I first noticed there was something wrong with the mother’s condition when we took Daniel’s 50th birthday trip. It took awhile for her to start moving her legs. She hesitated for several seconds before she started to move. Once she started, she could walk. But after she stopped, she hesitated again.
My parents were on MediCare and they had the complete health insurance coverage with very small premium. Mother had arthritis on her knee and we all thought it was because of her arthritis. The doctor recommended a knee surgery before the condition got worse. Father’s cousin had the knee replacement surgery. Whenever we saw her, she bragged about her new knees. Mother decided to have the surgery. She would go thru the surgery on one knee, rehab, and surgery on the other knee.
While mother was recuperating from the surgery at the convalescent hospital, my sister, Namhee, in east coast, would come and stay with father. While mother was in the rehabilitation facility for a month, father asked Namhee to clean out the stuffs mother had collected over the years. Mother knew something was up and her mind was at home instead of the rehab therapy.
She got discharged at the end of the rehab period, but she was not properly rehabilitated. Once she found out Namhee threw out most of her cherished treasures (?), her heart was broken. Her relationship with Namhee got pretty bad. Failing the rehab after the surgery, mother’s knee condition got worse. Now she had to use the walker. She never bothered to go thru the second surgery.
Mother had difficulties with daily activities and the parents had to go to doctors often. They wanted to move back to the valley. Since they had to move to the government subsidy senior apartment, they could not just move. They had to complete the applications and wait. People waited for months and years, sometimes. They got lucky and was able to find a place in just a few months.
Once the moving date was picked, I and Daniel went to their apartment every week-end and tried to help them pack. The new apartment in the valley was one bedroom and it was half the size of their Ventura place. To us, they no longer needed most of the stuff at home. Mother collected all kind of stuff; stamps and coins, souvenir spoons and bells, mugs, newspaper clippings, VHS tapes and books Namhee sent for the kids, used gift boxes and wrapping papers, and etc. The place was filled with them.
Every week-end, mother waived us off saying she would take care of them and get ready. On the day of the move, it was chaotic. I and my wife went to the new apartment and waited for them. Kids and Daniel went to Ventura to help them move. A large moving truck filled with boxes and boxes of stuff finally came. Soon the apartment was filled with them, and there was hardly and room to move.
Father raised his voice and complained. Then, mother screamed, “Everyone else have large houses and have all of these and more. I cannot have these? Why don’t you just ask me to go out and kill myself?”
Then, I understood mother. Most of her life, she had rather wealthy life. She had housemaids and workers, and everyone called her “Mrs. Ko.” She and father used to have the restaurant which made pretty good money. They sold it for bargain and came to America. They failed with the business they opened and lost most of the money they had. She ran the small convenient store, sent kids to college, and married them away. What’s left was one bedroom government subsidy senior apartment.
Her high school friends in Korea all had luxurious apartments. Her friends in America, Choi and Hong, had their own houses. Mother tried to replace the feeling of lose with the trivial stuff she could find. Why didn’t we understand her and be more generous and sympathetic to her? Thinking about it now, it breaks my heart.