House of Green Cards

In the late 1980s, the US let at least two attractive, immigration lottery winners in from “hey, can you say that again?”. She, in hot pursuit of a masters in English Literature and Nutrition. He, a brilliant Mechanical Engineer. They ended up in a state called “Ali-bama” with a 7-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy in tow.

Let’s call my mother “Ruby”, like her friends. Ruby has always been Jane Hawking in the flesh. She’s lived a life of service to my father at the cost of living her own. She is at peace with this decision but now and forever, it’s bothered me to my core. As an adult I would learn that to do a few things well, you have to clear the table.

She and I were seldom at odds, I was the rational liaison between the hyperbolic immigrant and the American world and she was the golden child’s enabler. Together we were the decision makers for our kingdom, which was often straight up on fire.

In 1995, my father’s would be victory laps were curtained by a degenerative neurological disorder. It was cruel slow fade from a 7-year-old’s vantage point, but I was just watching. Tremors, tens of translucent orange pill bottles and increasingly impulsive behavior from dopamine fluctuations became the norm around our house.

If we use the life of the late CEO of Intel who suffered from the same illness, someone with considerable means made it to 78. Scientists say it doesn’t affect your longevity, but that’s a vanity metric. I’ve seen it affect his will to live.

He is the reason that I believe that heaven and hell are a state of mind. When I write about his idiosyncrasies now, I realize that he is alien to the father that raised me. I have always juggled the state of where he is in his journey versus where I think he is. This forced me to intuit programming concepts like state and versioning sans academia from an early age. Of course, there are multiple subjective experiences to everything.

There is no independence or variability in his life. He watches movies all day. It kills me when I notice that he’s not actually paying attention. He’s far from stimulated. No shit, he had a mechanical engineer’s mind. The color comes back into his face when I come home, so I try to surprise him. We recently spent time off the line, flipping through photographs while he “tagged” them with his fingers.

Around the time of my father’s diagnosis, my mom took a job in North Carolina and moved us to Fayetteville, an eclectic place I take tremendous pride in growing up in. She accepted a position at the Cumberland County Health Department in the WIC program as a Nutritionist where she made everything work for a family of four. WIC stands for “Women, Infants, and Children”, a program which helps low-income, new mothers with federal aid and advice. She’s still there, doing just that.

There are super moms and there are saints.


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