Today’s my mother’s birthday and she’ll never read this but I’m saying Happy Birthday to her anyway.
I ordered her some sushi for her birthday, like I do every birthday since I’ve been living in Belgium, because my mother loves sushi. My family loves sushi and sashimi and all things raw fish. It’s in our Korean blood.
So I ordered the sushi early today, via telephone, from AAA Ichiban Sushi on Orchard Street in Manhattan. It was my first time ordering with them. I couldn’t place my order online because sites like Seamless don’t take international credit cards online. So I phoned my order in and it was to be delivered to my grandmother’s apartment at lunchtime.
Why to my grandmother’s apartment?
I should have known to confirm the time with my mother first, because every year on her birthday we go through what’s known as sushi delivery drama. My mother knows every year on her birthday to expect sushi from me yet it’s always a hassle each delivery. Things like this drive me even crazier from so far away than they ever did when I was living in New York.
The thing is…
My grandma’s Alzheimer’s is winning the race and she rarely has her wits about her. She can no longer do basic things for herself and the doctors have said that there’s nothing more they can do for my grandma’s heart and lungs. She has a nurse for 12 hours a day in two shifts and either my momz or my aunt must be with my grandma at all times. My grandma’s physical and mental condition has gotten to the point that she believes she’s being killed off slowly by North Korean disguised as nurses and doctors. She even refuses help from my uncle because she will not show him her “privates.” She could be living in a care facility but my family will hear nothing of it.
It’s heartbreaking yet my grandma has breakthrough moments where she is crystal clear in the present. On Skype the other night she told me she wished she could cook my favorite noodles for me. She remembered!
But back to sushi drama…
Sushi Delivery Drama 1: The first year, in 2011, I’d sent my mother sushi as a surprise but I did tell her to expect something “in the mail” forgetting my mother doesn’t answer the door to anyone unless they’re announced in advance. Since my dad passed away in 2004, my mother’s picked up more irrational fears than she’s ever before. So when the sushi delivery guy got to her place, my momz refused to open the door. I had to call her and tell her to let the delivery guy in, while the delivery guy was on the other side of the door from her. When she finally let him in, she grabbed her jacket and headed to my grandma’s (her mother’s) apartment to share the sushi with. They live within the same apartment complex on the Lower East Side. My mother told me she’d never eat the sushi without my grandma. It was the first year they were widows together, after my grandfather passed away the year before. I’d ordered extra sushi knowing my mother probably wouldn’t eat it alone. It was sweet, my momz and grandma.
Sushi Delivery Drama 2: The next year, 2012, I had the sushi delivered directly to my grandma’s house thinking I was ahead of the curve. But it turned out I ordered it for too early and I had to push the delivery time. The restaurant was very nice about it because I explained that I was calling form Belgium to send my mother sushi for her birthday and I was having a hard time organizing it. And then when the delivery guy finally got to my grandmother’s place there were problems with the intercom system and again I had to call my mother with the sushi delivery guy on the other line. Momz had to go downstairs to let the delivery guy in but someone let him in before she got to the lobby. She eventually got her sushi.
Sushi Delivery Drama 3: Last year today, Noah was shy of turning a year old and everything seemed to be in sushi delivery order when I called my mother to confirm the time and place and that all the intercoms all work. Then I learned, through my aunt who called me to say I needed to order more sushi, that my uncle would also be there for happy birthday sushi lunch. So I called the restaurant back and they were happy to take an extra order. At first I thought it was incredibly rude how my aunt handled the situation but in the end she just wanted to make sure there was food enough for everyone. I was happy to for my mother, because it’s all about saving face and stuffing your face with sushi!
Sushi Delivery Drama 4: Today, I ordered my mother’s sushi to be delivered to my grandmother’s apartment at lunchtime because I thought for sure my grandma would be home. She is in no condition to be anywhere but resting in the hospital bed set-up in the living room of her apartment. But it turns out my grandmother, home just a few days after being in ICU for a week, was not at home at lunchtime today. My mother, and my grandmother’s nurse Kay, had accompanied my grandmother to some doctor’s appointment in midtown! It’s freezing and brutal out in New York yet my grandmother was outside instead of resting. I only found this out after frantically calling my mother’s cellphone, to no avail because she’d left home without it, so I had to call my aunt to find out. My aunt told me to push the sushi delivery back two hours.
Two hours later my momz and grandma were not home yet. The car service they’d ordered was stuck in traffic in midtown, like that was rocket science, and I cried in frustration. My sushi order had been attempted to be delivered once and when I called with another request for postponement I felt defeated. I asked for another thirty minutes. The restaurant was gracious and said they’d try one last time to deliver my mother’s birthday sushi.
So I called my aunt and she gave me the number of my grandma’s nurse Kay. So I called Kay and she put my mother on the phone. I was so antsy about the sushi drama that I almost yelled at momz right away until I heard her say to me “Nuh-moo choo-uh” meaning it’s so cold, in Korean. Momz had been waiting outside the doctor’s office for an hour on the look-out for the car service and she was freezing. My mother was freezing on her birthday! I felt so bad for her. I almost screamed at her.
I couldn’t. None of the sushi drama was her fault, just like the sushi drama the year before that or the year before that. Except this year it looked like my mother really wasn’t getting her birthday sushi. AAA Ichiban Sushi was about to make it’s final delivery attempt. I’d never been there before yet they were so accommodating!
The thing is…
My mother is a very good daughter, in many ways to a fault. But who am I to say? She wants to do everything she can for her mother while she’s still alive on this earth. How can I argue with that?
Today I felt angry at my grandma. It lasted only a minute. It’s not her fault. It’s nobody’s fault.
Alzheimer’s sucks. Alzheimer’s fucks with you. Add a few organs failing and you’ve got my grandma. It’s a daily struggle.
But today’s my momz birthday.
All that matters is that my mother got her sushi after all, by just minutes, on a third attempt at delivery. The restaurant was so kind. I order enough for everyone to have, including Kay, because Kay’s simply becoming family.
I yelled at momz on Skype just now. I had to get it out and ask why there always had to be Happy Birthday Sushi Delivery Drama! We laughed.
Happy Birthday Umma.
Thank you AAA Ichiban Sushi!
Photo taken in 2010.