Interlude Chapter: Confessions on **Lynn

She came into my life (or really our lives) just after I received my second transplant.

She did not emerge suddenly, but slipped in quietly, slowly, and non-invasively like a caterpillar that transformed into a butterfly, the seasons that changed in colors and temperatures, or a beautiful song that made you close your eyes and feel at peace.

My first memory of her was at my Father’s birthday party celebration. We were at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants with round tables with white tablecloths, bright red scrolls, a huge fish tank with fake fluorescent pebbles and fat fish darting back and forth. My Father sat in the center. He looked boyishly cute and younger than the number of lit candles on the round and thickly iced cake. She sat next to him with a shy smile and soft laugh that erupted quite frequently when the right English words struggled to come out from her mouth. She was originally from Taiwan with Mandarin as her Mother Tongue language and, though her English was impeccable and surpassed my broken Mandarin, she was very timid when it came to speaking English.

My Father grinned, laughed, and munched exuberantly on crispy Chinese noodles with orange duck sauce and slurped up traditional long noodles that are inhaled at every birthday because long noodles represented long life. I sat across from my Father with this petite and small woman sitting next to him by the name of **Lynn. I was awestruck at how the wrinkles that were etched on my Father seemed to vanish and replaced by a sparkle in his eyes and a beaming smile that stretched from one side of his face to another. I could not remember ever seeing him so happy and so full of life. Who was this man? Who was this Lynn? The hands of time that marched forward seemed to stand still and even go in reverse when he was with with her. He became a little boy again full of warmth and a contagious joy that we did not know of ever since my Mother left us.

Listening to the laughter and foreign Mandarin spoken around me, I looked at my plate with fluffy white rice and glazed chicken and broccoli. Perhaps it was the teenage hormones and particularly the infamous mood-swing immunosuppressive medication-induced Prednisone that triggered a fiery jealousy, fear, and horrific thoughts ripping through me: I am not going to like her. She is just going to hurt my Dad. She is just going to hurt our family. She is going to eventually leave, just like my Mom left. No matter what happens and no matter how she smiles at you or is nice to you, do not get close to her.

Seeing my Dad so happy, I logically should have been happy about Lynn who brought so much joy to my Father. More than that, I should have been happy for myself because FINALLY—a mother figure to share my quickly forming crabby teenage attitude, a mother figure to ask why guys were the way they were, and a mother figure to go shopping with. However, Lynn was not the mother figure that I had in mind. She was like a guy. She preferred pants over skirts and make-up made her cringe and scrunch up her face. She hated shopping. She would get nervous, stutter, and awkward whenever there were emotions and feelings involved. Yet, what she lacked in typical girly girl-ness, she made up for with her methodical practicality, wisdom, glowing personality, loyalty, and utmost love for my Father and then a growing love and care for my sister and me. To realize her positive and golden attributes took time and patience and, most unfortunately, these were traits I lacked because I was transforming quickly into a rather difficult teenager post-second transplant with a stubborn streak, sharp tongue, and loud mouth. Though I was inspired and holding fast to living and making something of my life thanks to my recovery from my kidney rejection and second chance at life, it was inevitable that I was about to face my first bout of normalness in life: Difficult and Growing Pains Teenage Years.

When it became clear that Lynn and my Dad were getting closer and she was going to stay with my Dad no matter what, I resisted and pushed her away rather than welcomed her with open arms. I was wary, cautious, suspicious, doubtful, and, most of all, jealous about her taking the place of my mother and taking the attention away from my sister and me. I still thought a great deal about my mother and felt a biological loyalty towards her, though she was the one who broke our family and had contributed to my suspiciousness and mistrust of people. Deep down inside, I was so scared and downright terrified that all of us would be abandoned yet again and that my precarious and questionable health situation even after my second kidney transplant would drive her away as I believed it drove my mother away and caused my family to shatter. When she would come into a room, I would walk out. When my Dad was caught in the middle between the two of us and he would check on me, I would pout and glare like a little girl throwing a temper tantrum. I muttered: “I am not sure if I like her.” My Dad’s face fell to pieces all over again that was reminiscent of whenever we would receive bad news about my health. But, I did not think at the time that I was hurting my Dad because I was so wrapped up in myself.

Lynn’s response to my sour attitude was staying. She did not go away. She would not go away.

Instead, she stayed by my Father and, out of love for him, mustered the courage to face my sister and me and stayed by our sides. I began to warm up to Lynn when I learned about her exceptional math skills. My Dad and her said: “You know, Lynn could tutor you.”

I refused at first, but numbers were quickly becoming so much of an angst that I could barely remember that any mathematical obstacles was miniscule compared to all the health obstacles I had encountered and endured. I was all about memorizing the formulas than really understanding what process I was doing to get to the final mathematical answer. Sitting at the dining room table, she tutored me in math until we could no longer tell the difference between a plus and minus sign. I remember whining to her: “Lynn, I do not get it. How do you do a percentage again?”

Rather than groan as my Father or aunts would, she smiled gently and explained it all over again in her soothing tone of voice and light pencil marks over my frustrated and impatient scrawls and cross-outs.

She helped my Dad and me haul my sister’s furniture when my sister moved to a new location for a job prospect. She sat in the car, just listening to my Dad, my sister, and me squabble and chit-chat. In that car ride and in the many other times that I was with her, Lynn was always the quiet one who listened serenely to my sister and me shooting her every question imaginable involved with relationships, men, life, and love and answered with confidence and patience. I asked: “Lynn, how do you know if a guy likes you?”

