Wednesday, April 22, 2009

He Da Nam

Rain is heavy tonight, so the Evergreen School from Seattle has luck on its side for arrival timing; it's much, much cooler right now. I'm hoping I get to meet My People tomorrow.

Tonight Katherine is at soccer practice, Tarn is downstairs engaged in a Vietnamese lesson, and I have just returned from A Double at the Bum Bum (massage and hair wash). All of us at the castle pursuing what we love the most...

At the beginning of last week, Nam dropped by Minh's house so that Minh could tell me that Nam's mother went into the hospital. "She has a brain infection" he told me.

Every day since, if a student is near during drop-off or pick up, I ask Nam about his mother. "She is doing better, thank you," he says each time, but the gate to her door has remained padlocked, so I know she's been at the hospital a long time.

Today after the gym pick-up, with me in my very sweaty clothes, we stop by his mother's house. She is lying on a bed near the door and a physical therapist is on the bed with her, moving her legs around in a circular motion. She seems to be sleeping, but when she sees me, she perks up. Nam's sister Mai gives me a little red plastic chair to sit in and Nam's mother grabs my hand, squeezing it tightly. She talks and talks before Minh arrives to translate- just as she has done during my previous visits with her - as if I can understand every word. The left side of her mouth is drooping. She points to the left side of her body and makes the negative Vietnamese motion with her goood hand...that gesture has so many applications. When Minh arrives, he tells me again that she had a "brain infection" - a stroke.

After a bit of translating questions, "How do you feel? Where do you hurt?" I tell Minh that my father also had a "brain infection" that affected his left side. When Minh translates this, Nam's mother's eyes open wide again and she is filled with ten more questions. "How is your father now? How long was he like this? Was his mouth this way?" - spoken with so much fear and pain in her eyes. Finally, Nam pokes me and says (gently) "Go home?" His mother is tired, I can see that. But she doesn't let go of my hand for another minute, and says "Cam on, cam on..." Thank you, thank you...

I get a little teary at the scene, being there with the whole family around her looking so worried. I walk back to the castle and tell Katherine about it, and I tell her that now I feel kind of badly about how I talked to Nam in the morning.

"What did he do now," she asks, already annoyed at what my answer is going to be. K is the best affirmer, really, and she would have killed in the competition had she written her response regarding The Shoe Incident...(Marjie, that is NOT OK. NO ONE does that. NOWHERE in the world. WHERE is it OK to give your opinion about EVERYTHING? ABOUT YOUR SHOES? YOU'RE KIDDING!"

I tell her that on the way to school, Nam reached around and grabbed my hand- which is always gripping the back end of the seat- removed it and placed it on my lap. While we were driving.

And what I did was to jerk my hand away and put it right back where it was. And I was mad. "Nam, I can put my hand there. I CAN PUT MY HAND ANYWHERE I WANT!" So there's a little pent-up anger over his intrusion in everything, as you can tell. He turns and gives me his pouty, passive-agressive look, points at a restaurant we pass and says, "Miss Sue." Yeah, OK, I know, you and your friend Miss Sue ate there, and you had a really good time, and she never even came close to using the tone of voice that I just used with you. I know, I know.

Katherine's response: "Marjie, don't feel bad about that. No, no..." and then she launches into her favorite affirming response to me when Nam gets me all worked up over something..."MY GOD. WE WOULD HATE HIM IF HE SPOKE ENGLISH! IT PROBABLY INSULTS HIS EGO THAT YOU HOLD ON TO THE SEAT. WELL, I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU, NAM, THIS IS SAIGON! IT'S DANGEROUS HERE!"

See why I love her?

Still, though, his mother...

You're probably wondering when I am going to mention the picture of Obama.

Copies of great art abound in this city - you name it: Van Gogh, Matisse, Gaugin - as well as lots of pop culture art. This particular painting is everywhere. I knew I wanted one the moment they appeared on backpacker street- it says so much about being in Viet Nam during election year 2009- but I didn't want one of the huge ones you see everywhere. I finally found this one, a nice 16 X 20 or so. What do you think?

Pam told me I had to get one. "Just think if your mom had been cool enough to buy something like that of JFK or something," she said. (Mom, did you ever have the opportunity? I'm sure you would have been cool enough to seize it.)


Michelle said...

I am sorry to hear about Nam's mother. You are such a compassionate and caring person to visit with her and share your father's experience with her and the family. You exemplify kindness!
Having said that, you shouldn't feel bad about how you treated Nam when he moved your hand. I agree with Katherine - it is dangerous riding those streets and I don't blame you for gripping and gripping tight! I certainly did!
Finally, I’m glad the heat is a little more bearable. I don’t think I’ve ever sweat that much while I was visiting – your description of the heat made it seem even more intolerable. I used to live by a school named The Evergreen School. Is it the one located on Meridian and 155th in Seattle?

Tim Baker said...

Even I get a little teary eyed when I read about your visit to Nam's mother. I hope she recovers fully, And I hope you write a book some day. I'll be in line to buy it.

Mungo said...

All my best to Mommy Nam's Mama.

And, I feel proud about the title of this blog entry... :)

SeattlePam said...

Oh, I'm so sorry for sweet/intrusive/loyal Nam's sadness. I love Katherine's consolation quotation. Perfect! And, I'm so glad Obama graces your walls now...