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Always a mother

May 12, 2019 - Sunday 4:05 AM by Lovely Carillo

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Mothers are superheroes.

They painstakingly carry you in their womb for nine months, give or take a few, bring you into this world, and get stuck with you for life. The world has seen great mothers and no one will argue that they are nurturers because they take care not only of their children but of the whole family. But who will take care of them when they get old, or when they can no longer even remember who their own children are?

Marcela Lambino Libres is twice a superhero. She is not only a mother to her three children -- Ma. Perpetua Libres-Comighud, Ma. Milagros Libres-Laurente, and Ma. Lourdes Lambino Libres -- but as a public school teacher for 23 years, mostly at the Dadiangas South Elementary School, she has helped mold and influence the hearts and minds of thousands of young people, some of whom have become notable members of society.

Marcela, however, is not like any of the traditional mothers in today’s modern society. She has been living with Alzheimer’s Disease for almost two years now. This chronic neurodegenerative disease is not easily diagnosed because the symptoms start slowly but worsens over time. One of the most common, which everyone is familiar with, is difficulty in remembering recent events.

Other symptoms of the disease include difficulty in planning and solving problems, completing familiar tasks like taking a bath or brushing teeth, difficulty determining time or place, and finding the right words to say.

“Mama has Alzheimer’s. On my birthday last year I decided to have her take maintenance medication. She has been taking Mentra 200 once a day since then,” her daughter Lourdes said.

She said she is proud of her mom even if she already forgets things, even her own children, sometimes.

“I am proud that my Mom at 82 in her two years na may Alzheimer’s full blown, my mom still walks on her own in a walker around Agrot's (her sister) home in Kalsangi (Polomolok),” she said.

“I embrace her a lot and she always tells me after I hug her, ‘Lami na Lou,’ ug magtulo na lang kalit ako luha sabay talikod kay Mama (I always embrace her and after I do that she will tell me, ‘That is very nice Lou,’ and then before the tears start to fall I just turn my back so she would not see).”

Lourdes said her mother always forgets even their recent conversations, so she always asks them again and again even if she repeats the conversation once or twice -- or just too many times for comfort. It is not easy to be patient and sometimes, Lourdes cannot help but be irritated. But she knows better.

To help her remember, they provided their mother with a small whiteboard with a pen and eraser so she can write information and read it if she forgets. Her kids use the whiteboard to write their whereabouts so their mom knows where they are.

“Mom loves to play her role pa rin up to know despite her difficulties. Kahirap na minsan mag-pretend as her personal caregiver to say she is just fine because we know she will never be the same,” Lourdes said.

Despite the difficulties and the challenges, Lourdes keeps asking God to let their mother spend more time with them, even with her memory already fading away. She always tells her siblings and other family members to work doubly hard and be more patient. After all, what they are doing now is not even enough considering what their mother has done for them.

Despite her failing memory, her mother still remembers family members who are always with her. They have placed a photo frame of their latest family picture in her mom’s bedroom so she will continue to remember them even when she does not see some of them often enough.

Lourdes, who has an advocacy work in Lake Sebu, makes an effort to go home to see her mom at least once a week. “I am her caregiver pero alternate caregiver ko si Ate Tata. I see to it at least once a week umuwi ako ng Kalsangi to check on Mama.”

And when she’s there, she makes sure she does everything for her mom, from preparing her coffee in the morning to cooking her meals throughout the day. She also assists her in her grooming, from taking a shower to taking her medicines.

She has many more stories to tell about her mom. But then her tears start to fall again.