One of the very first things my mother said to me after I returned to the United States was ‘There is less of us than there was before’.
She was mainly referring to body weight (i.e. we all weighed less than we did before), but I think her words had a deeper meaning than that. She is closer to death than she was before.
My mother went through a health crisis in late 2013. She’s still recovering, though she experiences a lot less fatigue, and almost all of her pain is gone. However, some of the damage to her body is permanent. She will never again have the same level of physical ability as she did when I left for Taiwan.
Now, my mother’s diet consists almost exclusively of fruits, vegetables, whole wheat pasta, and nutritional supplements. She does not eat any kind of animal product, legumes, non-whole grains, or nuts. That’s because one of her conditions cannot be medicated by drugs alone, but can be controlled by these dietary restrictions (her blood tests results improved significantly after she started this diet).
Before all of this happened, I somehow had the idea in my head that the first person to have a health crisis would be my father, not my mother. I think it’s partially because my mother tends to constantly critique my father’s life habits, saying that this thing he’s doing is ‘unhealthy’, and that thing he’s doing is ‘unhealthy’, and she points out how she’s more careful than my father, which is mostly true. I think it also might have been because he’s male – women generally live longer than men, right?
However, one thing my father is diligent about is exercise – much more so than my mother. And though my mother still claims that the food he eats is not as healthy as her food 1) he generally ate less food than my mother and 2) he paid some attention to Vitamin D. Years ago, my father and I occasionally wondered how my mother was getting enough vitamin D, since she hardly ever went out in the sun, wasn’t eating any vitamin-D rich foods, and wasn’t taking supplements. The answer was, she was NOT getting Vitamin D, and severe vitamin D deficiency was a key factor in her health crisis.
Now, the difference between my father and my mother’s physical conditions is such that some strangers who see my parents together assume that they are mother and son – even though she is younger than him.
My mother might live another 20 or more years – and as long as she is enjoying life, I hope she does. However, it is also possible that she will not. I don’t just mean that in a ‘she could get hit by a truck’ kind of way, I mean in a ‘accumulated health issues shut down her body’ kind of way. At the very least, her permanent loss of physical ability is an ever-present reminder of her mortality.
And her mortality also reminds me of my mortality.