Ene 4, 2015

Annotation 3: Angeles’s “Mga Tala ukol sa Sakit ni Mama ayon sa Kanyang mga Sintomas”

This will be the longest of the annotations[1-3], and its goal is to abstract a chronological sequence of events from the story, opening it up for further reading.

As had already been noted, Jestine's posts usually begin with introductory paragraphs more or less closer to her present situation (October). Then these jump to a points in the same year where she makes important discoveries that would lead, eventually, to the confirmation of her mother's disease (January, April, July, August, September). The outline below shall reconstruct chronology by reverting the present-past order of the posts to past-present.

1) Ang Karamdaman: Frontotemporal Dementia (Pick's Disease)
October: Jestine recalls her initial inability to distinguish between her mother's symptoms and her mother's "imbalance" or "stress" about the father's decision to leave them for a new family. Perhaps the disease could have been detected earlier in the absence of this smoke screen. 

2) Unang Sintomas: Apathy
—January: Her mother begins to display forgetfulness or neglect of her PTA duties. She seems to be paying greater attention to the supposed feelings of her pet spider. 
—October: Jestine juggles (with little success) the demands of the household, the maintenance of the blog, and the care of her mother. 

3) Ika-2 Sintomas: Loss of empathy and other interpersonal skills
—April: Once a crybaby, her mother does not tear up while reporting the father's decision to her children. Jestine pries into the online conversation of her parents and begins to fear for their financial stability. Meanwhile, the mother drops a banana piece into the spider's house (a converted aquarium) and tears a hole into the screen. 
—October: Watching "I am Sam" again causes Jestine to cry.

4) Ika-3 Sintomas: Lack of judgment and inhibition
—July: While out grocery shopping with Jestine, the mother behaves very strangely, brusquely, and with little awareness of her actions. She seems more composed when dealing with the spider. It now feeds on the insects that have come through the hole, attracted  by the rotting banana.
—October: Jestine reaffirms her choice of the blog as a venue for release. She doesn't seem to care for the presence of any reader at this point.

5) Ika-4 Sintomas: Repetitive compulsive behavior
—August: Jestine marks her mother's glaring absent-mindedness in house cleaning. Expensive pots and curtains, old, treasured gifts from her father, suddenly go missing and unaccounted for. Argument ensues.  
As her mother shrugs off her attempts at intervention, Jestine thinks that it's time for the pet spider to disappear.
—October: Jestine remembers the time when she could go out drink a bit with her friends. She admits that she had been arguing with her mother during the past week. Alone, she drinks beer. 

6) Ika-5 Sintomas: Speech and Language Problems
—September: Trisha and Ten-ten turn experience mounting difficulty with their mother and to their sister for help and mediation. Their mother has relinquished all but the most minimal engagement with her family, devoting herself entirely to the pet spider.
—October: Jestine remarks on her emotional distance from her younger sisters. She recalls how she had anticipated her growing responsibility earlier, how she chose to turn a blind eye to it.

7) The Turning Point :((((
—September: Jestine spends the whole night in front of the computer, escaping (as she puts it) to cyberspace. She hears the sound of her mother's alarm clock, something she has not heard for months. She dives back into bed, hoping that this is the signal of her mother's return to reality, to taking charge. She falls asleep waking for her mother to wake her. 
When she wakes she realizes that her mother has not stirred from her room. She calls repeatedly at her door and, fearing the worst, breaks it down. She and her sisters find her the missing curtains swirled on the floor around the bed, various things littered on it but arranged so that the most important objects are closer to the center, and in that center, their mother, slumped and so unresponsive that they had to call for an ambulance.
The aquarium's on the floor too, filled with little garbage and webbing, but there's no sign of the spider itself.
—October: Jestine writes a calm and lucid open letter to her father expressing her anger, her fear as she takes on her parents' responsibilities, and her wish for him to read the entirety of her blog.

8) Diagnosis, Implications, at Pagbabalik ni Mama
—October: Jestine recounts the slow recovery of her mother, how she will now have to take care of her as well as younger sisters, how her father and relatives send money for their tuition and daily needs, and how she opted to put her schooling on hold.
She admits that she slips every so often, that even after cleaning up her mother's room, she still sometimes "sees" the spider and its aquarium. She expresses greater understanding of her mother's role and disposition (as she assumes these) along with fear of the genetic nature of dementia (even as she resolves to avoid it).

Let's take another step toward chronology by abstracting the October entries and lining these up behind the earlier months:

