Monday, October 26, 2009


Tomorrow's a free day: no visitors. Our upstairs floor desperately needs cleaning (our apologies to the Merrills), Mom needs to go have her walk, both the front and back yards need mowing and raking, and I'm thinking that we should take Mom out pumpkin-shopping in the afternoon. It's supposed to be rainy tomorrow, so the pumpkins* might have to wait, but we might also be able to bundle Mom up and get her ready to travel.

Mom was occasionally verbal today. She heard me coming back upstairs to say "good night" to her, and I heard her ask Dad, quite distinctly, "Where is he?" We had our usual good-night hug, and I told Mom I loved her. On some nights, she whispers "I love you" back to me; tonight wasn't one of those nights, so she offered her smile instead. I mentioned that we might go pumpkin-shopping tomorrow, and she gave me that particular stare, the one I've come to read as, "No, I don't really want to, thanks." When I asked her outright whether she wanted to go out tomorrow, she said, again distinctly, "We'll see."

Despite her lack of enthusiasm, I was both touched and amused by Mom's Korean-style politeness. Many Koreans, in situations where they feel obliged to be polite (usually when in conversation with strangers or with higher-ups at work), will avoid offering a direct "no" to something they find objectionable, implausible, or otherwise disagreeable. "We'll see" is a Korean "no."** And in this case the subtext, the reason why Mom answered politely, was that she didn't want to disappoint her son.

She's trying so hard to be normal. Mom wants to converse, she wants to participate in everyday exchanges, but it's not easy for her. Some part of her still feels the rhythm and flow of conversation; she understands the process holistically, but can no longer participate in the particulars. The ideas are there in her head, both cloudy and coalescing, but the ability to express them has been severely hampered, as has her ability to feel frustration at this fact.

If Mom's adamant about not wanting to go hunt down some potential Jack-o-lanterns, that's fine; we'll just take her walking somewhere and bring her right back home. She can enjoy watching me carve pumpkins later.

*The mowing and raking might also have to wait.

**On the TV show "House," this would be considered a form of deflection-- i.e., avoidance behavior.


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