Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mom and scans

Dad spoke with the folks at NCI on Tuesday, and they said they plan to do their MRI of Mom in September. In the meantime, however, Dad spoke with someone at Fairfax Hospital who said that the radiation oncology department might be amenable to doing another MRI much sooner; we're meeting with Dr. Tonnesen on Thursday and will discuss the matter with him. I'll be pushing hard for this to happen. The main point, here, is that Mom's tumor grew as fast as it did within a matter of weeks. We can't afford to await NCI's convenience, no matter how technically correct their reasons are for waiting.

Mom herself seems to be doing as well as can be, given the circumstances. She didn't go out and exercise yesterday, but she did seem a lot better: no more headache, which I guess was just an isolated incident from the night before. She was also a lot steadier on her feet; she could probably have gone for a walk at the local park.

On a personal note, I regret that it's taken this tumor to persuade me to show Mom more physical affection than I ever used to. Hand-holding, hugging, and kisses on the cheek or forehead are now routine for me. Throughout my childhood, Mom and I had a contentious, sometimes bitter relationship, which made it difficult for both of us to express affection to each other the way "normal" moms and sons might. Our relationship reached low points both when I was an undergraduate and just before I started graduate school. For most of my early life, Mom was never easily approachable; the love she felt-- and it took years for me to realize that it was love-- was often masked by a Korean sternness and volatility that made little sense to a young, introverted American kid. Part of this had to do with Mom's childhood, which included the horrors of the Korean War as well as problems in her own family. Part of the problem was also cultural; I grew up thinking in a manner that was often very foreign to Mom. As the years have passed, however, I've come increasingly to resemble Mom in terms of personality and character. My instinctively pragmatic and empirical orientation (as well as my inability to suffer fools gladly) probably comes from her. I've noted with dawning surprise that, during much of the time that I had thought I shared my father's way of looking at the world, I was actually settling myself into a more Mom-like groove. Living in Korea for eight years served to reinforce that development.

And maybe that's why I find it easier now, after so many years, to hold Mom's hand: I've come full circle, and understand Mom better. Having lived in her homeland, I have a clearer idea of who she is. Or... maybe it's simply that whatever contentiousness Mom had retained has been stripped away by disease and surgery. Whatever the answer may be, all I know is that it's now easy, so easy, to offer Mom my hand, my hugs, and my kisses. And Mom, for her part, readily accepts these gestures in a way she never used to. This, I suppose, is one of the morbid, Monkey's Paw-type blessings to arise from our current straits. We are at peace with each other, and we both know, bone-deep, how much we care about each other.

Tonight, I hugged Mom as she was shuffling off to bed with Dad, looking intrepid in her helmet. It was our usual ritual hug-- I embraced her and said "Good night," fully expecting a "Good night" in return. But this time, I added "I love you," a sentiment to which Mom doesn't always verbally respond. Tonight, I got lucky: I heard her whisper my words back to me.

And for a brief moment, the world was right.


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