my father passed away, she decided to live with my sister. Maganda raw kasi ang health services doon. Doon na rin siya nag-80th birthday. Mga 2 years after that, ayaw na ring masyadong lumalabas ng bahay lalu na kung malamig dahil sinusumpong ng arthritis! Pati na paborito niyang mga DVD ay di na rin pinanonood
dahil nalimutan yata ang pag-ooperate.
Suddenly, it dawned on all of us that dementia is setting in! She was going through the "twilight hour" usually in the late afternoons. Dazed and puzzled, she would be searching around for her lost items, or would forget her medications.
My sister was getting stressed! She needed a break so we arranged for my youngest sister and brother to look after her while I accompanied my sister to the Philippines for a short respite.
Our trip was not only a reunion with our folks but also an awakening about getting older gracefully. Our aunts in the province still lead an active lifestyle, enjoying their day to day schedule as if each day is going to be the last. On weekends they would go around shopping malls on wheelchairs. Ninang Precy and Tita Puring hold potluck parties, prayer meetings or reunions with former colleagues in Teachers' Camp in Baguio.
Compared with Japan's elderly citizens, Filipinos shun the idea of sending their parents to Homes for the Aged. Somehow and anyhow, a member of the family can be relied on. In Japan, where privacy is treasured, many single type mansions for retirees are now popular. They can enjoy recreational activities like walking clubs organized by the residents themselves, training in the gym, swimming facilities and many more.
Feelings of isolation are stronger in men because they did not have time to socialize while working. Community type housings like this will give them a chance to enjoy "their second life" and have new friends who they can consider family.
For Pinoys, the family is the center of life and the universe. It is where we all gather strength. In the recent 24 -hour live broadcast of Yomiuri Television, the family of pro-wrestler Keisuke Sasaki overcame sweat and pain in a marathon relay with words of love and encouragement for one another. With their young sons, they finished the marathon on time for the singing of the finale theme song "Sarai."
In the New York bestseller, "Still Alice," the Harvard professor heroine discovers one day that she is losing her yesterdays, her short term memory going in the downward spiral of Alzheimer's disease.
With her husband and children, she begins to live in the moment, to live for each day till her existence becomes a "symphony of discovery and renewal."
If there is any way we can show our appreciation for the elderly on Respect for the Aged Day, perhaps we can tell them “Thank you for being here for me..."