I’m currently sitting at the British Airways lounge at JFK airport, waiting for our flight to LA en route to Sydney and then Melbourne. I am surrounded by gold and red Christmas decorations (maybe the people who did the decorating were Chinese?), Christmas trees, and a calming fountain, not to mention trays and trays of gourmet finger sandwiches – this is like tea party heaven. United has a lot to learn about how to design and set up an airport lounge that is actually worth paying money for.
We’re going to spend Christmas with Chris’s family again. I guess this is what we will be doing every year for the foreseeable future. His family is like the family you always hear about but aren’t actually a part of – everyone genuinely gets along and looks forward to seeing each other for Christmas and Boxing Day – no drama, no gossip, no back stabbing, no holding onto stupid memories from the past. That feeling is very foreign to me because I cannot relate to it at all. The anticipation of seeing all your family in one place about it and being excited about it – it’s a total enigma. And then in some very odd way, sometimes when I think about it, I am a bit nauseated. Maybe that’s because I am envious that I can never have that feeling with my own family, even though his family is technically supposed to be my family now. But we all know it’s never really the same.
I remember telling Ed how functional Chris’s family and greater family was around Christmas, and he kind of chuckled last year because he responded, “well, that’s not anything like our family!” Ed via Bart will spend Christmas in Melbourne this year. He won’t be alone again. And he’ll be in a functional house.
Last night, I had multiple dreams that seem to have blurred into one big one. In one dream, Ed is sitting with me, but I know he’s not really his human form; he is visiting me in spirit form from heaven, but wants to fool me because he looks exactly like himself. Even after death, he still wants to play games with me. He tells me about what life would be like if he could do things all over again. He’d try to focus more, be a little more confident, take more chances. There goes Ed blaming himself. He spent the last few months of his life blaming himself for all of his life’s “failures” and why he was who he was until the end. I tell him it’s not all his fault, and that there were things out of his control that he could not have prevented. Ed internalized all the criticisms of his life and ended up believing all of them, even when they were far from the truth.
For a while, I was in denial that he could really contemplate suicide again. I remembered that time back in 2000 when he got into some trouble and got worried, so he went to see a psychic, who told him that the trouble would soon end, and he’d live a very long life. He was so sweet – even in his darkest moments, he still thought about me and asked her what my future would be like. Her vague answer was, “She will be just fine.” Stupidly, I had faith that there was some grain of truth to what the psychic said, so Ed would never try to do anything to end his life voluntarily ever again. I’m never trusting any psychic ever again.
It was a sad meeting with my dead brother because it made me wish yet again that I could go visit him from time to time; no one else would have to know. It would just be him and I, together alone as brother and sister, and no one could be there to harm him or criticize him or do anything that could have negative implications on him. I’d accept that I could only see him at certain times in certain places, and it would be our secret. I guess Chris and Crista could know. I don’t think Ed would mind that.
Chris has been indulging me this entire year with visits to some of the best restaurants in New York. Tonight was our last tasting menu of the year in our beloved city at the very classic French Bouley. Stepping into it was immediately redolent of apples, which lined the walls in neat rows in the entrance room. And once in the dining room, it was as though we were invited into a French friend’s old, sumptuous home with many rustic touches, massive French countryside paintings, gorgeous vintage-style, gold-rimmed plates, and freshly lit tall candles and bright purple orchids. What a way to end the year we have lived here in what I now call my second home.
It’s weird to look back on this year and see how much has happened. Chris and I have gone through a lot of things – ups and downs and departures from our companies, my entering a new company and slightly different marketing area, city and state-hopping to multiple U.S. cities, a couple of international stops, and of course, my own pains with my family and Ed and dealing with his death. 2013 was a very surreal year and will probably remain surreal every time I look back on it in the future. I’ll never fully grasp everything that happened or understand; even some of our travels seem like a blur to me, and when I go through our photos, I am reminded that yes, we actually did do x/y/z activity!
