the time to be smart is now.

my poor mother, how i scolded her.

her: don't go hiking anymore. it's dangerous.
me: don't tell me what to do.
her: you'll get attacked by a bear.
me: so what? if a bear attacks me, it attacks me. what am i gonna do about it?
her: don't talk like that.
me: why? i could die right now. i could have an aneurysm or a stroke right now.
her: don't say that.
me: we all die, mom. i am going to die. you are going to die. it's a part of life.
her: don't tell me that!

i asked her to make my favorite filipino dish, kare-kare. she went to order oxtail from bob's meats across the street. she was wearing her big blue jacket and jeans. i took pictures of her as she paid for the meat. she was so short, chin level with the metal counter. i thought of her as a bear buying food.

while i was at work, she only left the apartment to go to safeway, pcc, and mcphereson's market. her old classmate, too busy preparing for a trip to the philippines, cancelled plans with her. she had no other friends in seattle. we had that in common.

"it's lonely here," she'd say. i couldn't argue with that.

"come back to sacramento. i'll give you $100 a month," she said.
"you're bribing me to move back home?"

"and another thing," i said. "stop telling me my apartment is terrible. i'm sorry i'm not living the life you set out for me. i'm never going to make a lot of money, or go to law school or business school like you want me to. i don't want those things."
"your place isn't that bad," she said.

we ordered halo-halo from red ribbon in the southcenter mall. there was no place to sit, so we had to find some couches in the middle of the main walkway.
"people are going to complain," she said.
"why? it's a food court. all malls have food courts."
"yeah, but we're close to the stores. the white people are going to complain."
"so let them complain."
i hated the sense of inferiority that lingered in her voice. it was her decision to move to this country, her decision to stay even after she retired. why stay in a place where you feel you didn't belong?

"are you going to move back to the philippines?" i asked.
"no. that's not my home. my home is here."
"but you don't even like sacramento. why don't you just sell the house already?"
"now's not a good time to sell."
"it's never a good time to sell."
"if you move to the philippines," she said, "then pops and i probably would go, too."

"the filipina girl down the hall, she's dating a black guy?"
"that's sad."
"you're so racist."
"too bad she's not dating you instead."

"you should call selly's daughter. she lives in ballard."
"why? why would i want to do that?"
"i just hope you don't end up like uncle tim."

she showed me what to buy at seafood city in order to make filipino dishes. it was amazing the things she picked out. i looked at the bok choy, the eggplant, and i thought, never in a million years would i think to make a meal out of those things.

i went to church with her. we had to walk, and she was short of breath.
"you're out of shape," i said.
"i'm old!"
"still, you need to exercise more."
"i know. i know."
in the homily, the priest kept repeating, "my friends, the time to be smart is now." it became our inside joke for the week.
after church, we walked back in a downpour.

after cleaning my apartment, she said, "look! i can walk barefoot and my feet aren't as dirty."

i wanted her to be healthier, to have friends, to have money and be able to travel. i wanted her to not be so afraid of life, to take risks, and stop using old age as an excuse. i wanted her to stop worrying about me, to realize that she is no longer in control, that none of us are.

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