On a regular Mother’s Day, Sylmar resident Sylvia Perez and her sister, who lives in Northridge, would take their mom to church and then to a nice breakfast at a restaurant or at home with all the family there to celebrate their 95-year-old mother, Hope Escalante.
This coming Sunday, May 10, the celebration will be virtual — perhaps a Zoom meeting, with family members spread across the US.
But it will be no less meaningful, just like Perez’s love and devotion to her mother — a woman who, she says, has overcome numerous challenges through perseverance, strength and, above all, courage.
“She has really been a force,” Perez said of her mother, who was married for 62 years to her father, Albert Escalante, before he passed away.
Overcomes Physical Setbacks
In her youth, Escalante was a “Rosie the Riveter,” working for Lockheed during World War II.
She would face many of her own “battles.” At age 47, Escalante suffered a stroke and underwent a year of rehabilitation to learn to talk and walk again. She was in a really bad car accident in the 1970s; rescuers had to use the “jaws of life” to pull her out of the wreckage.
And she also survived a bout of cancer.
Each time Escalante recovered, returned to work and kept on working until she was 63-years-old.
“I see all that she’s gone through and keeps on going. She’s a very strong person,” Perez said.
Moving Back Home
After living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Las Vegas, Nevada, Perez decided to move back home, literally to live with her mother and take care of her.
“As she was getting older, we didn’t want her to live by herself,” says Perez, 72. “We sold our home in Las Vegas five years ago and now I help her along with what needs to be done.”
It hasn’t been easy, she admitted. Her mother suffers from a slight case of dementia and can forget things. Perez has become her caretaker, 24/7.
“We’re retired and it was easier for my husband and I to move back. We could be here all day with my mother,” Perez said.
There are good and bad days. The roles are now reversed — Perez acts as the mother, and Escalante as the daughter.
“She tells me ‘you’re worse than my mother,’” Perez said, chuckling. “I’m the one to tell her ‘we need to be here, we need to go there.’”
Both attended the Stretch Aerobics class at Las Palmas Park in the City of San Fernando. Perez would also take her mother to play bingo there twice a week and to church before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the park.
As the oldest of Escalante’s three daughters, Perez said moving back home to take care of her mother was an easy decision. But there are challenges.
“You never really know until you’re in it. It is a lot more than what I thought it would be,”said Perez, adding that she better understands now the kinds of challenges caretakers face.
“It’s trying, sometimes. You just have to take a deep breath and give yourself a few minutes,” she adds. “I go sit myself in the corner for a while to put everything in perspective.”
Despite that, she wouldn’t change the situation. Putting her mother in a senior home was simply out of the question.
“I just couldn’t do that,” Perez said, and plans to keep caring for Escalante as long as she can.
It’s the way she was raised. Her grandmother lived with her aunt and Escalante would visit her every weekend or after work, constantly trying to help with her care.
It is also a way for Perez to repay her mother for the many years she helped her when she and her sisters were little.
“My mom and dad moved to Albuquerque for 10 years to be near the grandkids when they were little,” she said. “They did anything they could for their children and their grandchildren.”
Now those grandkids, some of whom live in Pittsburgh, PA, and Perez’s sisters in Albuquerque and Northridge are returning that love.
Since the “stay-at-home” measures started, the families have been getting together in the virtual world.
Perez bought a coloring book for her mother similar to that of her two granddaughters in Pittsburgh, so they can have coloring days through Skype.
The family gets together to play bingo through Zoom twice a week because “that’s something that my mother enjoys.”
“It’s been fun, and that’s how we’re able to connect with family members,” Perez said.
For many kids, the worst thing anybody can tell them is that they are turning into their fathers or mothers.
For Perez, that would be a welcomed praise.
“I’m hoping I picked up her best qualities,” she said.
She already has.