a depressing book about old people

I’m slowly getting through my emo’s Grim Reaper’s reading list. The lastest title, Bittersweet Season, is one reporter’s account of taking care of her elderly mother, what she did right, what she didn’t. Aside from a lot of examples where the author doesn’t realize that she alienate her peers by overwhelming them with complicated advice about aging her listener is not ready to hear, there’s a lot of helpful information in there. Some of it, maybe most of it, has already passed for me — but I’m grateful for one throwaway tip. When the author’s mom began to have trouble getting in and out of chairs, the author states that this is a sign that there is a point coming soon where the patient will need a wheel chair. Helpful! When I observe my dad having trouble, I know that he will be immobile at some point. Prior to Dad’s illness, I was very innocent and inexperienced in a way. Every time we had a setback or a diagnosis or noticed a new issue, I thought, for some reason, that would be that, but it turns out life doesn’t work like that. There isn’t really like a plateau stage. It’s ongoing. The other helpful bit from the book is the point that seniors usually have more than one illness, which is hard to manage when doctors seem to be trained to be tunnel-visioned in their speciality. Fabulous advice!

I mean, let’s be real, I’m not doing anything to prepare for this inevitable future. The lifting, the bathing, the walking, the feeding, the changing. Those demands are so totally coming around the bend and beyond mom’s muscle, but with nursing homes running about $10K a month, we’re going to have to keep doing “aging, DIY style.” What I appreciate about the book though is that once the future is here, I will not be taken by surprise. That is a gift I do not take for granted.

cool for the summer

This is what my hair looks like right from the humidity and excessive length. Hagrid Hair. This is the look of my summer. Thank you.

harmony

We are insanely busy at the office right now, so much so when someone comes up to my desk, I still do not look up to talk. I get into like Terminator mode when I have to focus. Yesterday, my co-worker came.

Enter Co-worker.

Co-worker: This is so disgusting, I have to have someone else taste this.

Co-worker leaves a small pebble of chocolate on my desk and exits.

Via email:

FROM: Me
TO: Co-worker
RE: Wow
DATE: Limbo

I feel like I just ate a piece of pavement.

FROM: Co-worker
TO: Me
RE: re: Wow
DATE: Limbo

I was thinking more sand/dirty sock.

That’s it. That’s the extent of our non-work gabbing for the day, since, as I said, it’s been insanely busy. But in that exchange, I felt such a strong sense of camaraderie. I don’t know why, but that’s why I work at all. These moments of bonding.

“and the soul shall dance” by Wakako Yamauchi


My mom showed me how to act drunk for my first play (college like sophomore year maybe?). The play was “And the Soul Shall Dance” and the character was miserable, over-the-top, physically abused, and drunk a lot — I had never drank alcohol before so I had no idea what I was doing (I had never acted before, so I had no idea what I was doing). I still remember her jumping immediately into when I asked her my question. She bugged her eyes out and stumbled around our dining room. I couldn’t stop laughing. despite all her anxiety and ingrained misery, she has this weird, impish sense of humor that comes out all the time, often when she doesn’t know it.

The other ridiculous parts of the show: it was an all asian cast and there were no asian actors who were visible at that time (why? seems weird, but okay) so a lot of us were recruited to audition despite having no previous experience by this lovely, sweet intentioned caucasian fellow who sought us out and I think is now a lawyer. The guy who played my abusive husband would drink hot sauce every night to try to make his voice husky. When his character slapped mine, I’d dive behind a table to put on bruise makeup around my eye and I always like painted two thirds of my face dark purple — like something so disproportionate to the slap. and then the play ended with me going crazy by running off stage into the courtyard screaming.

