skip the midlife crisis, head on down to the twilight zone

my mother had me when she was 35. dad was 40. so i should have done the math early. but then, i was never very good at math.

my mom had her stroke at age 68. she turned 69 in the hospital. we weren’t prepared. she sure as shit wasn’t prepared either. mom told me, a long time ago, to have kids—because kids will take care of you in your old age. voila. a self-fulfilling prophesy. my parents had no health insurance whatsoever. my brother, luckily, had added them as beneficiaries to his work insurance. that helped.  insurance, however, does not cover post-hospital daily living. my mother has needs and we provide. all our money goes into providing. and it’s still not enough–how is that possible? (it’s mind-boggling, frankly.) you know when mother’s content, because she’s smiling and silent. you know when she’s unhappy, because of the moaning (like chewie!) and unceasing hand movements.

my dad has dementia. the doctors call it alcohol-induced, but he felt insulted by that diagnosis, so we just stick with “dementia.” whatever the cause, he has it. his brain has slowly degenerated and his personality has become distilled to a bunch of bad habits tied together by the grumps. his brain is frozen: it won’t take in new ideas, new ways, new habits. it can barely cope with stock knowledge. he would ask for a “spoon” when he actually means “spade.” he eats constantly, but accuses people of starving him. his brain has its own time: sometimes his past is literally his present (or maybe that’s just his personality–he never was one to ‘let go’). for the most part, he is vocal about his unhappiness and his spiels revolve around his disappointments. he forgets things, unless they’re slights (imagined or otherwise). he gets mad at loud noises: dogs barking, children yelling excitedly. as a sickly creature of habit, he gets disoriented and his default mode is to get mad.

mom loved traveling and she’s confined to the bed and the chair with very little to occupy her days. she stopped trying to walk ages ago. (we stopped trying to make her walk.) she stopped trying to eat orally. (we stopped trying to train her to eat orally.) the doctors told us a long time ago that she wasn’t going to recover. she should have recovered better than this, but that ship has sailed.

dad is a loop-er. he insists on traveling from bicol to manila, only to complain about his being stuck in manila and insists on going back to bicol. drop everything, he’s coming. drop everything, he’s going back. is he supposed to be traveling, alone? no. does he give anyone a choice? no. ping! he’s doing his thing, and no one can stop him. pong! he feels trapped, and he’s cussing up a storm, because no one seems to be paying attention to what he wants; but it’s hard to reason with the unreasonable. it’s exhausting.

my parents are not bad people; they were bad planners. my dad’s a CPA and yet he never thought to prepare more than his pension. my mom saved to spend, and lived off the notion of “god will provide.” or if not god, someone, somewhere, sometime. “dispunir” was a concept i learned early at the house. it’s the Bicolano-DO version of “we find ways.” and apparently, it’s what i know because i can’t believe we’ve fallen into the same trap of making (frayed) ends meet. don’t mind us, we’re just hanging in here. barely.

i figured we’d have more time. my grandmother got sick in her 80s, my other grandmother died at age 103. i forgot that my grandfathers died young (the maternal one of heart failure). someone posted a photo of the clan the other day and we all looked so young in this throwback photo…including the ones who are now gone. and it just made me sad AF. you can also count the ones who had kids (and no, i’m not one of ’em).

the moral of the story is: we don’t have time. people who live in the moment, who say they’ll sleep when they’re dead, will get blindsided. there is no order of things. there’s chance and happenstance. and that which fuels all the religions: suffering. toil. turmoil.

this world doesn’t allow us to decide when we die. (not yet anyway.) people shy away from reality. we distract ourselves so well. it’s something to consider though: how do you wish to live your twilight years?

i get mad at loud noises, even though i talk too loud myself.

i get headaches. i don’t sleep much. it’s a bad combo. sometimes i dream of getting a stroke. sometimes i wonder if my mind will wander and decide not to come back.

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