Ed lived a really short life, and I’ll never stop believing how unfair it was. I might get repetitive when I say this, but the only way I will preserve my brother’s life is if I ensure that I’m surrounded only by positive energy and people who can help make me better (as opposed to worse and stagnant). Next year, I have some things I want to do for him that I just didn’t have the emotional ability to do this year. I hope he will be happy with the choices I will make on his behalf.
I went to Astor Place Hair tonight after work to get my haircut by my Sicilian hair stylist whose crazy facial expressions could rival my own, just with a cute Italian touch. She was asking me how my Thanksgiving was and marveled at the fact that I just came back from Germany and its intense Christmas markets. She insisted that I should have come in for my cut before the Germany trip so that I could show all the German men there how hot I was with the new light and bouncy look that she gave me. I was about to tell her that I actually came in tonight to get my hair cut before my next trip to Australia/New Zealand for this Saturday, but I caught myself because I felt guilty. She had just shared with me that she could only afford to go back to Italy every two years to visit her and her husband’s families, and they were getting priced out of their Astoria apartment. And here I was, taking three international trips in the span of one month.
I came from a childhood where I was taught that if you travel at all, you must be extremely wealthy. Once in college and in the working world, I realized that all that teaching was wrong, and as long as you have some money (hence broke college students backpacking through Europe or Asia), you can travel the world one bit at a time and not run into massive debts if you didn’t have deep pockets. But I do acknowledge that I’m extremely privileged to be in a position to do the travel that Chris and I have done together; I never take that thought for granted because I know there are people around me who need to save just to go on a trip to the state next door.
The part that makes me the most sad, and will continue to make me sad, is that my brother will never have the chance to do any of this travel. I don’t think I will ever get over the fact that he never had the chance to leave this country (well, he did in 2008 when my parents and I went to Vietnam, but he refused to go) and see the world outside of the U.S. My sweet, naive brother’s view of the world was so limited because he thought that was what life was supposed to be based on our upbringing, and he wasn’t able to push outside of that narrow view to think about the “what ifs” outside of even the city limits of San Francisco.
Wherever I go now, though, I will think of him lovingly and always ponder what his facial expressions and words might have been if he were traveling by my side. I really miss him.
I started a free trial at Equinox this morning as the first day of my three-day pass. As someone who works out in the morning and is used to the locker rooms and general facilities being much calmer in the mornings at Crunch, I was surprised at how crowded the Equinox at Park Avenue was. I actually had to spend some time to find a free locker, the majority of the treadmills and elliptical machines were occupied when I was in that area, and when it was almost time for me to shower, there was a tiny line forming for the showers!
With my corporate discount if I joined, it would cost $132/month to join this gym, but after just the first day, it seems pretty ridiculous to switch over even when you don’t factor in the costs. Why would I wait for a shower in the morning, and why is the gym so crowded at a time that should not be “peak”? The great water pressure and privacy of the showers and the Kiehl’s products are great, but that’s hardly enough reason to switch gyms.
Ed always wanted me to indulge more and spend money on things I really liked, but I’d say that he would definitely side with Crunch on this. After all, he’s Asian, and if overall Crunch is better with the above noted problems, it would seem that the only reason to switch to Equinox would be superficial. He always was rational, my Ed… well, except when he wasn’t.
I can’t believe it’s already December. Most of this year feels as though it just went by so quickly that when I look back on it, it’s one big blur. Maybe that’s a sign that I did too much this year, or maybe it’s just a sign that I am exhausted by the many events that happened, particularly the more painful ones.
Looking forward has been hard in a lot of ways because I think of what the future will be like without Ed. I’ve thought a lot about potential future events, such as moving to another city, getting another job, getting engaged, married, pregnant, and giving birth, and it feels empty whenever I think of him not being there. He’s been an integral part of my life forever, and now it’s like that “forever” has been taken away from me. The truth is that I know that no one else in this world will ever be happy or proud of me the way he was. But I hope he is still proud… somewhere up there.