We performed in a dining hall so we had to reset furniture and move the salad bar every night. A completely fun experience. But what I happened to remember today was my mom’s acting lesson.

heart

I read once girls go through teen years, they can talk for an inordinate number of hours and it was definitely true for me in high school. My best friend Alex and I would gab for hours — we walked to school together, we hung out at her house after school, we spoke after dinner in our respective homes. But on top of that, we would call each other if we heard the other person’s favorite song on the radio so the other person could listen. One season, her favorite was “These Dreams” by Heart.

anniversary

My parents have the same anniversary as Jay Z and Beyonce. (Yes, I’m an arse, because this is good banking security info.) I forgot to congratulate them so I texted Mom. She said she forgot too, but wouldn’t celebrate in any case. The man who introduced them was in time so she said she would give my dad back. I could not stop laughing. You think Chris Rock is edgy? Try my mom.

religious freedom

A very cool thing my parents did for me when I was growing up was let me go to church. We didn’t practice anything in particular but I had a friend in junior high who was lutheran so I decided to invite myself into her lime green station wagon and check out services. I think I lasted a few weeks until I felt, yeah, no, this really isn’t working for me and stopped going. The priest actually came to my house one evening to check in on me and I kept saying “I’m fine!” as I shut the door on his face. I think I was mostly just mortified that he showed up and I didn’t want to mix him up, my weird exploration, with my parents. But you know why I love my parents for this? They never forbade or expressed any weird feeling. They basically shrugged and did the 1980s version of “you do you.” I am grateful for that freedom. Some might have felt more threatened.

kickball!

As the result of having multiple children, I’m not really allowed to just sit down. I would absolutely ignore the kids and read my book in the playground, but Husband often makes me participate. Last Sunday, he pushed me into kickball. Reluctantly, I went up to “bat” and kicked as hard as I could. Got to first base covered by First Son. Wonder Twin Girl kicked and I got to second, and then for some reason, I began to giggle wildly and tried to steal third then home. I absolutely got tagged out. But in those giddy moments, I felt possessed by my mother’s spirit. She has a very fun part in her. It’s like buried very deeply in that Darth Vader heart, but it’s there.

call me by your name

i have become obsessed with this story, all because of clip to Psychedelic Furs. I’m such a sucker for new wave, early 80s music, it’s not even funny. Someone should put a reel together of cauliflower to The Cure, and I will soon only eat cauliflower.

In any case, I’ve read the novel twice and seen the movie once. Safe to say I am obsessed.

The book revolves around one man’s recollection of his first wild summer love affair as a teen in Italy. There are a lot of descriptions of cicada I paid attention to because it’s something that reminds everyone of summer (or many) and yet, it’s not easy to describe in an interesting, original way. The author wrote “frantic cicadas,” which I thought was pretty good.

The film is a smart adaption of a book that’s so interior–the lead character endlessly ponders every angle about the object of his crush, the latest of his father’s interns/writing fellows, an American grad school student visiting for six weeks to finish his book. It takes place in 1983 before AIDS became a full blown annihilation and being gay is still very much a tricky thing.

The first time I read it, I did not sense the threat of coming out of the closet. The second time, I saw it all over the place. The grad student keeps referring and showing a giant boo-boo (sorry, I’m around kids too much and have no idea what else to call it) to the lead character that felt random, but that I now believe is an allusion to the enormous lesions AIDS patients developed.

My friend Becca saw the film before me and described as a portrayal of that passionate first love and I was skeptical at first, I think, because I believe true romance means not continuing a relationship and really getting to know the person — because of course, we are all annoying, sometimes great, sometimes petty, and pretty normal. But if you have a brief affair, it’s superficial, you don’t really have to know the person, and so to me, the concept of the great romance is a pure illusion. Brevity is a key part of the romantic ideal. The movie/novel is being pitched as universal, that great love can happen to anyone and that anyone can relate to this story.

As I get to know the work, I think the fact that this is the love story between two men is crucial. The brevity of their affair is absolutely because it is safer to fit into a heterosexual society. The grad student choose to marry a woman — he might care for her, of course, but I think his character does not explore a deeper connection with the lead character because being gay and out is scary. At least, that’s what seems like. I have never had to go through that so I don’t know if this story is an accurate portrayal of that experience. I have not had to live through that time period where gay men were being exterminated en masse by AIDS. I cannot imagine the devastation of losing so many people in your community, so many friends, all at once. I cannot imagine.

