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Over the past five years, Chen Binqiang has taken care of his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Photos provided to China Daily
A school teacher has risen to the challenge of caring for his Alzheimer's-striken mother, in memory of his childhood, Wu Ni reports in Shanghai.
Chen Binqiang often remembers how he played and slept on his mother's back as a child while she toiled on their hometown farm in Pan'an county, Zhejiang province. His mother would usually tie him to her with a wide, long belt.
Chen, now a 37-year-old middle school teacher, uses the same belt to strap his mother against him so they can ride together on his electric bike to his work.
Chen's mother, 64-year-old Chen Yueguang, has struggled with Alzheimer's disease since 2007. The illness overtook her very quickly and she has lost the ability to speak and has become incontinent.
None of Chen's other family members, however, could take care of their sick mother.
Chen Binqiang straps his mother against him on his electric bike before riding 30 km to the school where he once taught.
Chen's father died in a traffic accident when he was 8; his two sisters married far away; and his wife has a 92-year-old bedridden grandmother to look after.
A nursing home was not an option, either.
"In the preliminary stage of the disease, when my mother maintained some mental ability, some relatives asked whether she was willing to live in a nursing home. After thinking for a while, my mother replied that she would like to live with her son," recalls Chen.
"My tears flowed immediately when I heard her words and I was determined I will never leave her alone," Chen says.
Chen taught Chinese in the Central School of Lengshui town, which is about 30 kilometers away from his home in Pan'an.
Due to the long distance, he spent five days at school and only went home on weekends.
When he announced he would take his mother to work, even his wife was doubtful and worried.
"I really didn't think it is realistic for him to take care of his mother in school. If he lost his job because of this, who would sustain our family?" says Chen's wife, Fu Liuping.
But Chen was determined, and soon he was strapping a safety helmet onto his mother's head, settling her on the bike's back seat, and securing her snugly to his back with the belt for the ride to school.
"My mother used to take me around with the belt and now I am using it to take her. Every mother would dedicate the best she could offer to their children, and I would like to try my best to care for her," Chen says.
Luckily, the school supported Chen's idea and provided him a free dormitory to accommodate his mother.
A timetable in Chen's room reveals his busy day:
1 am and 5:30 am: Wake up mother to take her to the toilet;
7 am: Feed mother breakfast and comb her hair;
teach classes during the day;
9 pm: Take a walk with mother;
10 pm: Help mother fall asleep.
Chen Yueguang has the mental capability of a 1-year-old child, and her son must feed her at every meal. Though engaged in the chores of looking after his mother, the teacher is popular among his students as "he is humorous and always has a big smile".
Lu Yixuan, one of Chen's students, says she feels "teacher is always in a hurry".
Recently, things got a little easier for the mother and son, as his story gets known.
With the help of Pan'an county's education bureau, Chen was transferred to a new post in Pan'an Experimental Junior Middle School in October 2012.
The new school is only five minutes' ride from his home, which means the dutiful son could take care of his mother more conveniently. Chen feels happiest when his mother is looking at him although she cannot speak.
"She must have forgotten who I am, and she could not call my name.
"But she surely knows that I am kind to her," he says. "That's enough for me."
In December, Chen was elected one of 20 candidates for Touching China Awards, held annually by China Central Television to honor those whose performances have moved the nation over the past year.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(China Daily 01/09/2013 page20)