Tuesday, July 21, 2009

night magic

I hung up after talking with my buddy Mike this evening, sat alone and quiet for a few minutes, then tromped back upstairs.

Sean, who had initially swung by around 6:30 or so (is that right, Sean?), had left. Like my other brother, David, Sean is perpetually busy. Both brothers work grueling 6- and 7-day weeks, and they're both pretty tired most of the time. I imagine Sean had something more to do this evening, or maybe he just needed some rest. He had sat with Mom tonight, and had also helped me with dinner prep and pre-dinner dishwashing, this on top of his usual load of gigs, lessons, practice sessions, and group rehearsals.

There were dishes to wash after dinner. When I came back upstairs, it was around 9:30PM, and I saw Mom and Dad sitting together on the couch. Dad had made good on his promise to start reading aloud the messages in Mom's many, many get-well cards. As I washed, I looked over the counter at my parents.

Mom seemed to be listening intently, nodding at some of what Dad was reading. Occasionally, Dad would encounter a card written in Korean, and he'd ask Mom who had written the message. Mom would make a show of staring hard at the card, as if she were trying to decipher the writing. I didn't often hear her say any names, but I noticed, at those moments, that she would laugh, perhaps embarrassed at her current inarticulateness. Dad would laugh with her; far from being cruel, he was simply appreciating the sound of her laughter.

It was one of the rare times that I have seen Mom and Dad, as a couple, simply sitting and enjoying themselves so openly. Throughout my childhood, Mom would be the one who, in true Korean fashion, would brush aside Dad's expressions of affection, even though she privately appreciated each gesture. This evening, though, there was no such theater. Dad and Mom laughed, in tune with each other, enjoying-- and creating-- uncomplicated streamers and bubbles of mirth. Dad had, at long last, caught Mom after years of chasing her.

Seeing Mom in this simpler, stripped-down state has been educational. She has literally had part of her mind shorn away. In many ways, this is a terrible thing, but one of the sneakier blessings to arise from all this has been Mom's enjoyment-- at least for now-- of a higher level of inner peace than she has experienced since, well, forever. The agitation, the worry, the stress... they're all part of a cortex that has been stripped off and cast aside. What remains is, to my eyes, a Mom who feels more free to enjoy herself. Oh, she's still self-conscious about wearing that helmet and about moving around so feebly, but her response to these situations is embarrassed laughter, not snappishness.

The rest of us, tangled in a complex skein of emotions and thoughts ranging from the noble to the petty, don't often enjoy such peace. I'm not saying Mom is lucky to be where she is; the implications of such a thought are too sickening to countenance. I guess what I'm saying is that most of us spend time stressing out over problems of our own creation-- problems caused by all the thrashing, wormy components of the human ego.

One way to begin the process of un-knotting that tangle is to calm down, look in the mirror, stop blaming others, and move forward as constructively as possible. Another way is, as I witnessed tonight, to sit side by side on the living room couch, just talking, just enjoying each other's presence. What I saw happening between Mom and Dad wasn't reducible to the effect of a tumor and four surgeries. It was deeper than that.

What I saw tonight was magic, and the reagents that informed the spell were the most ordinary in the world: humor, presence, attentiveness, communication, and love. And the greatest of these is love.



gcotharn said...

Beautiful. Thanks for this post.

John McCrarey said...

Very moving, Kevin. You captured those magic moments with your words in a special way.

I really respect how you have managed to keep a sense of perspective. That you saw the beauty of the love between your mother and father through all the worry and stress you are experiencing speaks well of you.

Stay strong.