The month of May always signifies a time in which we all look for photos of our moms rocking bangs and huge glasses to post on social media. We see a ton of captions on IG that are surprisingly longer (and easier to write) than a lot of writing assignments in school. Our thoughts flow out effortlessly, as we praise our moms for putting up with us for X amount of years and being sassy AF.
Sometimes I wonder though — does it stop there?
After 140 characters, after we press the "share" button on the top righthand corner, after we like our friends' comments reinforcing and affirming in fact that yes, our moms DO rule,
does it stop there?
Do any of us take those loving letters that create those sentimental sentences to express those encouraging emotions and tell it to our mothers?
I'm just asking because I know that it's pretty difficult for me to express how I feel IRL, and I can feel nothing but jealousy to all of you who have the courage, the love, and the boldness to share those thoughts directly.
Alright, now back to this blog post that I'll most likely not have the courage to share with my mom:
My mom has always been there in my life, even in the parts where I didn't really ask her to be in, lol.
She gave me everything: ballet, violin, piano, and art lessons. She gave me study books annually that were for the grade above the one I was currently in, and her expectation for an 8th grader to take math and science at the high school was not extraordinary. She also gave me her obsession for shoes, her generosity in tipping everyone, and her knack for attracting gay men, seeing as she has a flock of them working for her.
I call her a White Tiger Mom:
she's fierce, she's a rare breed, she's one of a kind.
Though I moved to Palm Springs from LA in 2002, I found myself in LA almost every other weekend. Sure, I found a new ballet/violin/school teacher here in Palm Springs, but when it came to the essentials — doctors, dentists, Korean markets — a 2 hour drive was more than tolerable.
In 2010, my dad got sick. He had to get treated in the hospital, and of course, we didn't even think to have him treated in Palm Springs.
While I was in school, my mom would make the 2 hour drive to be with him, and drive back home.
While I was at dance rehearsals, my mom would make the 2 hour drive to be with him, and drive back home.
While I was deciding not to face realities and instead, bury myself in my computer or with friends, my mom would make the 2 hour drive to be with him, and drive back home.
When she was home though, we would put on a brave face and talk about things that didn't regard the fact that her husband was slipping away ever so slowly.
One night when I was on my bed doing homework, my mom came in and just chatted casually about nothing. She was getting up to leave the room and mentioned genuinely yet gingerly that something felt weird with her body. She and I both brushed it off though, and she left the room.
Thinking back at it now, I'm almost positive that she and I both knew that something was wrong. However, this was during a time of crisis for my dad; there was no room for her problems that were frivolous, if not selfish, compared to his life.
After my dad passed away, a few months went by.
The storm was finally passing.
By storm, I mean the conglomeration of the experiences that my family and I went through being similar to a 102 F degree day, with 63% humidity and light showers throughout the day that did nothing to cool us off but instead, add to the humidity, followed by hail storms and winds of 43 mph that hurled hail straight at us as we tried desperately to dodge them.
Close your eyes,
But this storm that just passed wasn't even a storm.
In fact, it was the calm before another storm to come.
Close your eyes,
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Close your eyes,
God, if you're there, are you fucking serious with this? I literally just lost my dad, and you're ready to strip me away of my mom too? Is this seriously happening? How dare you try and take away both of my parents like this. How DARE you. This is absolute bullshit.
The rest of the school year, graduation, and the summer before college was all a blur.
Every day, I broke plans with friends and inadvertently shut them out of my life because I couldn't fathom telling them that my mother was dying.
Saying things out loud is like holding a hot iron ready to brand a cattle. It's there, in your hands, hot and ready (not like a Little Caesar's pizza). You have so much power, you are ready to sink it into the hide of your animal and let it burn and last forever, and you can't undo it.
I didn't want to say that my mom had cancer.
I didn't want to let it burn.
I didn't want it to last even for a second.
Some of my friends were mad at me for not going out with them in our final summer before we set out on our separate ways to college, while others just had intuition that something was wrong but didn't question it because, well, they knew that's just how I am. Either way, I couldn't be upset at them for not being sensitive because I gave them no information to be sensitive towards. My days consisted of driving my mom to chemo, sitting at Starbucks down the street to wait for her, picking her up, and taking her back home.
Have you ever wanted to make someone feel better, but you just couldn't do anything?
Have you seen your mom in so much pain?
Have you ever quietly tiptoed into her room in the middle of the night, half checking to see if she needed anything, half checking to see if, just in case, she was still breathing?
The summer passed, and I was moving into my dorm at UCLA. I hated that I had to leave my mom, but she had no intentions of stopping me from going to school. I called her every day, and she kept being that fierce ass woman, going to chemo, living life, and not letting anything stop her.
She's cancer free, and has been cancer free for years now.
I must get my hair growing genes from her, because her hair grew back quick and thick, surpassing the lengths of my friends' who take Biotin just to grow an inch or two. She golfs, she plays racquet ball, she goes to Zumba, she has a Wii (lol) and two dogs (replacements for my sister and I, though I'm 300% certain that she loves the pups more than she loves us sadly).
2010 was a difficult year.
Who loses her husband, gets cancer, and has to send a kid off to college within the same year?
This isn't a post to gain sympathy and ask for hugs.
This isn't a post to tell you to hug your mom a little tighter or take her out to nicer dinners.
Honestly, I sat here trying to remember all of the feelings I felt that summer, yet all I could remember was driving her to and from chemo.
Why can't I paint vivid pictures in my head of that shitty time for us?
Why did I block it out?
Why am I so numb to it?
Why was I in the mindset that this was all going to go away, that she wasn't going anywhere, that this was like another common cold or flu that would just be cured with some time and modern medicine?
Why couldn't I feel?
I know, we're all out there trying to find true love, trying to find a career we don't hate, and trying not to hook up with ugly guys at the bar (anymore). I guess I just want to remind myself that there are much bigger things in life than having to wait in line for an hour to get into a club. I just want to remind myself that failure is not an option.
I just want to remind myself that anyone who has lost a parent is strong as fuck, and to anyone who has lost both is superhuman.
The motives for my need to succeed in life might be unhealthy as fuck, but I just want to make a shit ton of money and make it rain on Mama Kim. I want her to be able to breathe easy, literally/figuratively/emotionally/any other applicable adverb. I want her to stop having to go into her liquor store and come back late at night, exhausted and distraught from shitty people.
So this one is for you, my White Tiger Mom:
Stay sassy and keep fighting. I promise in a few years to make you as happy as you make me.