My wife and I celebrated eight years of marriage tonight. As eight is an auspicious number, tonight was a bit more special as we had an added guest to our dinner at a five-star restaurant: my mother-in-law Toshiko!
Normally this would be cause for some couples to “lawyer up,” but since my father-in-law’s passing a few weeks ago, the three of us have been inseparable during non-work time. We were initially going to ask the woman who helps us with Toshiko if she could “sit” while we went out to celebrate. But then my wife had a brilliant plan. Why not invite Toshiko to our anniversary dinner?
Before my mother-in-law’s stroke in 1997, she ran her own business in Waikiki and had numerous friends and customers. She was living the dream. Then a severe stroke hit her and confined her to a wheelchair. She closed her business and my father-in-law took tireless care of her up until a week before he passed. Now, my wife mainly has taken over the role of assisting her with daily needs with me helping to my capacity. One thing that has actually helped to avoid caregiver burnout is including Toshiko in all of our activities. That way my wife does not worry about her so much an it gives Toshiko a new perspective of our lives.
At the restaurant Toshiko was in awe. After all, this is where President Obama eats when he’s in town. Toshiko and my father-in-law have been to fancy restaurants before, but that was in the 1980s when going out to a fancy meal was about $100 or less. My wife’s doctor with whom she works with gives us gift certificates for Alan Wong’s for Christmas every year. This is a restaurant where dinner for two can run about $200, so the gift card makes this restaurant more accessible to us.
Between Toshiko’s unfamiliarity with the menu, her limited English skills, and her stroke, she was a bit overwhelmed with the menu and said “I just want steak.” My wife ordered the Onaga (red snapper) which is a signature dish at Alan Wong’s, and I won’t tell you what I ordered as I would probably get kicked off the internet.
The food came and Toshiko decided she liked my wife’s entree better, and proceeded to eat that instead, leaving my wife with her steak. Rather than getting upset, my wife relished the fact that her mother was trying new things and celebrating our life with us. Rather than a “third wheel” (extra visual as Toshiko is in a wheelchair), my wife thinks of her as a side car for an old time motorcycle. That allows the three of us to go on many adventures together. This is our family dharma now.