Mom’s hearing is slowly going. It explains a lot of things: the fact that Chinese soap operas are on volume 11, her saying that “I sound like ants speaking” whenever I’m on the phone with her.
Getting a hearing aid for her is on “the list,” along with about a hundred and fifty other things. The big one is taking her to the hospital two towns over to get more tests done.
Combined with Dad slowly losing his memory, speech, and overall cognitive skills, it’s the perfect storm of either hilarity or tragedy. It’s just that I’m too close to the source to discern which is which right now.
Dad: [mumbles something inaudible]
Mom: WHAT THE HELL DID YOU SAY?
Dad: [repeats inaudible words, although he’s clearly complaining about something]
Mom: (to me) Are you seeing this?
Dad turns to me and asks the same question he posted to Mom. He’s slurring his words and I have no idea what he’s saying.
Me: (guessing) uhm...yes?
Dad: “Yes?” What kind of stupid response is that?
As a matter of fact, there is a commotion in the kitchen as I even write this.
Dad: (uses his walker to feebly move dining room chairs)
Mom: I SAID, GET OUT OF MY WAY
Me: (coming into the kitchen) What’s wrong?
Dad: Of c-c-course we have to move chairs, there’s f-five people eating!
Me: there’s only three people today. You, myself, Mom.
Mom: (shouting to me) He’s like this every goddamn day. And it’s too dark for me to cook! There’s only the stove light and this lamp on the dining room table and…
Me: (casually turns on the overhead flourescent kitchen light)
Mom: Oh. That’s better.
By the time dinner is ready, Mom has declared that she is no longer hungry so she watches her Chinese variety show at full blast where a group of aunties discuss how to truly disinfect wooden chopsticks. Dad is still counting how many people will be eating at the table; he’s insistant four people should be at the table, can’t be convinced otherwise, and that is too much shit there to unpack for a Tuesday night.
A year or two at the code school, my old coworker Cece used a phrase that stuck with me: the locus of control. You only have the ability to change anything in your locus of control. Except growing up in a Chinese Baptist environment, I hear it as “locusts of control,” and suddenly imagine a giant field of mind-controlled, wheat-eating grasshoppers.
But Cece’s words have been on repeat lately. The past three years have seemed to have been a never ending tidal wave of anxiety, and I'm not even talking about the pandemic, which, you know, has been no cakewalk for anyone. And moments like today are when I fall back on those locusts of control.
I eat dinner, wash my rice bowl, start heading to the living room to get ready to head back to the hotel room. Mom is shouting again.
Me: What now, Ma?
Mom: Your father eats like a goddamn horse. He ate the daikon and didn’t leave me ANYTHING. What’s the point of cooking if he eats everything?
Me: (to mom) You said you weren’t hungry.
Mom: (incredulous) I wasn’t, but I don’t expect him to eat all of the food I prepared.
Locusts: [makes locust noises]
Me: Thanks, locusts.
Locusts: [hive mind speaking telepathically] youuu'rreee welllcommme, Errrrrrr-nieeee.
Me: Yeah, if you can not sing-song my name like that, that'd be great. You're sounding a bit like Mom, there.
The locust swarm flies off to ruin another field of crops as the curtain falls.