Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mom and the crowd

Saturday went about as smoothly as could be hoped: I picked up my aunt at the airport, without any hitches, and got her back to our house safely. I fielded a call from some Korean relatives (even speaking with one cousin for 20 seconds in my poor German), chauffeured my aunt and my parents to a nail care salon where Mom got a manicure and a pedicure, and bought Chinese food for dinner.

My aunt chose to feed Mom her dinner, which is appropriate, since Dad and I had been taking turns with meal responsibilities. Throughout the day, there was a mix of laughter and tears, and we shared our hopes for a successful outcome to the upcoming surgery. So much is riding on this: Mom's fading mind is at stake.

After the manicure/pedicure session, we took time to marvel at Mom's nails and generally dote on her. We held her hands, talked to her, made faces, and did what we could to keep her anchored in this world. Lately, it seems that Mom has been slipping away faster and faster; for that reason, December 18 can't come quickly enough. Dad thinks it'll be a photo finish-- the race to treat Mom before the final sand grain leaves the top of the hourglass.

It's now early Sunday; Mom will have to wake up earlier than usual in order to be on time for her makeover; later in the day, I'll be driving her, Dad, and my aunt to the Washington Korean Women's Society Christmas party. I won't be attending; Dad will go in with the two ladies, while I'll be parking elsewhere and awaiting his call for a pickup. Today is Mom's day to meet the ladies who haven't seen her since all this began, as well as to greet those who have (often with their husbands) so kindly dropped by over the past eight months.

It's doubtful that we'll stay at the party long; such trips are extremely tiring for Mom, and today she'll be meeting far more people than she's met in a long, long while. I'm betting she'll be exhausted within an hour or two.

There was some debate, within our family, as to whether taking Mom to this party was a good idea at all. I admit I was against it, as was at least one of my brothers. As that brother said, "The party might turn into a crying-fest." Dad didn't see it that way. In his way of thinking, the party would be exactly what Mom needs: before her cancer, she was very sociable (at least with her Korean friends), and this trip would give Mom the chance to feel like part of the community again. Both points of view, pro and con, are legitimate; in the end, it was up to Mom to decide whether she wanted to go. Over the past month, Dad has asked Mom just that question, and she has consistently answered "yes," even as recently as yesterday.

I hope she has fun at the party tomorrow, and I hope the people who meet Mom, who hug her and kiss her and slowly realize that she isn't talking anymore, put on a brave face and avoid treating her as an object of pity. Let this be an occasion for joy, not sorrow. Mom still responds to the emotions of people around her; expressions of sadness might be beneficial for others, but they'll also bring Mom down. Smile, and she'll smile with you-- even though her smile has dimmed almost to nothing.


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