My Korean American Story: Lili Kim

November 25, 2015

What’s the worst part about living with a parent who has Alzheimer’s?  Their repetition of words and phrases is a simple annoyance, the frailty of their human body is understandable, and their inability to feed themself is predictable.  Yet the constant desire and wish for some light to dawn on them, only to find that your hope will always be crushed, is just daunting.

My mother and I were always close, and because of that we were always bickering about something, too.  When a parent has Alzheimer’s, all you’re consumed with is guilt and regret over the heartless and indifferent acts you’ve committed as a child.  Even though an outsider can dismiss such a past with a simple wave of their hand, the precise memories of such times can never be forgotten.  That’s why I find it so unforgiving when I hear other people refuse to make time for their moms or angrily speak to them over the phone.  If I could have my mother’s mind back, I would spend every day speaking to her, about anything and everything.  But, don’t many of us think that way, after it’s too late?

So many times, I look straight into my mother’s dead eyes and try to communicate with her:  to plead with her, to ask for her advice and to tell her I love her.  And every time, I get no answer albeit some nervous laughter ensues.  I hate that there are so many moments in my life I’m dealing with and I don’t have my mother to share her insight with me.  She wasn’t there to shop for a wedding dress with me though she spent hours helping me find the perfect prom dress; and she wasn’t there to answer my questions when it came to parenthood, when I was finally at a listening point.  I find myself understanding her world more as I mimic her career and life choices, but she’ll never know that I finally reached that path, after all.

They say that when a parent has Alzheimer’s, their minds are often in a better state than their caretaker’s.  I find that to be true.  My mother is constantly laughing and touching the people she meets in a loving manner.  Maybe it’s because my mother was always full of warmth, but her mind has become free of all memories, including the painful and traumatizing ones.  Without them, she has been free to yell out when she wants to, without caring about what others think about her.  Perhaps in that way, I wish to mimic her.  And in that way, my mother still inspires me to be free.

If you have a family member who has or has had not only Alzheimer’s, but a debilitating disease, a hidden illness, or any sort of ailment in general, please share your story with me (email me at for I currently go to support sessions for those whose parents have Alzheimer’s, and not only am I the only Korean to attend, but I’m the only Asian in sight.  I know this illness, as well as many other various afflictions, affect a multitude of us and I want to pour out these stories to our community through