What I remember most vividly is my mother’s bloody face staring blankly at me, hands and knees on the concrete steps. Her forehead had a large gash across it–the blood streamed down her cheeks like tears. I must have been staring blankly back at her too; I wasn’t going to fully process what had happened until years later.
She turned her face away from me as I stood, stiff as a board. My aunt, who rushed over at the loud thump of her falling came out to the steps to help:
“Sis, sis, are you okay? Sis, sis, look at me.”
My mom turned her face towards my aunt, but away from me again; unable to speak.
“You don’t want Atsuko to see you like this?”
My mom shook her head.
My uncle called 911 and within the hour, an ambulance had come to take my mother away to stitch her up and to check for further injuries on her head.
I don’t remember anything past that from that night. I was 14 and fully conscious. I was enrolled in summer school at the time and must have gone into class the next day, but like a zombie as my mother was that night she fell, I just went through the actions of my day to day activities.
I was taking Geometry in preparation for high school and boy, did I fail that class. I didn’t even notice the regression; I just couldn’t understand why I kept failing my tests and having a hard time concentrating. I hated studying. I hated that my grandma was wasting money on these expensive classes that I kept failing. I felt so much guilt.
It wasn’t years later after I had graduated from high school that my grandmother talked to me about that night. She said to me,
“Your uncle was really surprised that the next morning, you got up and took the bus to go to UCLA to your class all by yourself. You know, after such a rough night.”
I never saw it as anything heroic; I was used to my mom having grand seizures where she’d fall– sometimes in public while shopping, or sometimes in the bathroom, where she’d lock herself in if she felt one coming. One time, my uncle had to put a toothbrush in her mouth so she wouldn’t bite her tongue off. I’d seen all kinds of scary episodes of my mom falling, but for some reason, that particular one had impacted me the most.
Now that nearly another decade has passed, I realize that the reason I had froze and become a zombie after that particular fall was because it was the first time my mom was conscious enough to notice me after her seizure: She was conscious and didn’t want me to worry. Her turning her face away from me, in an effort to protect me from seeing her in pain; her bleeding love… It’s all something that I had to take this long to process; to understand, and to be so grateful about.
I love you, mom. So much. In this world that has brought you much pain, I write, create, and perform…for you.