After four and a half days in Germany, we are back home in New York, back to reality. Going back home after we’ve had so many new and interesting experiences is always sad because for the most part, that constant daily new discovery is somewhat gone, and instead, you are back in your semi routine doing similar things at similar times. Sometimes, routine is comforting, but other times, it tends to get bland.
Defining “home” has been weird for me in the last year. Earlier this year, I realized I actually felt comfortable saying I was from New York when traveling because… well, I do Iive here now and have been for over five years. Although San Francisco will always be my original home since that is where I was born and raised, it feels a little less like home every time I go back. And now that Ed isn’t there anymore, there’s an almost cold, sterile feeling I get every time I even think of going home. Home without my brother doesn’t feel right.
Last night, which was our first night in Berlin, I got so obsessive about taking photos of the Christmas market at Potsdamer Platz that I somehow dropped my glasses somewhere in the dark. We walked around the sidewalks and market walkways a few times to try finding them, but it was all in vain. I guess I will need to get new glasses now. At least they lasted me about five years… they were such nice frames. I’m the most annoyed by this because I’m generally very careful about my belongings, and I rarely lose anything.
Ed dropped his glasses, too, when he jumped that afternoon. My mom kept lamenting that the glasses she decided he would wear at the service would be an outdated pair, as the ones he wore fell into the water that awful day. I wonder where those glasses are now – if they floated up the top somewhere and have washed up to the shore, or if they have sunk to the bottom of the San Francisco Bay. At least in heaven, he doesn’t need to wear any glasses and will have 20/20 vision.
It’s been blistering cold since we arrived in Germany on Wednesday, and to make matters worse, the hours of actual daylight are so short while the nights are long. That makes it a bit more difficult for us when it comes to seeing everything we want to see with the limited light hours, and even harder to see the signs, which are obviously all in German. We were looking at the times for sunrise and sunset, and really, we only have the hours from 8am to about 4pm – that’s only eight hours of natural light! So much to see with so little light.
It reminded me of Ed and how he used to do karate in the Sunset district of San Francisco. Because my parents wouldn’t let him take the car unless he were going to work and back, he had to take the bus to karate every time he went. In the fall and winter, when Daylight Savings Time would end, sometimes, he’d actually stop going to karate altogether for the season because our mother would nag him so much about “going out in the dark.” It sounds absolutely stupid, especially considering that the Sunset was literally right across the park from our house, but I suppose it was one of the many absurdities that my house had to deal with.
At least Ed via Bart gets to enjoy Christmas markets here in Hamburg and Berlin amidst all the Christmas lights in the dark.
Today, we spent our first full day in Hamburg, which began at the Miniatur Wunderland, a museum that houses the largest model railroad exhibit in the world, with almost 7.5 miles of railroads, with very true-to-life representations of Hamburg, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, Switzerland, Austria, and Scandinavia, among others. The precision and detail that went into over six years of building this exhibit were very obvious, as even the tiny model people looked like they were interacting with each other, even in a large stadium that was represented. The changes from day to night and from spring, summer, winter, to autumn were stunningly well executed and made the exhibits even more fun to watch. It was even more amusing as we went about the rest of our day, and we started noticing all these things that the model railway system had on display for the Hamburg exhibit!
We brought little Bart around and pulled him out whenever we saw something that was particularly interesting, like the changes from day to night, or when we saw the model air planes taking off (into “real” clouds!). Ed would have really enjoyed this museum, and he usually never enjoyed museums. Like our dad and me, Ed loved miniature things, as he collected a number of miniature Japanese food, Disney, and Smurf figurines. If he were with us today, I know he would have been ecstatic… maybe not as ecstatic as the day he got to touch Shania Twain’s hand, but pretty darn close.
Happy Thankgiving, Ed. I miss you, especially when I am seeing things that I know you would have loved to see for yourself.