All of Minga’s grown daughters and sons, and all of her grandchildren, have cell phones. Her daughter Ana, and granddaughter Lily, are connected to me via an app which allows us free calling. On Monday morning, to my surprise, Ana called to tell me Minga was with her and wanted to talk.
Ana lives in Panama City, much nearer to the hospital where Minga receives dialysis, and nearer to the central terminal where Minga comes into the city on a small van called a chiva, than the daughter with whom Minga was living before. Coming and going between each dialysis to and from the village is what I left Minga money to do, and to my great joy, she is apparently doing it. She says the 90 minute ride is no more tiring than taking three busses in traffic out to Filipio, where she was staying earlier. I wasn’t sure Minga would be able to make this happen. Her family are acting protectively, lovingly — but have been driving their mother nuts. Minga says she can endure the grueling regime of 3x weekly dialysis if she can go home after, where she can see her neighbors and sleep in her own bed and eat food cooked in her own kitchen. I left her money for transportation, and that was the missing piece. Now that she has her own money, she is making the decision to come and go. On any day that she feels too tired, she will stay with Ana. She was with Ana on Monday morning rather than coming into the city on Tuesday because this is Carnaval week throughout Panama, and there is a lot of traffic both in the city and with revelers pouring into the city to celebrate. Minga didn’t want to miss her early spot at the dialysis center.
In the simplest sense, Minga has claimed the right to be in charge of when she comes and goes, and she is feeling much better about life. My sense when I was with her is that she is trying to find the middle ground between being 100% medically compliant in terms of her diet and fluid intake, and living every day in a way that she can sustain in terms of quality of life. Going home is a big part of what she needs. She has said so, clearly and unambiguously. And she is making it happen. She is one strong woman.
I’m taking note of this as well in terms of my own reflections on aging and where I will live. I’m seeing how important it is to Minga to be at home, and to have control of her life. Her younger daughter was giving her attentive care, but at the cost of too much of Minga’s sense of agency. Ana, the eldest, is a good bit more relaxed, and Minga seems fine about staying with her when conditions dictate.
Minga sends love to all of you who have been thinking of her and praying for her. She wants you to know she feels well and strong. She is praying for you as well, and asks the Virgin to watch over you and bless you and bring you peace.
Below a pic of Minga on the patio at my rented villa, and one of Ana and Miley, where Minga is now staying when she is too tired to go home after her treatment. Ana has a large family, but Miley is the only one living at home now, so there is room for Minga. Ana’s longtime marido is there too. Sounds as if Minga feels welcome and loved, and for now, all is good.
Photos by Bob Levy.