Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sending Off

They arrive at the door when I was still packing. As usual, I first hear them argue, then I turn around to see their clumsy figures moving into view.  Mom bumps into things like the gate or the tiny step leading to my front porch.  Dad watches her in hopeless distress, as if the twists in his eyebrows alone could reverse time and remove the harms done to his wife.

They ring the door bell, as if the rhapsody of pots and pans knocking onto the patio floor isn't enough to get everyone's attention.  I open the door to help them inside.  They carry a full meal with them, that is just how they travel, esp to visit me. Over the years, I've learned to be grateful when that is all they brought, no more and no less.

The smell of dumplings, vegetables cooked in ginger and garlic, and salted beef fills my tiny apartment and makes my stomach growl.  I rush to finish packing,  stuffing the last items along the sides.  I am sure I packed everything, but sometimes that still doesn't seem to be enough, somehow.

We eat quickly.  Mom asks me whether I have this and that, with a tiny bit more of panics in her voice each time she asks for something that she's sure I forgot.  I review their locations in the suitcase with her, throwing everything out of orders.  Dad pauses and checks my travel documents and makes copies to keep with them.  He walks briskly between the printer and my bags, stuffing everything neatly wherever they belonged.  I watch him without knowing how to help, my heart quivers at the sight of his legs bent from age while walking the stairs. His salt and pepper hair drawing streams into the space before my eyes, back bending up and down like an arched bow.  I get up to wash the dishes, letting the gushes of water slip through my fingers as I scrub and rinse.

We walk outside to see it's another sunny California day.  I duck into the sun warmed back seat and close my eyes.  Dad is at the wheel but mom is driving.

"Slow down, you are gonna kill that person."
"Oh my god, why did you just do that?"

Her signature soft voice disappears then, and we get the driving coach side of her, all commanding and snappy. She throws up her hands whenever possible, and they have the tendency to take over the steeling wheel and once, even the emergency break.  The short ride to the airport today was almost calm, save the occasional sharp inhales she's learned to do recently, at the sight of any car coming within the fifty mile radius.

Still, the car jerks now and again, and I feel breathless and dizzy. 

The commuter terminal is the size of a petri dish.  After checking in at the counter, I hug them goodbye at the start of the security line.  It's an awkward western gesture for them, but they try pleasantly to accommodate me. I can feel the frail frames of their shoulders shrank to childlike proportions under my arms. The years have slipped by all of us unnoticed,  cruelly taking away their statures while mine felt over-sized with all the growth.  It seems like only yesterday when their big strong arms last held me on the first day of primary school, waving them away through hair and tears both fighting to get into my eyes.

That bit hasn't changed perhaps.

As I strip for the security scans, I look back to see them standing just at the other side looking on. Somehow we've found ourselves in the land of the giants, so their heads can barely peak above the dividing screens and between the even taller moving crowd.  But they shift constantly to keep me in view, two dark heads with just a tiny patch of foreheads bobbing up and down in a sea of tallness.  Each time I make another turn and think I'd lose them for sure now, there they are again, hands waving at the sight of me turning.
Photo courtesy of the Internet - you know, Google etc.

For a while that is all I can see, and it makes me feel like a small child held in their big arms again.  Somehow, for a little while at least, that is all I want in this too big world.


  1. Lovely post; with a little meloncholy which I always approve of. Glad to see you posting on your blog.

  2. I agree with Dicky - lovely to see your name pop up.

    I just loved reading this.

    Hope all well with you.

  3. Great to see you!

    A lovely, thought provoking post.

  4. I've missed you and your writing but this post was worth waiting for, it's beautiful.
    My favourite line: “His salt and peppered hair drawing streams into the space before my eyes, back bending up and down like an arched bow.“ Brilliant.

  5. I enjoyed how the middle of this gets a little more detached and drowsy, sharing more of the experiential side of the potential accident.

  6. "The years had slipped by all of us unnoticed, cruelly taking away their statures while mine felt over-sized with all the growth."

    I remember the first time I thought something similar about my Mom. It is rather a shock to realize our parents are not young anymore. And I wonder if my sons think the same thing about their Dad and I yet.

    Excellent post. I pictured Mom and Dad arriving with the food. And I pictured them waving goodbye as you went through the line. They have reached an age where they don't take goodbyes for granted.

    Beautiful writing, just beautiful.

  7. Your writing transports me, it really does. You tell stories beautifully and this is one is so sweet and, well, bittersweet. My parents are still relatively young, but this did make me think about my maternal grandparents and how watching them is sort of hard, as I realize how old they're getting.

  8. So wonderful to see your name pop up on my dashboard.
    What a beautiful post... you have such a way with words... I am a visual person and your words helped me experience them as if this happened to me.
    I connected with it as I have been waved goodbye by my parents so many times...the experience is exciting but sad at the same time... mixed feelings which you have described so wonderfully and accurately.

  9. Oh, I just love reading your writing, but you already knew that. You're so lucky to still have your parents. The way you describe them shrinking reminds me of my mom in those last few weeks.

  10. A lovely post. You draw images together so well that it's wrenching when you get to the end of a post.

  11. So true! Parents do behave this way- it must be universal and some day I will do it too : )
    I remember the moment when I realized my dad was old. You have captured it precisely.

  12. So many words to describe this post - beautiful in it's eloquence, haunting in the discovery of what time steals. Growth, in the remembrance of simple gestures with huge expressions of love. (Hugs)Indigo

  13. Shopgirl- it's so wonderful to have your writing grace the inter webs once again. This piece was particularly touching. How we all can relate to how the tides change, slowly, yet all at once when we notice our parents slowing and wilting, yet their parental authority remains. This is a beautiful portrait of your moments with them. :)

  14. I missed this post when you wrote it, and coming to read it a few weeks later is a strange thing - almost like I've arrived to see you after you've already left.
    I hope your travels are taking you somewhere wonderful - and I look forward to reading all about them. Come back soon.

  15. Very moving. This is the first of your posts I've read, but I'll be back to read more.

  16. Tina, this is all you and yet it's all of the rest of us as well. Such universal emotions, regardless of time or culture. Thank you!




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