I decided earlier today that I would blog tonight since it’s been so long and since I am, for this one evening, caught up (well, sort of, anyway). I’d already titled the blog: “The Perils of People-Pleasing and Perfectionism: Alliterative Life Lessons.” Titles are fun, right? But the day has taken a turn, so I’ll have to save that for next time. And, curiously, I can’t think of a damn thing to title this post.
For the past week or so I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot. “Isn’t that a given,” you might ask? Well, no, actually it’s not. Since they left and I began the new job, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to think about anything other than the day in front of me. There’s been some purposeful avoidance, too, I’m guessing. It’s not that I don’t think about the fact that she’s halfway across the world dying of cancer. That thought crosses my mind several times a day. But I haven’t really allowed myself to internalize that, to really think about what that means. Instead, I’ve been running from everything these days and feeling increasingly angry at everyone and everything in the process. I’m just pissed. I want to scream and lash out. And every time Bennett throws one of his massive toddler tantrums, I want to join him. Instead, I’ve been holding him, talking quietly to him, loving him through it—and it helps. It feels cathartic for me as well.
Over the past few days, however, my anxiety has been through the roof. I’ve woken up several times in the middle of the night thinking that I’ve heard my phone; I keep waiting for the phone call from my dad with bad news about my mom. But the last time I talked to my dad he told me that things were “about the same” as when they left. I didn’t believe him, of course, and that probably served to heighten my concern. He’s a reliably unreliable source when it comes to these things. So I wanted to check in again, but because of the time difference, I had to wait all day to call. By Bennett’s bedtime the feeling was so intense that I paused our book reading to call my dad. I never cease to be amazed by these strange moments of connectedness or knowingness that come upon us suddenly and strongly. My dad didn’t answer, but he called me soon after to tell me that my mom is in the hospital. For now, it’s just some fluid on her lung that they had to drain, but then he also came clean about the rest. She can barely walk these days. She doesn’t really talk very much. She is having some hand/eye coordination issues. They hadn’t been telling us because they "didn’t want us to worry," which is what I suspected anyway. And then he dropped the bomb. He explained that he sort of regretted seeing his mother in her deteriorated state right before she died and suggested that he and my mother didn’t really want that for us. He did say that he would leave it up to us, but I can tell that they would rather we didn’t come.
I contemplated not going for a minute. I tried to imagine what that would feel like. Not going, of course, would mean that our final moments here would be the ones that I carried with me. In some ways, that appeals to me. I haven’t shared those last moments with anyone: not friends, not my partner, not my therapist, not my siblings. I’ve barely looked at them myself. I tucked them away because I couldn’t bear to think about them. Her last words to me were full of all the wistfulness, tenderness, and love of our lifetime lived together and all the regret, sorrow and longing for that lifetime unlived, both past and future. There’s a part of me that wants to preserve that…but I know I’d regret that decision.
While cooking this evening, I put something away in the cabinet and saw the sesame seed oil that she bought while she was here; I was struck by so much grief and heartache that I could barely finish cooking. All of those things that drove me crazy—the way she took over my space whenever she was around, the way she rearranged drawers and cabinets to suit her needs—were suddenly deep losses. She’ll never be the boss in my kitchen again. She’ll never feed me again. She’ll never cook for my child. She found so much pleasure in feeding us—watching us eat, making us our favorites, relishing how much we love Korean food. She was a fierce and formidable woman. She was wounded and short-tempered. But she was also mine. Now she’s weak and vacant. And soon, in that way that mother and child belong to one another, I won’t belong to anyone anymore. Whatever good, bad or un-nameable things have passed between us, when she gave me life she anchored me to the world, and now I feel like I’ve been unmoored from something and set adrift. So I’ll go, of course…to see myself off as much as her and to honor all that she has been to me.
I keep thinking of this poem by Rabindranath Tagore; I’ll leave you with it:
Peace, My Heart
Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.