Upon the death on September 9, 1976 of Chairman Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China, a distraught peasant on the street was filmed wailing: “What are we going to do? Heaven is collapsing!” When a part of our life comes to an abrupt end we have all experienced that peasant’s disorientation and panic: What do we do when a job is suddenly lost, a lover unexpectedly dies in a car crash, or a favorite Chinese restaurant inexplicably closes?!
For about 8 years, every two weeks I regularly drove to visit Mom on Hilton Head Island, about an hour away from where I live. Mom had discovered the Green Dragon, a Chinese restaurant that she adored, so whenever I went over there was no wondering about where we would eat lunch; it was always the Green Dragon! We knew that they opened at 11am and that if we got there exactly at that time there would be very few other customers there, the food would have just been made, and we could take as long as we wanted to eat without being rushed out by the staff. One day at 11am we arrived, parked the car, walked up to the front door, reached out and pulled on the door and… the door was locked! It was only then that we noticed the sign in the window: “Out Of Business.” NO! Heaven is collapsing!!!
Thus, having resigned our hearts to the sudden loss of that-which-cannot–be-equaled, we began a one-year journey of our bi-weekly search for a new Chinese restaurant. Mom scoured the local papers and every two weeks when I came over we hopefully set off for the Green Dragon’s possible replacement. Disappointment piled upon disappointment, and often we wound up eating a dejected lunch at the pancake house. Eventually we heard about a new place, the Asian Bistro; we went, we tried, and we left in stunned amazement by how delicious and varied the dishes were. Even better than the Green Dragon!!! The venerable Green Dragon’s closing had set us off on a journey of searching; that journey had brought us to something so impossibly superior that, as devotees of the Green Dragon, the very countenance of the idea of “something better” would have been a heretical thought: What could possibly be better than what we already knew?!
Mom is now in serious decline from a dementia that has already taken her essential “Mom-ness” from us and… cruelly… left us with only the shell of her body. As a result she is unable to go to the Asian Bistro now, and for me to go there and enjoy the delicious food that we have both loved together when she no longer can would somehow feel like an act of betrayal. So I no longer go there either. As we deal with Mom’s decline, now becoming a physical one which echoes the already accomplished mental one, the five of us kids (now ranging in age from 53 to 66) prepare ourselves for Mom’s final leaving to come to an end. My heart can only hold onto the memory of the journey that the closure of the Green Dragon set us off on, and hope that life beyond the loss of Mom will eventually find my heart in a place as wonderful as the Asian Bistro.