More than just a gap
It occurred to me what worse meant when we arrived there. Our place in Bulacan is not so far flung from the hustling metrop, and it is just situated at the boundary of Obando. In order for us to be at the barrio proper, we have to take a ten-minute boat ride by the prebiotic river. My cousins who live there (at the barrio, not in the river) said that the waterways were once so clean they were able to swim their hearts out. Now it’s still accessible for aquabelles but it’s hard to perform butterflies and backstrokes with pig poop and an assortment of garbage floating along your path. Gross. Anyway, the boat ride is fun and enjoyable for there is no risk of finding yourself swimming in no time flat, thanks to the large bamboo planks strung along the boat’s sides; these also keep the boat from sinking. Where was I?
By the time we arrived at my dad’s house gramps was not there. We searched for him inside the whole house but he was nowhere to be found. My sister and I thought gramps was playing hide-and-seek. My dad thought he’s looking for grandma again. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, which affects both memory and reasoning capabilities of suffering individuals. I don’t know exactly when this case occurred to my grandfather, but as far as I can tell the onset worsened just last year when he was having delusions and such. My aunts and uncles are worried about gramps because he’s been acting so oddly during the past months. They would say that gramps would buy three kilos of rice then he’d cook all three kilos thinking he’d be having guests for that day. There seems to have no problem with this, but gramps did this every so often at around two in the morning. Also, gramps would do a long and detailed search for grandma at neighbor’s houses, saying that she hasn’t gone home since that morning. “Kanina lang katabi ko siya sa kama.” This connotes some degree of creepiness since my grandmother has been dead for almost four years now. Gramps would also look for other dead relatives of his such as parents-in-law, brothers who passed away several years ago, among other non-existential people.
My cousin has his own share of story. One day he dropped by at my grandfather’s house to deliver lunch. He found gramps at the dining table, reading papers. My cousin thought it was fine but when he’s about to leave gramps stopped him short. “Oh, san ka pupunta? Diba nagpatawag ako ng meeting? Nasaan na ‘yung ibang kagawad? Kanina pa ’ko naghihintay dito.” Gramps and my cousin were in different quadrants of the universe – my cousin in the present world, gramps flew back in time when he was still barangay captain.
Alzheimer’s disease is incurable, may be a degenerative illness. Doctors said the best thing to do with patients such as my grandfather afflicted with Alzheimer’s - aside from giving them bottles of Gatorade for added strength – is to keep them company. They need somebody to talk with, even if it made no sense to talk about unseen people. And so as not to make things worse relatives should refrain from telling the patients about dead loved ones, or just don’t tell them (the patients) that they’ve (the dead) already departed. Fabricate the most believable and probably the cutest excuses, say, grandma just went to casino with her amigas or she’s at Starbucks that moment sipping a Venti Coffee Jelly. My sister has her own: “Nagtext na po siya, paparating na raw po in…15 minutes.” Gramps laughed but was immediately replaced by a wrinkled frown. “Baka may iba na siyang lalaki. Hindi na niya ako mahal. Pinagpalit na’ko ng lola niyo sa mas bata.”
In case you’re wondering, gramps is still looking for my lola.