Another note on the movie, the kid playing the protagonist is incredible. So much of the script requires him to be alone. There was a Stanislavesky (spelling?) exercise we used to do in acting class, which was being alone in public. So many of us bombed, needing to feel interesting. It is very hard to sit still on a stage as if you were at home, but this kid does it effortlessly, or seemingly so. There is not a shred of self-consciousness, he is fully at ease on camera and it is amazing to watch. The other actor playing the grad student is far more experienced and quite beautiful and fully commits, and yet I don’t find him charismatic or believable in the part. It’s tough. Talent is talent, you know? But I will give him credit for choosing the part and the PR involved with plugging a film for a year or longer. Taste is part of talent and being able to sound enthused and fresh with the literal same words/stories over and over again is also a talent and sick skill.

chuck e. cheeses, dante’s inferno, 713 tickets

Ahh, motherhood. What’s your most acutely stressful moment? My maternal grandmother met my maternal grandfather on their wedding day when she was, I think, 18. They had six kids. She had had four of them, including my mom, by the time the Korean War broke out. All the men disappeared so that they wouldn’t get recruited by the communist army (i think. My uncle wrote a memoir that explains it better), which left the ladies to evacuate children, and I assume the elderly, on their own. So maybe my maternal ma was in her early 20s or so when she was responsible for leaving Seoul with four kids under the age of five by OX CART. My mom still remembers being four and terrified of the wheels of A WOODEN OX CART and my emo as a baby sitting on top of it, when they had walk by foot to a safer area/city/town — I’m assuming a few hours of walking was involved, a day or more of walking. My mom cracked me up when this was the story she reported on in her writing class for the topic “My First Trip.”

My paternal grandmother, whom I know less about, also had six kids. My paternal grandfather was an inventor and had created some kind of fertilizer (as well as paint for the Japanese military during World War II, SAY WHAT? It’s true some Koreans were not tortured by the Japanese but were actually close to them. My maternal grandfather went to college in Japan and was fluent. He had dreams of being a writer, but who would read novels written in Japanese by a Korean?) When folks defaulted on payments for his product, he was sent to jail (apparently, at the time, if you were bankrupt, you had to go to prison) so she had six kids on her own for a while. (Good god).

My mother has had her own challenges, immigrating to the U.S. to join my dad who went ahead, with a toddler (me), a rice cooker (from the layover in Japan where all the Koreans advised each other to shop since they had the latest and greatest technology), suit cases, and two lung x-rays to prove we do not have tuberculosis and were safe to move on in. (Can you friggin’ imagine? I barely manage to leave my apartment with the kids, sometime Brooklyn, but…arggggh).

My hardest parenting challenge? Chuck E. Cheeses.

Sorry, it’s true! I’m American, middle-class, stable. I’m never moving. My husband participates equally with parenting, so….Chuck E. Cheeses.

I went to my second kid birthday party of the day (mistake) at Chuck E. Cheese (an act of hubris and stupidity). Chuck E. Cheese is equivalent to the ninth ring of hell, Dante’s inferno. Lots of lights, noise, people, shoulder to shoulder, paying for video games, which spit out tickets. After you play, you wait in line to redeem your tickets into a ticket counting machine and they typically malfunction. Then you get on another line to redeem your total number of tickets for a tiny, crappy piece of plastic aka toys. There are never enough tickets, enough turns on the video games, someone usually cries — it’s Vegas for kids and THE KIDS LOVE IT. So because they adore this particular friend who’s birthday it was, because they love the Chuck of the Cheese, I went. I knew what I was getting into with crowds, losing the kids a few times. With parties, guests can get extra tickets, so I waited in line with three bags of tickets for thirty minutes. When it was my turn, I worked steadily and spent twenty minutes to insert 713 tickets, one by one because they were not connected. 713! It was almost like a Buddhist exercise. Like as I kneeled putting in tickets one by one, I asked myself, why am I doing this? Isn’t it cheaper to just buy the prizes? Do I think I’m going to be a better parent doing this? I thought about how Husband would never survive this place. He would have a nervous breakdown in the entryway and refuse to participate, but that he’s smarter than I am in that regard to know how futile these steps were and yet I am so programmed to follow through that I could not walk away, etc. etc. After a crowd gathered to watch my intense ticket feeding, my kids and I Went to the loo en masse, retrieved coats. Fairly close to the kids’ bedtime, we got on line again and got some dumb plastic items the kids promptly forgot about as we left this hellacious prison…it was so awful.

I’ve mentioned some pretty tough mothers. I am their descendent, and my lore of survival, my legacy will be CHUCK E. CHEESES.