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  • Kenneth Park


We met a few years ago, after her daughter was born. The baby had an appointment in Richmond. I met them, and after they settled into the van and I pulled out on the highway, Mom began to talk. Baby is not her only child. She has another daughter who she and her husband left back home, under the alternating care of both grandmothers.

As we approached Richmond, the story tumbled out. Her mother-in-law seems to be intent on turning the older daughter against her Mom. She was three when they came and is now eight. They are able to keep in touch, and, thanks to modern technology, occasionally have video chats, but mother-in-law has put in the child's head that Mother abandoned her.

That prompted the last video chat. Mom trying to explain to her daughter that they did not, in fact, abandon her. If they had, they would not be sending money back for her care, food, and expenses. They would not be sending money back to pay for a simple house being built on land that they were able to purchase a couple of years after they came. They would not be sending money back to allow the grandparents to rest in their old age, rather than work until they became too sick and frail to continue.

Dad knows his mother. He knows how she is. He tries to be supportive of his wife, but it is complicated not only by family dynamics, but by distance and time. He hasn't seen his mother and extended family in five years either. His father lives here with him and his family, which makes for its own set of complications.

Mom doesn't have a good relationship with her father, who in turn had a horrible childhood, and we talked about rough childhoods and how they can affect our ability to interact with our families as adults, even our ability to BE parents.

And then there is her grandmother. She got word a couple of weeks ago that she was not doing well, that she was so critical, in fact, that the doctors simply recommended to the family that they gather and wait for the inevitable. Grandma raised her. She was more like a mother than a grandmother to her. Her husband passed away a few months before she came to the States. His last request to her (his granddaughter) was to not leave her grandmother alone.

But the only viable option they had to provide for themselves and their families was to come here, so they did.

She carries that guilt in a way that I have trouble understanding. She carries the weight of her issues with her mother in law, her older daughter and her father in a way that is impossible for me to identify with.

She is more than ready to go back home.

I can only offer a sympathetic ear and an understanding and encouraging word here and there.

It seems like the least I can do.

Kenny Park

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