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Tribute to mom: Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

My mother was born on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines; she was the fourth child of 12 children.

 

Her father was a Spaniard-Filipino physician, her Spaniard mother was a teacher. In that era, children’s futures were intentionally set by their elders and my mother’s future was set to become a nurse.

 

After graduating from proper school, my mom went on to college in Manila. She, along with a couple of her best friends, stood in the entry line to become a nurse on the first day of college. Hours later, despite her embarrassment, she arrived at the head of the line to find it was for entry into Medical School.

 

Well, my mom decided she would make an excellent doctor and stayed in the line. A couple of her best friends stayed in the line with her. And she persevered, through the first couple of years.

 

The third year, although she was a studious student, she had difficulty in higher math. She met my father during a calculus course. He tutored her, and after two years of statistically surmising their compatibility they finally married.

 

They decided to make a go of the “American Dream,” accepting jobs with the Indian Health services and positions at San Haven Hospital in North Dakota. From there, we moved to Florida and then settled in Louisiana. My parents worked together as a team taking care of their work and family.

 

My mom was caretaker of her husband and four children. In her hay-days Mom threw amazing parties and volunteered at church, school, and many other community activities in her spare time. Today … Dad, my three brothers and I, live with Alzheimer’s.

 

My mom is one of approximately 44 million who live and suffer from this disease which robs her of many precious memories, her sense of self, and on her worst days the desire to live or love. Our family is one of millions who wait and watch helplessly as our once invincible Mom, the amazing Events Planner, the Cheerleader, and the “Kisser of Boo-boos,” disappears insidiously more and more each day.

 

Unfortunately, mothers and women are targeted by this disease. Females constitute around 66 percent of those with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, 60 percent of Alzheimer caregivers are women. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., however, more recent estimates indicate this disorder may rank third just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.

 

Luckily, Mom is not combative nor angry in her state of Alzheimer’s. It is not her body which struggles, it is her mind. She recognizes our faces and she can repeat any sentence you ask of her, but cannot remember or recall names or significant dates. We keep with established routines and avoid stress and fatigue. I tell all of the giggling grandchildren amazing stories about life with “Lola” while she sits and smiles with us. Mom’s eyes are bright and she smiles frequently, sharing with us that she enjoys our company or what we are doing together.

 

Share with family members, exchange and tell stories so the next generation can enjoy them and do the same. When I visit with Mom, I make sure to make her smile when I first see her and before she goes to bed at night. I miss my mom, I miss her the most when I’m just sitting across from her. I will make sure she is not forgotten.