January— Her mother begins to display forgetfulness or neglect of her PTA duties. She seems to be paying greater attention to the supposed feelings of her pet spider. 
April— Once a crybaby, her mother does not tear up while reporting the father's decision to her children. Jestine pries into the online conversation of her parents and begins to fear for their financial stability. Meanwhile, the mother drops a banana piece into the spider's house (a converted aquarium) and tears a hole into the screen. 
July 11— While out grocery shopping with Jestine, the mother behaves very strangely, brusquely, and with little awareness of her actions. She seems more composed when dealing with the spider. It now feeds on the insects that have come through the hole, attracted  by the rotting banana.
August 7— Jestine marks her mother's glaring absent-mindedness in house cleaning. Expensive pots and curtains, old, treasured gifts from her father, suddenly go missing and unaccounted for. Argument ensues.  
September 19— Trisha and Ten-ten turn experience mounting difficulty with their mother and to their sister for help and mediation. Their mother has relinquished all but the most minimal engagement with her family, devoting herself entirely to the pet spider.
September 27— Jestine spends the whole night in front of the computer, escaping (as she puts it) to cyberspace. She hears the sound of her mother's alarm clock, something she has not heard for months. She dives back into bed, hoping that this is the signal of her mother's return to reality, to taking charge. She falls asleep waking for her mother to wake her. 
When she wakes she realizes that her mother has not stirred from her room. She calls repeatedly at her door and, fearing the worst, breaks it down. She and her sisters find her the missing curtains swirled on the floor around the bed, various things littered on it but arranged so that the most important objects are closer to the center, and in that center, their mother, slumped and so unresponsive that they had to call for an ambulance.
The aquarium's on the floor too, filled with little garbage and webbing, but there's no sign of the spider itself.
October 2— Diagnosis. The mother returns home a day or two later
October 14— Jestine begins to blog, recalling her initial inability to distinguish between her mother's symptoms and her mother's "imbalance" or "stress" about the father's decision to leave them for a new family. This smoke screen could have led to a late detection of the disease. 
October 15— She juggles (with little success) the demands of the household, the maintenance of the blog, and the care of her mother. 
October 16— Watching "I am Sam" again causes Jestine to cry. Also, she reaffirms her choice of the blog as a venue for release. She doesn't seem to care for the presence of any reader at this point.
October 17— She remembers the time when she could go out drink a bit with her friends. She admits that she had been arguing with her mother during the past week. Alone, she drinks beer. 
October 18— Jestine remarks on her emotional distance from her younger sisters. She recalls how she had anticipated her growing responsibility earlier, how she chose to turn a blind eye to it.
October 24— She writes a calm and lucid open letter to her father expressing her anger, her fear as she takes on her parents' responsibilities, and her wish for him to read the entirety of her blog.
October 26— Jestine recounts the slow recovery of her mother, how she will now have to take care of her as well as younger sisters, how her father and relatives send money for their tuition and daily needs, and how she opted to put her schooling on hold. 

She admits that she slips every so often, that even after cleaning up her mother's room, she still sometimes "sees" the spider and its aquarium. She expresses greater understanding of her mother's role and disposition (as she assumes these) along with fear of the genetic nature of dementia (even as she resolves to avoid it).

If we shift our attention to escape (the concept of the thesis as well as the yearning of the protagonist), we find this thematic if not causal trajectory. First, the father leaves the family for another. As read by Jestine, he attempts to engage his wife in a Skype chat.
Mga ilang buwan na rin palang ganito ang sitwasyon nila bago pa sabihin sa amin ni Mama ang tungkol kay Papa. Tahimik at malamig na ang relasyon nila pero tuloy lang palagi ang pangungumusta sa amin ni Papa na parang walang nangyayari sa kanila.
Sa pinakahuling bahagi ng thread nila, ang sinabi lang ni Mama ay 'Magsama-sama kayo sa impyerno ng kabit mo basta wag mong kalimutan ang sustento sa amin ng mga anak mo.'
The mother retreats from the family by way of disease, driven to redirect her affections to a spider. The spider itself goes missing, but there's the possibility that it was released by either mother or daughter.

Burdened with responsibility, Jestine is locked off from some means of escape (eg, friends) but not from others (eg, alcohol, Internet). One of these means, the blog, become a manner of engagement. In her open the letter to her father, the one instance where she directly addresses a post, she places the blame on him. However, this is not the most direct means to him. She has his contact details (eg, Skype, presumably others) and could send a direct message. She would not commit to this.
Pa, naiisip mo pa ba kami? Bakit hindi ka nagpaparamdam? Ganoon lang ba kadaling kalimutan ang dating pamilya basta may kapalit? Hindi ba kayo makatiis masyado diyan, hindi ninyo napaglabanan ang pangungulila kaya kayo bumuo ng ibang pamilya? Ang dami ko pong tanong 'no. Kasi wala man lang kayong paliwanag sa amin. Wala kaming lakas ng loob na tanungin kayo mismo habang unti-unti namang kinakain ng sakit niya si Mama.
The whole time, she had been expecting her father to account for himself. She had been waiting in vain, receiving from him only money for tuition and upkeep. The blogged letter is an utterance that might or might not reach his father, depending on whether his father "searches" for her. It is a web in itself, woven hoping only (perhaps) for the enticement of nostalgia or love to ensnare the father. Something more than blame and need, however, is to be found in this letter.
Nasisiguro kong kumpara sa pinagdadaanan namin ngayon, okay na okay ang lagay ninyo.
The father's escape is the most complete among the characters, rivaled only by the irrecoverable spider (one who has escaped the narrative itself). The father is Jestine's hidden model, even as she gravitates toward the destiny of her mother.

       ______________________________
[1] Angeles, Kathleen Siena A. “Mga Tala ukol sa Sakit ni Mama ayon sa Kanyang mga Sintomas.” In Eskapasismo. Unpublished thesis. March 2012: 59-87.
[2] Annotation 1.
[3] Annotation 2.