Auntie's Molokai Home
A Maui Story
"Not uncommon story" comes to you as a story many Maui-Molokai families could tell
It all began as a simple trip. Auntie and uncle were to come to Maui for the retirement party of a family member. They had lived their entire life on Molokai. Maunaloa was their home on the far west end of Molokai. From this place in Molokai, you can catch a clear vista of the back side of Diamond Head. It is really spectacular at night.
Maunaloa was once a lively pineapple plantation town, not unlike other plantation villages of the day. Families worked for Del Monte or Libby, and the small plantation town functioned on a high level with children, their dogs and the Saturday chicken fight a priority.
Auntie Rosie was as close to the family matriarch as any one could be, especially after Mama and Papa passed. She and Manong Pete had over the years opened their home to all the family that where "just getting started." My husband and I where given a room at the beginning of our marriage some 38 years ago as well. She and Manong had worked their entire life in the pineapple fields, up before dawn to meet their days under a Molokai sun.
Through the years though, we all began to notice that Auntie was beginning to experience some memory loss and some disorientation with time and place. Soon it became necessary to live with a family member that could lovingly watch over the couple. The trip to Maui was for the occasion of a party, as well as a well deserved break for the Molokai family of caregivers.
We were all excited for their visit to Maui and happy they would be able to meet new generations of the family they had yet to know. Sadly, within 24 hours, she was in Maui Memorial Hospital. Many ailments had plagued her later years, diabetes for one. The one ailment we were slow to recognize was like a thief in the night. It came to rob her of her present moments and reality. It was dementia, and eventually Alzheimer's. The doctors at Maui Memorial determined the best care available would be at Hale Makua in Kahului.
We were all grateful a bed was available. She receives excellent care and it is a comfort to us that so many nurses at Hale Makua could communicate with her in her native tongue, Ilocano, the language of her childhood. We knew this because she addressed my husband, as Mama had always done, as "Alipio," his Filipino name. We were confused at first, because our youngest is named Alipio, and we thought she was addressing him. Then we understood she was speaking from the past.
Days have become months. What was "a simple trip to Maui for a party" is now a reality. The responsibility is now for the Maui families to “give back" to Auntie what she had given us over all these years. At first my husband was adamant that she and uncle should be able to “stay in Molokai, because that is their home!” My answer was, “What if in the end she does not know where she lives anyway, but what she now knows is that we are near?”
The tables had turned. He was silent realizing it was now “our turn” with the care and support of Hale Makua. An agency has made all the difference for our family, and that is the Maui Aloha chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. Our family reached out to them, and we were given council, education and caregivers support as well as workshops to attend.