Category Archives: grandmother

Love is enough.

The subtitle for Barb Lee’s Adopted film is “When love is not enough …”.  What kind of love is she talking about here?

I argue that love is enough.

The love I know came in the form of handmade, Korean clothes for me and my entire brownie troop. That love also displayed all my Asian dolls on shelves in my room.

That love stood between me and the bullies who hurled their personal insults and attacks at her.

That love forgot that I couldn’t bear her red-headed grandchildren.

That love wore small, silver Korean shoes (Hwahye) on her charm bracelet.

That love cried as hard as I did on the day I moved to Rwanda, shortly after my wedding.

That love wrote letters almost daily and sent them across the ocean to a post box in Kigali.

That love’s eyes twinkled the first day they set their sights on her first grandson … this, despite the fact that her lips were silenced by a stroke.

That love worked tirelessly to be able to have this moment with her first grandchild.

She left us twelve years ago on this day. But her love is here and growing in me, my sister and our children. Her love will forever be with us, and that is enough.

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Trade Offs

It is February 2nd.  February isn’t the best month for me.  If you have followed me for a while, you know that today is the anniversary of my mother’s death.  In addition, the second most influential woman in my life, my mother’s mother, died on February 10th.

These two women have left an indelible mark on my life, although my life path hasn’t exactly followed theirs.

As a child in Tennessee, I had my grandmother just a short walk from my house. When I was lonely or had argued with my mother, I had only to make the short walk … where my grandmother would offer me my grandfather’s leftovers of country ham and biscuits. She would listen to me and let me sit with her at the kitchen table, or she would ask me to help her snap beans.

My son could use a grandparent next door. He is adjusting to yet another transition in schools. He has entered middle school, only two years after our big move to Wisconsin. He is a sweet boy, but he longs for acceptance. I know that longing. It was that longing that made me choose this life path unlike my mother’s … to live away from my hometown and family. Moving away meant that my children would go to school in a more racially diverse community, but it also meant that we would sacrifice the proximity of family.

This week, after a nice spell of having my husband home in a holiday holdover, he resumed his travels for work. It has struck both the boy and me very hard. Our family is fractured, and we’re both lonely. We miss family and the comfort we had in Virginia with friends we had spent ten years knowing … they were our family there.

We are building friendships in Wisconsin, but it will take another ten years to have what we once had. Perhaps someday we will be able to impulsively invite our friends over for dinner like we did in our Virginia days. Or we could drop in and have leftovers at a friend’s house.

As a mother, I want to see my son build lasting friendships. But lately, his desire for friends is wound up tightly with the dynamics of middle school, and he is having a hard time untangling his feelings. I listen, but I also do not want to risk alienating him from me. It’s a fine line. We are our family here. I cannot risk that loss.

However my mother did what a mother is supposed to do, she risked that loss. She watched as her child move away, and I know that it broke her heart to be so far from me and my sister.

In the loneliness of February 2001 with the excitement of the holidays behind her, she quietly slipped away. February is indeed a hard month …

The loss of a mother

On another day in February, years ago, my mother sat. Tears welled up in her eyes. And we asked what was wrong.

That same day, years before, her mother and our grandmother had died. She kept the date of loss with her and remembered every year, while I only remembered when she started crying. At that time, my grandmother was the most significant loss I had experienced. And yet, I did not remember the date of her death. The loss of a parent is so much more significant.

This Sunday it was announced that someone had lost her mother. The daughter was merely an acquaintance. I had just recently started singing again, and we both sang first soprano in the church choir. But the news hit me hard. I began to cry silently.

So many times, people have asked me if I wanted to find my “real” mother. But my real mother was the woman who raised me.

She comforted me when I had lost my first love. She scrutinized my subsequent boyfriends. She protected me, sometimes too much. She cried when I flew to Africa with my new husband. And she rejoiced in the birth of my son. That is a mother … a real mother.

Today, I remember her death like it was yesterday. Just as she did every twenty-fourth of February. The pain is still the same, though on most days it is eclipsed by music lessons, school pick-ups, bedtime stories and such. But every February 2, I am reminded of the morning call in 2001.

It was my father. His voice had a restrained calm about it. And when he called, I knew. I cried that day as I cradled my little boy. I was clinging to the one thing of hers I had left … being a mother.