I took Monday off work to take my mom to her two-part, final, upper denture appointment. This whole adventure/odyssey began when my parents were living a few states away. My mom’s upper, dental bridge literally fell out of her bleeding mouth as we were driving her to visit my dad in the hospital after his massive stroke. I did my best to get her sorted; she had not been to a dentist in the last 15 or so years. I had been traveling back and forth 8 hours each way, as I was trying to manage all of the lives, in their various states of disarray, that had suddenly fallen into my lap. We had to find someplace that my mom was willing to pay for, that was quick- so we could get her seen and taken care of before I returned home. That meant a national chain. Now that I’ve moved my parents here, the closest office of this national chain of denture dentists is about an hour and twenty minutes away.
On our drive my mom, who is seventy-something (No one knows her real birthday, because she was born in Korea, records were apparently lost during the Korean war, compounded by the the fact that she had lied on her marriage certificate and no longer speaks to any of her family-so there’s some confusion around her age.) began to unpack her usual baggage. How this tiny woman is able to carry so much back-breaking, soul crushing, stress inducing baggage is unbeknownst to me. She must weight all of 87 pounds. However, if you were to open up her carry-on, there would be about 3047 pounds of stuff. I have to think that she would love to leave this heavy burden somewhere, but something within her will not allow her to let it go. Or for whatever reason, she can’t.
And so it began. Everything that my dad had ever done wrong or not done right, since about 1964. This tiny woman started to unpack, and as she did she would carefully examine each memory, each angry little ball of hurt, sadness, regret, and disbelief, as if she was looking at it, and even feeling it for the first time. She could call up old emotions like a spell. And then she would become inflamed over things that happened over fifth years ago. (I think this is a fairly common phenomenon- but it still amazes me.) I now wonder, was she looking for validation? Does she think that I can somehow heal or repair the wrongs of her sisters, my cousins, the army, my dad, my dad’s relatives? Hmmmmmm. Maybe that’s something I should ponder and maybe there’s some way that I can do this.
There’s a pattern to her oratory- it starts with how she should have never married my dad- how selfish he was from the start. There’s a noodle story. After the Korean war, my om’s family were poor. Most Koreans were. My dad, being in the military had money. I think he left Korea and then came back after he was out of the army with $800.00. Which was like a million dollars then. Kind of. But he didn’t work. I don’t know what he did. But I know my mom’s younger brother (at least once) had to order and go pick up noodles for my dad for his dinner. And my dad would not offer nor share any of his noodles with my mom’s younger brothers, not even a drop of the broth…blah, blah, blah. Then we go fairly quickly into the how he cheated on her and then about buying some woman who lived in the same apartment building furniture with money that he should have spent on her and my sister… blah, blah, blah. Then there’s his terrible family and how they made my mom wash dishes and then they gave my infant sister some bourbon to get her to calm down and fall asleep (one time) and how my mom thinks that this is why my sister got cancer and died when she was 27, blah, blah, blah… I had to stop her when she started talking about sex. You know it’s a bit of a terrible day when your mom wants to talk about her sex life and about your dad’s erectile dysfunction issues and his porn issues and blah, blah, blah. I think at times, that if this was on a Kardashian episode, it might be funny. It might reveal the closeness of the relationship between mother and daughter. But it is not funny. And it feels like I’m trapped. And that makes me feel guilty on seventeen different levels.
Part of me understands that my mom is older- wait, nope- not older- old. Period. She’s old and her brain is not functioning at premier levels. It’s probably functioning at the subpar level. Going round in circles, unable to untie itself. Looping endlessly about mistakes that cannot be corrected. Frustrated by degeneration.
There is a very bitter and unhappy person living within my mom. I imagine that she’s shriveled up, feels that life treated her unfairly, and is just angry for all the things that happened to her- because she had little or no control. Or when she did have control, she made the wrong choices. It’s still hard for me, at times to try to see things from her perspective- and to understand how she got to where she is now. I just know way too much. And I hear it over and over and over. I have heard it since I was a child. She hated my Grandma. My Grandma was horrible. My Dad is horrible, America is horrible. We are terrible children. I am a terrible child. I know more than I want to know about how my mom feels about stuff. She tells me that she has no one else to talk to. And then my soul dies just a little.
Anyway- the denture dentist gave her a little plastic bag that you get from dentists, with a denture toothbrush, a polident sample, some coupons, and a container with her old denture in it. And that bag has been lost. And it’s been determined by my parents that its my fault. They are sure that I brought it home and threw it away. or left it in my car and lost it. Or that I did something with it, because if I do not prove myself to them on a fairly regular basis, in their heart of hearts, they believe that I am a bad person with bad intentions.