Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mom watches "The Incredibles"

Mom can no longer follow a movie's plot the way she used to; this is one of the effects of damage to the left frontal lobe. She tends to be more tactile now, fascinated by the heft and texture of things, but when it comes to watching a story unfold, she's more responsive to the emotional dimension of the story at any given moment than she is to the story's more abstract issues-- its themes, for example, or its sly references to other stories on film or in print. The plot might build up to a crescendo, but Mom can no longer appreciate the buildup, as she can't retain the sequence of events that give the crescendo its impact.

It was, therefore, a bittersweet experience to witness Mom watching "The Incredibles," my favorite Pixar film. She was already a bit sleepy before I started the DVD, and she drifted in and out a few times over the course of the movie. Some events startled her, mainly because she'd forgotten why the event was going to occur. Because of her blunted affect, i.e., her reduced ability to feel emotions, a lot of the humor was lost on her, too. Nevertheless, while Mom was awake and watching, she seemed, on some level, engaged with the proceedings, often staring at the TV in almost childlike wonder.

It's too bad Mom's no longer able to have a discussion about anything; it would have been interesting to compare this American-style portrayal of family life with a hypothetical version of "The Incredibles" made by Korean scriptwriters and filmmakers. I asked Mom a simpler question instead: "Who was your favorite character?" Mom couldn't say. As with so many yes/no and "Wh-" questions, she started her response with "Well..." then faded into silence.

Sometimes I think it would have been nice to have more video of Mom from before all this happened. Now, sadly, I know that from here on in, such videos won't be possible. This is the Mom we have, and barring a miraculous recovery in her brain, this is the Mom we're going to have. Such a Mom has her merits-- in her reduced state, she seems more at peace with herself, for example-- but counting one's blessings in such a situation is a bit like losing nine fingers and being thankful for having retained the tenth.

Still, it's important to remember that regret and vain wishfulness serve no constructive purpose. Mom-- this Mom-- is here with us now, and she still loves us, just as we love her. That's what matters, because that's all that can matter.


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