Family part 1…

I know that I would not have made it through this ordeal without my family. As I mentioned earlier, from my surgery on 3/28/2013 to after my discharge from the hospital on 4/3/2013, my mom stayed in the hospital with me every day and night.

———– My Mom —————-

My mom- Ching Chu Chen
My mom- Ching Chu Chen

By her appearance, my mom does not seem imposing. Her thin frame along with her 5’1 inch height (on her tip-toes) does not lend for much intimidation. However, once she has decided that she wants something done, watch out. It will be done, done well, and the way she wants it done. Growing up as a junior tennis player in a small town with a shortage of top-level tennis players, my mom always somehow managed to find me a top-notch practice partner. She hired the best tennis coach the city had to offer, and would often come to the lessons to help pick up balls, in hopes of reducing any wasted time during the lesson. She was known around the tennis community as ‘the mom of that Chiou-kid’. One time in a meeting for the local tennis association-a meeting that involved me, and three other tennis players in our town-the subject of my mom came up. One of the other parents said, “listen, we all know that she is… well, pushy, but I think we all know Chris wouldn’t be the tennis player he is without her.” I didn’t think much of the comment at the time, although it stuck enough for me to remember it later that day.

“How’d the meeting go?” My mom asked.

“It was fine,” a typical non-descript answer from me, and then I remembered the comment, “actually someone mentioned how they thought you were pushy.”

“Really?!? Why did they mention that?”

“I’m not sure, they did say that it has helped my tennis though.”

The most common reaction to being called pushy is one of anger. With her, I could see the corner of her mouth start to rise, almost revealing a smirk. She was proud, not because she was known as a pushy mom, but because her pushiness had resulted in making me a better tennis player. This is my mom, when she wanted something, especially for her kids, nothing could stop her. During this ordeal I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for her to see me in the state I was in. Yet, my first memories of her after waking up following the surgery was her asking for more medication to make me comfortable. She would do everything for me. In fact, nurses who were assigned to me would often make the comment, “Let me know if you need anything, even though I know your mom will do it first.” I have always been close to her. I’ve often been called a ‘mama’s boy’. Medical school brought me away from home, and I was also far from her during residency. So for these years, we were not able to be as  close. Sure I’d make sure my daily drives home from the hospital after work included a telephone call to her, but something had changed. I can’t put my finger on the change; maybe because I had started my own family, my time for her had diminished. But looking back at this ordeal, my bond with my mom has grown stronger than ever. I remember about three weeks in to my hospitalization, the physical therapist I was working with allowed me to walk without assistance. I don’t recall much about the actual experience except seeing my mom pumping her fist into the air with tears in her eyes, yelling words of encouragement to me. My mom was glowing for the rest of the day, telling everyone that would listen of my feat. The responses were usually of feigned interest, but I do remember a nurse saying to my mother, “Wow Pearl, that’s great! Just think, you got to see your son take his first steps twice.”

———– The Chiou Women ———-

Me and my sisters- (from left)- me, Amy, Alice
Me and my sisters- (from left)- me, Amy, Alice

I described both of my sisters earlier. As I mentioned, they are as different as can be. However, the bond we share is the same. Amy, my older sister, with a heart the size of Texas, has been in contact with me every day since the surgery. She was there during the surgery and always stands as a voice of reason. My younger sister, Alice, was also there before, during, and after the surgery, never hesitates to tell you what’s on her mind. The thoughts when I could first see and hear were, “I want to see (or hear) my family.” The dynamic is always different between mother-offspring and sibling-sibling; there are topics that can be discussed with a sibling that cannot be discussed with a parent. For example, I would often talk to Amy and Alice about my girlfriend issues, a topic I would never even think about breaching with my mom. Even though this difference was slightly blurred during my hospitalization, the basic tenets of the difference still persisted. There were still topics I would have absolutely no problem revealing to either Amy or Alice that I would not reveal to my mom. One example that sticks out in my mind had to do with the frequency of my therapy sessions. My sense was that I was having them too frequently especially with the added sessions with my mom, I felt that I did not have enough time to rest. I made this clear to my sisters but did not want to reveal this to my mom. I’m not sure why I felt this way, but my thoughts are that the different bond that exists has something to do with it. In a previous section I mentioned the birth of our second son. My wife becoming pregnant was no accident; it was a decision that was made between us with much scrutiny. In the end, however, one of the reasons I wanted another child was that I did not want to deprive my son, Christian, of the similar strong bond that I had with my sisters.

————— Fleur ————-

Me and my wife taking a selfie
Me and my wife taking a selfie

When the topic of the ‘stronger’ sex is brought up I immediately think of my wife. My part in this was easy, the only hard part for me was undergoing surgery, for which I was unconscious. She is the one who had to see me after the surgery writhing in pain; she is the one who had to schedule all of my appointments; she is the one who was watching and caring for our(then) six year-old son during my month in the hospital. And the kicker: she did all this while carrying our second child close to term. Sure, maybe I can lift a heavier dumbbell than her, but there is no way I could do everything that she has done. I often think that she deserves better than me, someone without a brain tumor that can walk, talk, and see properly; then my selfish side kicks in and I realize that I need her with me. She has not once made a single complaint about our situation. In fact, she often tells me how kind everyone has been to her and how lucky we are to have the friends we do. I know that her interactions with my mom have been tough. I know that she wants to be by my side at all times, but with my mother, she is constantly trying to balance my older son’s care, with my mom’s desire to help me. This was paired with the logistical aspect of the hospital room itself (the room only allowed for 1 bed besides mine). Her relationship with my mom is a strong one, but the relationship with the parent in-laws always has an underlying tension. If you think about the relationship: a significant other is going to now live and love your offspring; someone you have raised for 18 years. That is behind all relationships with parent in-laws. Ever since my return from LBI, my wife has continued to schedule all of my appointments and help me with any activities of daily living that I needed. Her attitude somehow continued to be positive, often telling me of the progress that she sees in me, and even making plans for after my ‘full recovery.’ I once mentioned to her “if I ever recover from this then we’ll…” (it was subtle but she picked up on it). She immediately stopped me mid-sentence and said, “if?!? Not if, when you recover!” I know that her frustration with me has been growing as of late with my lack of desire to want to socialize, but I only know this because I have been with her for over ten years(we met in college), not because of any outward manifestations. Even when I vent at her, whether it was a physician or care-giver that I didn’t agree with, or with a quip about a family member, she has been the one listening to me, somehow managing to agree with me while not also trouncing on the person we’re talking about. I know I’ve said this now a few times, but I could not have gotten through this without her. She has provided me with not only encouragement from a physical and emotional point of view, but she has also given me the strength I needed to endure this.


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