Saturday, May 15, 2010

quick update

1. We're back from New York, where we had a very nice visit with our church's former pastor and his wife.

2. Mr. Jeong and his brother-in-law have been working on our attic since Tuesday (which is when we left for New York). The changes to the attic, though still in the preliminary phase, are already amazing. They're hammering and drilling away as I write this.

3. Dad's out on errands, including a stop at both Korean and Western grocery stores to pick up ingredients so that I can feed the workers lunch. I've already planned out a menu and will be switching between Korean and American food for the next nine days. Today I'm fixing jjajang-myeon, since I already have the ingredients for it but starting tomorrow (yes, the contractors will be here on Saturday), I'll be using the ingredients that Dad's shopping for today.

4. I've gone through the procedure to delete (not merely deactivate) my Facebook account, having finally made good on all that griping about how Facebook sucks. I had to temporarily reactivate the account to rescue about 150 pages' worth of emails related to Mom's cancer before closing the account for good. What spurred this action was a post by my friend Justin Yoshida. I've read articles about the evils of Facebook, but one of the articles to which Justin has linked, "The Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook," really got me thinking that the time has come to kill this beastie dead. And so I have.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

off to New York

My father and I are off to New York today, and won't be back home until Thursday. Blogging from the road may be possible. We're visiting our church's former pastor, who has expressed a desire to talk with me about my book. I may end up recording our dialogue; if I do, it's likely that part or all of what I record will end up transcribed.


Monday, May 10, 2010

wrong about the empty chair

In the end, our table at the Bavarian Inn was a "four-top," as they say in the restaurant industry: it seated four, and four was the number of family members in attendance. There was no empty fifth chair; our table had no room for Mom.

Amid the happy chatter of families and the clangor of plates and silverware, we four guys talked, laughed, and enjoyed our food. But I'm pretty sure that each of us, in the solemn silence of our minds, imagined a fifth chair at our table, and in our imaginations that fifth chair-- far from being empty-- supported a tiny, delicate woman who shone with love for each of us, basking in our light even as we basked in hers.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

for Mother's Day

For Mother's Day, we guys are heading out to Shepherdstown, West Virginia to dine at the Bavarian Inn, a spot that Mom enjoyed. I've never been there; the family took Mom out to Shepherdstown while I was in Korea. If the photos on the website are any indication, the Bavarian promises to be quite an experience.

As you can imagine, it's not easy when your recently deceased mother's birthday falls so close to Mother's Day. It wasn't easy when Mom was alive, either: she was fortunate to have two back-to-back celebrations every year. Only rarely did we ever cheat and combine the two days into a single celebration. And now, mere months after Mom's passing, these two dates fly at us in rapid succession, as they will for the rest of our lives.

I confess I never really knew what sort of gifts to get Mom. I often made cards for her, and occasionally cooked for her, but while I was growing up I never had an intuitive grasp of what she would have enjoyed. My brother David has always been more sensitive about that sort of thing. When it comes to gift-giving, my answer is almost always to give someone a book. Mom was never a voracious reader, though; the only things she read with any interest were newspapers and magazines. This was indicative of a huge gulf between us, I think; I never understood what she wanted or liked, and she never got the fact that I was perfectly fine with my books. When Mom was dying, the best thing I could do for her was to be with her, to cook for her, to help her up whenever she fell, to talk to her, to hold her hand, to watch TV with her, and to show her as much care as I could. Even while she was sick, I never figured out what sort of gift she would have appreciated. It was up to the rest of the family to do that.

Perhaps the nicest thing my father ever said to me was that, after all three of us brothers were born, he couldn't imagine a time when we weren't there. A good family is very much like that: there's an irreducible completeness that isn't felt until you try to imagine life without any one of the members of your family. When one member is gone, it's like an amputation. Somehow you manage to function, but the missing member is conspicuous in her absence.

Tomorrow's meal at the Bavarian will doubtless take place at a table large enough to have at least one empty chair. We're going out to celebrate Mother's Day, and that empty space will serve as a reminder of why we're there.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom

May 4th. Mom would have been 67 today. Here's a picture of her at the park, just last year:

My regimen starts today; the plan is to achieve my fitness goals by Mom's birthday in 2011. I regret not having embarked on this project earlier.

Fort Hunt Park, where the above picture was taken, has acquired an almost sacred meaning for me. I walked hand-in-hand with Mom many times there. In the early stages of her brain cancer, after her initial surgeries, she was able to talk a little, and sometimes we would have simple exchanges. As time went on, and she talked less and less, I took up the slack and did the talking. Quite often, a third person would be there-- usually Dad or one of my brothers. Mom's strength often varied depending on the meds she was taking; certain medicines, like Decadron, weakened her muscles. Her knees buckled a few times as a result, and we did our best to catch her, even though we weren't always successful. After every walk, before we got back into the car, we made a point of hugging Mom, congratulating her for making an effort to exercise, and thanking her for the simple, precious gift of her presence and time.

Our walks last year went on for several months-- through late spring, summer, and part of the fall, until it got too cold. So yes, the park has new significance for me. My mother's tentative footsteps blessed its soil, sanctified its grass, beatified its paths.

And now it's 6:20AM, and I need to go do some biking at that selfsame park. Maybe the park will consent to being my coach-- to helping me exercise the way it helped Mom.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.


Monday, May 03, 2010

the rehabilitation of the Big Hominid

May 4th is my mother's birthday. She would have been 67. On that day, I plan to begin my diet and exercise regimen-- a program I laid out in general form last year, but which I've been working on in detail for the past several weeks. The primary goal is to reduce my blood pressure, which has been unconscionably high for a few years, now. I also hope to reduce my weight by cutting off a third of myself-- dropping from a currently blubberous 300 to a more reasonable 200 pounds. Along with those goals, I hope to return to being able to fit some of my older shirts and pants, and to reduce my resting heart rate by at least 20 beats per minute. On top of all that, I hope to improve in the three standard areas of fitness: strength, flexibility, and cardio. By May 4, 2011, there should be a much leaner, meaner, more energetic, and mentally alert Kevin sitting at this keyboard.

None of my fitness goals is impossible. All will require a great deal of effort and dedication, especially given how lazy I am. I think I can achieve my goals within a year.

As always, this blog is a reflection of where I am, mentally, at the moment. I may dedicate this blog to documenting my progress with the fitness program. I think I may also branch out into writing a bit of fiction, or in being more creative in general-- slapping up drawings and paintings and my usual freak show of irreverently Photoshopped images. I'll probably avoid writing much in the way of non-fiction, which will mean minimizing the link-whoring and commentary, while increasing the number and frequency of posts that are more essays in themselves. The cumulative effect of all these changes should be more Kevin-himself and less Kevin-as-commenter.

We'll see how it goes.