I was thinking of my mother, Julie Arnette Denison Lerke, for the past few days. I am remembering how she was, when she was my age and in her prime. Thinking of her made me regretful and a bit weepy. Today, is 93 years old. I am afraid that will lose her and time is moving too fast in my life but time I can spend with her is so precious.
I called her, yesterday. She seemed surprised to hear from me and asked me when I am coming up to see her, again. She ended the conversation with, "You know I love you, don't you?"
I remember her love when I was a little girl. I remember I constantly craved and connived for her attention. I remember feeling so insecure and how I sucked my fingers and chewed on my hair. I would hit her stomach, calling her, "Mom.. Mom... Mom..." and she'd pick me up or just say, "What do you want NOW, Margaret?" I followed her around the house and hung on her every word, like the disciples followed Jesus Christ. She told me that God used her saved me and my brother, Charles, from death and starvation in Korea. I thought she was God's Vessel: beautiful in a spiritual way. I venerated her and followed and clung to her every word. I watched her every move in her daily activities. I watched her hands and memorized their movements, in detail, as she ironed clothes or kneaded the meatloaf or spun the steamy hot gauge on the pressure cooker or cut vegetables, or folded wax paper over sandwiches or talked on the telephone or laughed at the dinner table. She listened to me chatter endlessly, as I walked with her her down to the basement and I'd sit on the steps watching her pull the clothes from the dryer to the baskets, hauling the baskets up the stairs. Then I'd walk with her outside, watching her pin and push and smooth the sheets and towels, arranging them the clothes lines. At night, I'd sit at the kitchen table as she twirled her hair around her fingers and secured the pin-curls with bobby-pins. When she got dressed, I liked the blue suit she always wore and liked the coral red lipstick she put onto her mouth. I liked when she rolled the tube down, and the lipstick was flattened like a cylinder as it went back into the case. I liked her curly chestnut brown hair as she combed the pin-curls out and styled it. I was fascinated and interested as I watched her every move, I was studying how to be like her.
I aspired to be a good girl so I could make her happy. But sometimes I tried too hard. A few times, she'd repeat the word, "pious" that she to describe me, and it did not sound like it was a compliment.
Today, I watch mom as an old lady, needing assistance with everything. I watch her being pushed in a wheel chair. I watch as she struggles to stand and hold onto the walker. I listen to people say, "Julie is a fall risk" or Julie doesn't like to do her ROM exercises, anymore. I watch her tell Charles, when he is there, to open her mail or pick up the tissue off of the floor that she dropped, or open her milk carton. I close my eyes and remember her when she was full of strength, stamina and organized energy. Those days are just memories that not even she can recall, nor does she care to.
I regret I wasn't around but I am so grateful to my sister, Susan, and brother, Charles, who had to do all the work to clear the legalities and arrange to move her out of her house, the year after "Hurricane Sandy" hit NJ. The people who give mom care are compassionate, kind and respectful. I feel guilty I care for others bur not her. Mom is tired a lot and her mind is not as sharp as it once was but she still has some quality moments left. She is moving toward the end of her days, but she is content and I am glad when she says, "Everyone just loves me here!" I want to hear her say that, again, soon.
I am a Korean American, an adopted daughter, coming to terms with my relationship with my mother, better late than never.