Don’t let the alcohol fool you — it wasn’t a super happy moment.
Well, actually, maybe it was.
The overall mood was heavy; Auntie A had collapsed a few days prior and was now in the ICU, and in a coma.1 I got a message from my cousin with the news, and sent it to my mom right away.
Less than 12 hours later, she texts me: “We’re flying in.”
(You know it’s a big deal when they decide in less than 12 hours that they’re getting on a 14-hour flight from Manila to LA. They even got to LAX before me!)
“How serious is it?” I ask. “Is she going to make it?” my cousin asks. Everyone’s worried and scared. But as Herrins, we all share this really bad habit — when things get too heavy or emotional, we bring out our secret weapon: humor.
And so after dinner that night, all worries about Auntie A were pushed aside. The wine was out. I grab a beer. My older cousins start joking and reminiscing about the time my dad was still trying to woo my mom. “He stalked me,” my mom jokes. “Well, that’s after she went to my office to check me out,” my dad answers.2
My favorite aunt (she’s 85 but acts 65. Love her.) complains about her aching feet, joking that all she needs is a can of sardines to roll under her soles. (We all laugh, then eww, you better not be putting that back in the pantry…)
Being the youngest one at the table, they put me in the hot seat.
Soooooo, are you seeing anyone? (Ahh, nosy aunts and cousins.)
I know this cute doctor I can set you up with! (No thanks. You kidding? I grew up with Dr. Herrins, no more doctors…)
So how many of your friends are married? (Sigh.)
Don’t you even like anyone right now?
“I don’t know. Well, actually, there’s someone who’s not bad, I guess. Except he seems emotionally unavailable.” (Aren’t they all.)
My favorite aunt looks at me and winks. “But is he physically available?”
LOL, I don’t even know how to react to that.
(Although I love that she’s 85 and joking like this. Wish I could meet her at 30.)
They all erupt in laughter. Even my parents are laughing. Super awkward.
They go on to joke about something else this time (thank God), and I see it in their faces. We’re all worried, but glad that we’re all in the same place. They’re all especially happy that my parents are there, since they only get to see them once in two years, if they’re lucky. I watch them, laugh at my cousin’s crazy jokes, thankful for family time despite the circumstances.
… I also make a mental note to sit at the kids table next time. ;)
Sadly, Auntie A passed this weekend. She was going to be 86. She lived a long, full life, so no matter how sad we were, we made sure to celebrate it. A great / sad moment at her wake was when they passed around an essay she had written a few years before, of her life story. Growing up, she was “old Auntie A who lives in LA” to me, but reading that essay showed me a different side of her: she was an excellent heart surgeon, sure, but also a traveler, dreamer, and mother. Made me think about how important it was to get our stories down. Hearing her voice through that essay was priceless, especially for her children. ↩
My parents have the funniest how we met story. My mom, sent by her company on a work trip, ended up in my dad’s office (he’s an economist, but was then teaching at a university) to interview someone. Before she left for the trip, a friend of hers told her to “…look for Alex Herrin, he’s hot! And check if he’s single, I like him.” and my mom, too busy to care, told her friend to write his name on a piece of paper so that she’d remember. She got to the office, met the person she had to interview, and on her way out, remembered to ask the secretary about an “Alex Herrin” and if he was single, since she was asking for a friend. “Yes, in fact, he’s right here, let me call him.” They met. They said hi, and goodbye, and my mom headed back to her hotel. She went down for dinner later that night and guess who happened to be at the hotel restaurant? My stalker dad. ;) (“Oh! Fancy meeting you here!” Ha.) ↩