Saturday, September 26, 2009

Corrupting Mom

Was it because she put my hair in ringlets and dressed me in dresses? Was it because when I turned 13, she looked at me and said, “You are thirteen and you will need to wear lipstick and a bra. We’re going to town,” ignoring my wail,“But I don’t want to be a girl yet.”

When mom came to live with me, in a matter of time, out went the bra and the girdle. In came comfie undies of both kinds. Comfie became the style -- looser pants, pull over sweatshirts, bright colored with designs of animals, or flowers or sayings about being the greatest grandmother in the world. In the spring we went for colorful hoodies over floral tees. I couldn’t resist an occasional “peace” message on them. In came the bright and wacky socks, special for each holiday season like her second grade bulletin boards always were. Mom was a real holiday décor person. Glitter, pompoms, the glitzier the better. It worked because if mom had the same socks on for two days, I could tell with a glance.

She complained about the sun in her eyes, so I always threw on a billed hat -- black straw for fall, white canvas for spring. On the white canvas since it was much too plain, I pinned some of her elephant pins and a special locket pin of the statue of liberty. It was so nerdy it was cool.

Ok. Comfie undies, tees and hoodies, a billed cap with pins all over it -- HEY! we are ready for a demonstration. Slap on some sunglasses with leopard designed frames and whip out her candy apple red wheelchair, and we’re ready to go! Mom would go with me to a few gatherings against the war or for immigrant justice. She enjoyed people watching during the speeches, read the signs aloud to me, and when we lined up to circle the federal building holding our signs and marching, the cars would honk, and mom would do her princess wave. She thought we were in a parade.

When she would ask, I would answer truthfully. “We think it’s fair if people who come from other countries are treated with respect, not like criminals. They’re like grandma and grandpa.” She would nod. That made sense. Like Grandma and Grandpa.

Before the wake for her, my sister and I were going through pictures. I stared at Momma’s photo as a very prim elementary school teacher. “Oh, my,” I thought, “ I hijacked mom’s style.” The comfie, hip, youthfully dressed Eugenean who
mom had become would have tickled the perfectly coifed, collared, pinned, girdled woman of her past and made her giggle. It reminded me of the time she visited us, a long, elegant dress in her suitcase because I was taking her to the Bach Festival. She was shocked to see so many people at the Hult Center in casual clothes, Bermudas and tees. “People just don’t know how to dress in this town,” she complained. I liked mom’s old style. She was always dressed colorfully, with jewelry, and very put together. But, I have to admit some satisfaction with the balance of things as we dressed one another -- she when I was a girl and I, these past precious years, ushering each other into the next phase. Momma, forgive me. At least the clothes were stylish. The proof lies in the fact that your style conscious granddaughter now wears her Obachan’s hoodies to keep herself comfie, warm and close to her Grandma.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Update to HealthCARE Blog

An update 9/25 on the healthcare blog I wrote: This morning I got a call from my mother's medical doctor's office. A person on her staff called and left a message on behalf of the doctor that they were sorry to hear about Mother's death, that they could understand why I neglected to cancel my scheduled appointment with the doctor and they wish the form letter had not been sent. Oh, my word. I guess since this is all second hand, the caller did not know that I had written the doctor last Friday, seven days ago, responding to her form letter scolding me for not keeping the appointment that I had indeed canceled the appointment and that I was writing because I thought she might like to know that she wasn't getting all her messages.

Coincidentally, my naturapath and I talked on the phone person to person; she wanted to check how the homeopathic meds were helping me. AND I received a sympathy card with a long heartfelt message from my Indian doctor's sister and her children. All in one day.

You know, I think this "professional distance" rule doesn't really makes for good care in health, necessarily. It certainly doesn't improve communication. FAX's, answering services, receptionists just don't improve doctor to patient, one on one communication. It seems there is a communication breakdown both inside and outside the medical organization of my mother's doctor's clinic. It sticks at me because my mother's declining health began when a urinary tract infection was not treated for ten days because the doctor's FAX machine did not deliver the UTI result and prescription to Southtowne, and when the same doctor saw my sister and mother in the clinic on the day she read the lab results she did not say, "by the way, your mother has a bladder infection" in her rush in and out of the room. My sister kicks herself that she did not know because if she had she would had followed up on Southtowne and the medication.

Our family knows for a fact that good communication (the best being doctor to patient and probably longer than 10 - 15 minutes), careful details, follow up is crucial to healthcare. Without it . . . . .well, it will always, always hurt.

And this is the last I will talk about this issue. I need to let it go.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SEPTEMBER 21, 2009

Almost exactly one year ago, I began blogging and wrote my first piece about my mother. Today I offer a collage of thoughts:

I look at the trees beginning to turn and think about our rides. Mama loved the glorious falls of the Willamette Valley. I try not to regret that we were anticipating another beautiful season of daily trips and be grateful for the past two autumns we shared together.

My auntie and cousin Becky are visiting today, and we will reminisce and plan. Auntie came twice a year to visit Momma and Uncle Bill came to see her too. Once with Auntie Tsuta. Those were special days. Her siblings and their spouses meant the world to mom. Ojichan and Obachan’s memory inspired her. And all her nieces and nephews made her so proud. She adored them all. Marti and I, our children and their children, of course, were her world. The family is of great comfort now.

The memorial is next weekend. two days before my 64th birthday, 1945, October 5, when a young mother gave birth to her first daughter, me. I came out the hard way -- umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, blue. Two years later, when she was pregnant with my sister, the baby was so heavy, it broke her size 3 feet. In our case, adolescence must have been a piece of cake next to pregnancy.

I had sad days, and now each day I have sad moments. I can do it.

Will and I are going to the coast for our anniversary this weekend and I keep having to shoo away this knee jerk impulse to call my sister to see if it’s ok and if she could come down . . . then I remember, she doesn’t need to come down anymore, and we don’t have to ask anymore. Today, that is the loneliest thought.

I called the minister, the cemetery and the stonecutters today to prepare for the memorial. It will be another family affair. The Kawai clan are always there for us. They will be part of the program, gather the koden, take care of the flowers, staff the guest book, write the thank yous, make the sushi, organize the reception table and help us bury our mother at her mother and father’s feet. How does a person even begin to thank family. Without our even saying a word, they have gathered around us.

Yesterday, I watched Will drive up and as he got out of the van, I stood outside and waited for him to come up the walk and hesitantly asked if we could go home to Idaho every year to “ohaka mairi.” He said yes and gave me a hug, and I burst into tears.
"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.