“He wants to spend time with you,” she answered simply.

“But, how do you know-know?” I persisted.

She said quietly: “You just know. Sometimes, there are not answers to questions. The process matters more than the end. Or sometimes, you discover the answers through living the experiences.”

She and my Dad bonded over science and work and had countless conversations about their latest experiments and passions about a cure for cancer. Her patience, understanding, and listening ear were endless and enormous. She subtly made every attempt to break any and every wall that had built up sky high from a mother and wife that had left just by staying and being there when we needed her to listen, not judge, and only give advice when asked for it. Ever so slowly, the doubt and fear that swam in me since my mother walked away and since I faced my latest health scares drowned and were replaced by timid and calm, yet still shaky waters that I finally was gaining a strong family that I never had while I was growing up. Yet, with every gain, there is a sense of loss and guilt. I felt guilty that if I loved Lynn that I would betray my mother, but this guilt increasingly diminished as Lynn’s presence in our lives and love and patience for all of us beautifully blossomed. It reached a point that my Dad, sister, and me could not imagine our lives without Lynn. She was our family.

After five years of them dating, my Dad mustered up his courage and finally decided to take the plunge and remarry with the highest approval from my sister and me. With a 14-year age difference between them along with a hurtful history involving my Mom, they proved that age and all the obstacles in the world cannot stop a strong connection, bond, and the ability to find your soulmate to grow old with in life.

The actual wedding ceremony and lavish and huge Chinese banquet that was held afterwards was an dizzy and blurry dream. At the wedding ceremony, Lynn wore a beautiful white dress that sparkled and shimmered, and yet paled it comparison to her glowing happiness. It was the first time I saw her without glasses and with make-up slathered on her face. She did not look like herself at all. I could not recognize her. My sister, multitude of other family members on both Lynn and my Dad’s side, and me did not exist at all as we witnessed their union and as they peacefully and happily exchanged rings. They were in their own little world.

The Chinese wedding banquet was the real huge and fun event that was entirely decked out in red because red means luck in Chinese. Mostly everyone were strangers to me that were laughing, eating endless courses of food, drinking, and partying. My Father sang to Lynn and Lynn giggled. At one point, I stopped to look at myself in my custom-made pale peach dress with a matching drawstring purse and then turned to see my Dad, Lynn, and my sister laughing until tears were rolling down their faces. I ran to join them—my family. A family I never really had. A family I now had, thanks to Lynn.

I can never thank Lynn enough for all that she has done. She brought my sister, Dad, and me closer together. She made us a family again. She made me believe in motherhood and showed and proved to me that a mother is not merely a woman who gives birth to you and provides a home for 9 months in the womb, but is there for you through EVERYTHING. She was there after my second kidney transplant unlike my own biological mother, taught me mathematical equations, scolded me when I needed to be disciplined, let me cry when I cried, gave me advice when I needed it, listened to me when I needed someone to listen to, and always provided the most wise and simple advice that was always so difficult to put into practice. She made me have faith in the power of nurturing over nature and the typical biological clock. She restored my trust in people and taught me to not give up and that it takes time to really know people and develop a strong and true relationship. The four of us have formed a family and the life we had before without her seems as though it never existed. 

Yet, the greatest gift of all that Lynn gave to my family and me is a small definition or meaning of what love is. She taught me that love requires patience, nurturing, and time. She taught me that love was standing by someone through the sweet in life, but especially the bitter. As she said to me many times: “You know when someone cares about you and loves you when they stay by your side through the worst rather than the best of times in your life.”

Years later after my Dad and Lynn were married, I asked her:What is love? Why would you stay with my Dad when he had been through such a messy divorce and had two girls to raise on his own? We are just baggage.” It confused me how she could have put up with my sister and me, who were a package deal in my Dad’s life.

She looked me in that quiet and pensive way that she always looked at me and said softly: “It was scary for me because there was the three of you and one of me. It was scary because I had to face the two of you and not just your Dad. But, you cannot let fear stop you or hold you back from what may end up being the greatest and most wonderful thing. Because I love your Dad, these things did not and do not matter. Love makes you a better person. You take in everything when you love someone. That is what love is.”

My Dad and Lynn have now been married for over ten years. I know there will be many more years to come. I also know that things happen for a reason.  If it were not for my Mom leaving then my Dad and Lynn would have never dated or married.  My Dad confirmed that the second time around is success and Lynn has shown that it is better to wait for the one you love. They balance and complement one another. They make each other better people. They love each other and have taught me what love is by being there for one another, being there for my sister, and being there for me.

**denotes created name to protect privacy of individual


Jennifer said...

Great writing Mare! Keep it coming!

Jim G said...

Mary, I tried to post a comment on your blog site, but not sure it took, so here it is:

Another beautifully written chapter/story. You're truly gifted in your writing and describe your life in ways that draw the reader into your life. Thank you, Mary, for sharing your life with us.

PS: We need a photo of your family in this chapter too, so we can see Lynn and your dad and the two of you as we read to compete the image forming in our mind with your narrative.

PS2: It was so great meeting you in person at the US Transplant Games in Madison. I treasure the photo we took together there.

- Jim G (the TRIO heart guy from NJ)

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