Sam Domingo

You Call Me Many Names

On Mondays in the garden, I am
Shirley with whom I never shared a resemblance.
But since you squint too hard, and have
a near-cataract on your right, I let
it hold true before

when I am Justine and blessed by your holy oil
which you claim heals all pains with daily
rubbing. I never contested despite
seeing you limp around

To water your plants on Wednesdays.
You call me “Oi!” and show me my dad’s picture,
safely kept in that dusty pink dress you’ve sewn
and worn along with a hope of him coming
home from abroad

Maybe on Thursday, to
which you know the response is “no.” Given,
you must have misheard me – “Jojo’s pretty daughter” –
every day I’d coyly tell you while the noise
of your house’s silence envelops you. Memories

Of a Friday birthday party
haunt you with the prospect of your children
and whoever you baptise as “grandchildren”
all together before your brain drains the last bits
that make you their mother, Elena.

Saturdays are not any better.
You don’t know me at all but you nod
in the subtle submission to your loss
and smile brighter than those with full teeth
routinely after I make another promise

That on Sunday, my siblings and I will think of you
as often as you think of us. Hopefully,
like all the other days, you will shed that thought;
for once you leave, you’ll have only room
for one family photo to remember.

Having lived in a house beside my grandparent’s house most of my life, I observed how my paternal family would differently treat the terminal illnesses of my grandfather and grandmother: the former who died with tuberculosis, and the latter still surviving with symptoms of Alzheimer’s or perhaps, Dementia. My relatives provided immediate medical care to my grandfather in the form of medicine and in-home medical equipment, frequent hospital check-ups, and a tremendous amount of patience. My grandmother’s constant forgetting, on the one hand, is met with irritation, some kind attempts of understanding, and little to no medical support. My extended family tries to provide aid by helping her do her daily chores, implementing the care that the doctor would recommend, advising her on her nutrition, and accompanying her in walks that she often does alone (leading her to get lost sometimes). In all these types of care shown to my grandmother, the underlying acceptance that her symptoms are natural for elderly persons and not part of an illness that can kill her is heavily present. This belief, amplified by the fact that the symptoms do not manifest physical pain the same way those of a terminal illness do, hinders my grandmother from receiving a better form of palliative care that would hopefully ease her twilight years. As a recourse, I extend as much patience as I can to my grandmother by constantly answering her repeated questions, reintroducing myself, and accompanying her in some walks when I would see her outside. I admit that I did not believe that she needed immense care when I was a kid, but having grown up with a mature perspective and being exposed to elderly persons in outreach programs in care homes convinced me otherwise. I believe that palliative care in the Philippines needs utmost priority and reform. We can start by improving facilities, followed by backing up recovery programs with more research and skilled and motivated staff with intensive training and better pay.