Dragon Lady

My mother, the Korean dynamo, is all of 95 pounds (on a “fat day”) and perhaps 4’10”, with the hair height added. She has also smoked since I can remember.

In fact, my memory from childhood is running up to hug her or ask her something and getting inadvertently burned by her cigarette. Equating hugs with a first degree burn is a really weird association to have to shake as you go through this life.

While her lungs might be two little charcoal briquettes that say “match” and “light,” respectively, I love the little lady. She is as sweet and constant as she is sassy. And now, as an adult where I feel I am raising her as much as she is me, I appreciate that to no end.

Recently, while I was visiting, she went out back to have a smoke. Her grandson, Casey, was outside playing. And an interesting thing happened.

Casey stopped playing and a look of grave concern came over his face. His shoulders slumped. His head hung low. He seemed crestfallen. He walked up to his grandmother with a concerned pout and said,

“Grandma, I wish you wouldn’t smoke. I don’t want you to die.”

It was as if a scene from a movie, replete with background music for the way it tugged the heartstrings. Looking at her cigarette, my mother stopped for an instant. She looked down. Then, she slowly raised her head to look directly into the eyes of this eight-year old pliant.

Opening her arms, Casey walked in to her embrace. Then, opening her mouth as if to speak, she paused.

And then she blew smoke in his face.