Day 379, March 31, 2021

Clean Your Room

Tonight's soundtrack: Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5, Bernstein, Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1974

My parents visited this afternoon. For the first time in over a year I saw them in person and we were able to embrace. It is a wonder of modern medicine and logistics that they are now vaccinated. They brought homemade kimchi, pickled vegetables, mandu filling and wraps (homemade Korean dumplings), and some chives to plant. 

We milled around mostly outside and said hello to the chickens. I helped load two five gallon buckets of chicken droppings and compost into their car (hopefully they don't tip over). They then came in and got to see our work-from-home spaces, and then in just a few moments they were leaving and backing out of the driveway. 

I'm afraid I didn't have a chance to clean house and our pandemic household is something like my teenage room. Maybe a little better than that, but on this particular day, I had taken out the trash and not replaced the trash can in my office, so the desk was littered with tissues... and I have a fortune cookie poem project I've been working on, but I haven't transcribed the last few take out meals yet, so there is also a flutter of fortune cookies on the desk too. The kitchen table has become consumed by the backlog of mail that stretches from the pile by the door. And the kitchen island, well, evidently I don't have enough pantry space. I don't need to go into further detail, but I'm sure the disarray was a little concerning. 

My parents have always kept a tidy house. I remember one summer when my brother and I were staying with my father out in the Berkshires, he was so exasperated by our wanton use of dishes that he labeled one cup and one plate with our names in masking tape and those were the dishes we were allowed to use, and if we wanted them clean, we needed to be responsible for cleaning them. 

I think more of my parents' appreciation for cleanliness has rubbed off on me than they may see evidence of, because I am fairly messy by nature, so what evidence that exists is actually a moderation of something far more disconcerting. I would certainly like to have a cleaner home and one with more precision, but I also have an appreciation for messes and the creative forces of entropy. Luckily my parents didn't go downstairs where my studio is in shambles with half the contents from my office at GCC, and microphones, and pieces of drum kit scattered around from an interrupted recording project this weekend. There's also the futon from my son's room (now my office) down there too. 

It must have been so exasperating to be such clean and orderly people and to have someone like me walking through the house trailing disaster and disarray wherever I went. I remember indoor water gun fights with my brother. I once set off a bottle rocket in the basement, which I had wound in a spiderweb of string suspending all manner of action figures and toys. It was a glorious commotion. 

It wasn't always my fault, sometimes messes just seemed to find me, like the time, the now infamous, Cardinal Law visited our Korean church. It was such a marvelous and unusual event to have a cardinal visit our church that everyone pulled out all the stops with a great after mass buffet of treats and snacks in the basement. While the parents took turns jostling for a chance to speak with the cardinal, all the kids played out in the parking lot. It was a warm day and we were playing touch football, but mostly just running around and getting sweaty in our more-special-than-usual Sunday clothes. After an hour or so of running around I made a beeline for the basement where there was a giant punch bowl full of ice cold punch. I downed plastic cup after cup of punch until I was nearly out of breath from drinking. 

It was only after I was swaying and red-faced that someone noticed me there. The punch had been spiked, and somewhere around the age of 10 years old, I was on my first bender. After the parents laughed off my predicament, everyone lined up for a parish photo. You can see Cardinal Law standing there with a hand on my shoulder like he was worried about this poor child who couldn't seem to stand straight. 

Our special Sunday after church treat was to stop at McDonald's on the way home, but on this particular day, when we stopped as soon as I stepped out of the car, the world spun and I couldn't regain my balance. I had to crawl back into the car and wait for my parents and brother to return. I remember when we finally got home, I couldn't wait for my father to unlock the door and I vomited into the planter on the stoop. That was an entirely messy day.

For better or worse, I've always had an uncomfortable relationship with alcohol. I lack the mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) enzyme that helps the liver process alcohol, so I turn bright red, and the effects of alcohol seem increased. That didn't seem like much of a problem when I was younger, but as I've gotten older, the effects are more pronounced and now I've pretty much given up alcohol entirely. I'll have a glass of something, or more frequently, a sip of something, but that is rare and never seems enticing when the primary effects are sleepiness and gut problems.

It is funny how even now, I feel every part the child when my parents visit. I should have cleaned up my room and put away all my toys.

I feel incredibly lucky to have my parents now, particularly now amidst so much loss. I appreciate them and their quiet approbation or disapproval more than ever. How can it have been more than a year since I've been able to be in their presence? I feel overwhelmed, like another symptom of becoming an old(er) man, this profound sentimentality. 

Sending you all love and hugs,

Leo

Out feeding the chickens in the morning.


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