Mom’s First Email
Life is a process that is bookended by vulnerability.
How does change happen? "First slowly, then all at once" is a saying often attributed to Ernest Hemingway or Mark Twain. Regardless of who said it, it seems like a perfect description of aging.
I always remember my mom as the most energetic and quick-witted person. Adjectives such as slow, fragile, sluggish, and indecisive were alien to her. She used to walk fast and do everything at a fast pace. She was known to make decisions swiftly because she had no time to waste. She’s a master of multitasking. When we were young, she would give us extra homework (after we finished our school work) every evening after dinner, which usually involved solving math problems she came up with and reading books or newspaper articles she considered necessary. We never understood how she found time to develop this extra homework. After all, she worked at the hospital all day. She watched us complete her assignment while crocheting a sweater or mending our clothes. She never sat idly.
Even after she retired, she didn’t slow down one bit. She took up painting, piano lessons, and gardening. She and my dad are learning English together. Although Mom complained that she couldn’t remember the words she knew the day before, she kept at it. Learning 10 English words a day is the assignment she gives herself. Even though she is close to 80 years old, there is no giving up of self-improvement.
Mom also had a mental toughness that was unmatched by anyone I knew. The more challenging the situation was, the tougher she got. She’s the kind of person who, whatever challenge life presented her, faced it head-on. I rarely saw her cry because she considered tearing up in a bad situation a waste of time. She never shed tears when visiting my dad in the labor camp during China’s Cultural Revolution. She refused to give the guards who tortured my dad any satisfaction by seeing how miserable we were. Mom’s motto in life is "Just deal with it." She’s the steadiest anchor that kept our family intact during some of the worst storms in life.
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