An Alien in Our Midst
Laymen like me say Dementia for Alzheimer's disease and vice-versa. I never really understood the differences or similarities.
Not even when people I love were or are afflicted with one or the other, or both. Medicine has not come up with a cure for these conditions. There are ways to retard them, but in the end, the afflicted person will lose his/her memory, cognitive ability, and worse, the person that he/she once was.
Ate Miriam is the older sister I never had. A fellow believer of grace and a neighbor, she had been there for me since my family and I moved to the village where we've lived for years.
She was always the wise one.
In my book Gifts of Grace 1, I called her the three ghost busters in one. She would drop everything and come when I needed reminding, help, and whatever else you can think of. I paid my real estate tax on time every year because she made sure I did. She was as generous with her time as with her advice.
Today, she still lights up when she sees me in church, and gives me a hug. But sometimes she doesn't say my name. She asks a question a hundred times over and tells an anecdote the same number of times, or more. She just turned 75.
She now shuttles between her children's homes. But always, she pines for her own home in our neighborhood.
I learned that she was in her eldest daughter's house in QC last week—and would be there for two weeks, but suddenly she was back home in just three days.
She tells the story her own way, which she finds hilarious, but the real story is everything but. It was a cause of mini heart attacks in many homes.
The truth is, she escaped.
She hailed a cab and told the driver to bring her to Pandacan—the place where she grew up. She said she was going to pay him P4,000.
In Pandacan—the terrain of which has totally changed from when she was a little girl—the cab driver went round and round, even after finding one church that she said was adjacent to her residence. There are now three churches in that same area and it was one o'clock in the morning.
The Lord's protection came forth. One of the men—still outdoors having a good time with friends—recognized her. He turned out to be her nephew. He quickly asked her to get down, but not after she paid the cab driver what she thought was P4,000, but which was actually only P40.00.
Relatives brought her home immediately to our village to make sure she was safe and sound.
Dementia (or is it Alzheimer's?). It's like a UFO that abducted the real Ate Miriam, and in her place brought home a look-alike alien whose moods, personalities, and thoughts are totally different from the Ate Miriam I have known and loved for years.
Everyone tries hard—especially her children—but we can't seem to find the reasonable, helpful, fun-loving, take-charge, and gracious Ate Miriam anymore.
Our collective prayer is that God will give us a bigger heart, with many rooms for patience, understanding, kindness, and love to deeply care for this special guest in our midst—the way we did for the original Ate Miriam.