Yesterday I took a break from my marathon house cleaning and I thought, “I’ll just play a quick game of Candy
Crack Crush!” I just updated the app a few days ago
because I’m awful at updating my apps, and I discovered the joy of the “daily
booster wheel” (you’re right, Kim, those jelly fish are a crap prize). So there
I was, feeling like a Price is Right
contestant, about to spin that little wheel, when Candy Crush stopped me to ask
if I would give the other 400 people on my friends list a helping hand. As I
was about to hit “accept all,” I saw it: “give Kwi Suk an extra life! She’s
been stuck for _____ days.” For those of you who don’t know who that is, it’s
my mom. Apparently none of us geniuses thought to delete her rarely used
facebook account. I sat there, stunned for a moment, looking at that sweet
picture attached to her account.
The Christmas that picture was taken was a stressful and momentous one; it was the first time my parents met my partner—ten years into our relationship. In my family, we don’t do things halfway. They didn’t just come to meet her. We packed my entire family in that apartment we were living in at the time: my parents, Kim and I, my sister, my brother, his wife and his two little babies. The visit was for some *ridiculous* amount of time. In the middle of winter. In Bloomington. For those of you who live here, you know that means that you are largely housebound on those wintry-mix kind of days because we don’t have the infrastructure in place to always “git’er done.” There were lots of board games. But you can imagine that there were some tense moments, as well. Kim, the only one of us who had to leave the house to go to work, was granted some brief moments of reprieve. I was grateful for that. In truth, though, it wasn’t completely awful. In fact, in many ways, it went better than I could have imagined. Especially because it was my brother and my mom who, after days of mounting tension, had the blowout fight that year. You can’t imagine my relief that someone else had finally ruined Christmas. (Sorry, bro. I mean, odds are it was bound to happen, eventually.) As my parents, my sister and I departed for New York for an additional few days, my mom took a moment to say something to Kim. I think what she said was something like, “thank you for taking care of April; you’re a good girl.” But later she told me what she wanted to say was something along the lines of, “If I had to pick, I couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law.” Um…awkward, since she’s not actually a “son,” but let’s not get hung-up on the small details. All kidding aside, it was a big step for her, and I appreciated the gesture/sentiment. She never looked back; she loved Kim after that and thought she was the best thing since store-bought kimchi (sorry, I’m reaching here). But in that picture, there are no traces of that tension or awkwardness.
Also, this. Because it’s too sweet not to include.
So I sat there staring at my iPhone, wondering if it would be the thing to push me over the edge. Instead, I laughed at the incredible awfulness and irony of the moment. I “accepted all,” and then I spun that wheel and got another stupid jelly fish. Not cool, Candy Crush, not cool. That’s kind of how this process has been for me, though. It’s like the universe keeps extending these morsels on its giant silver platter, “a little grief for you today, ma’am?” “No thanks,” I say, “not right now,” and then I go about my day. What’s wrong with me? I can probably narrow down the number of minutes that I’ve spent crying about my mom’s death to the span of a single hour—a few minutes here, another minute there. It’s not that I don’t feel sad, and it’s not that I don’t feel like crying. It’s just that, for some reason, I don’t do it. Instead I endlessly defer it, “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,” and all that.
The problem is, I feel like I’m reaching the end of some allotted grief period. That’s silly, you say? Perhaps. But it’s also kind of true. When someone dies, we expect and fully support a period of mourning. People look at you with their sad eyes and alternately skirt or approach the topic depending on their personality. Then slowly, something shifts. It’s not that people mean to push the grief aside, but after all, life does go on. Any Downton Abbey fans out there? Well, the most recent episode explored this very thing—the various rates at which one is expected to reenter society with a kind of acceptance and forgetfulness concerning the deceased. It goes something like this: “Of course we don’t want you to forget, but let’s also not remember so much…so often. It’s a downer.” The Dowager Countess would say something like, “don’t be a defeatist. It’s so middle class” or “this sort of thing is all very well in novels, but in reality, it can prove very uncomfortable” (Ep. 2.8). Better yet, how about, “stop whining, and find something to do” (Ep. 3.3). Of course I’m misappropriating quotes, but you get the point. It’s not that I’m looking for the sad eyes or the awkward grief encounters. I never knew exactly what to do in those moments, anyway. Sometimes I admitted that things had been difficult. Mostly, however, I smiled at you because that’s what I do, and I was too inept to say or do anything else, even in the face of your condolences and tears. But I’m feeling the shift. Don’t worry; it’s not you. It’s me, and my own internal set of pressures about social acceptability, blah, blah, blah. I’ve wondered, recently, what I’ll do with this blog. How much longer will people want to read about this process? Should I shut it down and start a new blog. Should I stop blogging altogether? Should I just transition this blog to something else? Should I just keep doing what I’m doing and seeing where it leads? I don’t know. I haven’t answered those questions yet. I’m guessing I won’t answer them today.
I went back to cleaning after failing to beat that dang level for the thousandth time (I’ll take some of those extra lives, peeps). Eventually, I came to that gallon-sized Ziploc bag underneath the bathroom sink that’s full of my mom’s old cosmetics, various makeup brushes, etc. that she left here when she returned to Korea last August. Every time I come across it, I push it a little further back in the cabinet. This time was no different; I pushed it back again. “Another day,” I told myself, “I’ll deal with this another day.” And so it goes.