Buda and Pest

If I weren’t traveling to Budapest, I’d probably never have known that Budapest came about because of two cities, Buda and Pest, that united, separated by the Danube River. People still refer to the Buda side of Budapest and the Pest side of Budapest. It feels very quaint to hear of the city being spoken like this because it’s almost as though people are embracing its rich historical past while also enjoying it for what it is today.

It’s a stunning city to me mostly because of many of its old, still standing and otherwise restored architecture; the Danube River separating the two sides adds to its European charm. Many buildings have retained their original facades, such as the Four Seasons, the Gellert Spa, and even our hotel, the Nemzeti Budapest, but the interiors have been completely renovated and modernized. Both day and night, the city is beautiful, particularly from high viewing points such as from the Fisherman’s Bastion and the top of Gellert Hill. After we walked up to the peak of Gellert Hill to see the Liberty Statue, we also got to see and photograph Budapest from high above. I felt very thankful during those moments; today is Thanksgiving after all, and I know how lucky I am to have what I have today. These are the moments where I think, I can’t imagine for a second anyone coming here and not being impressed by this city and these views. If you can’t appreciate this, you probably can’t appreciate anything in life.

Takeout restaurants

After a grueling 24 hours of working, commuting to the airport in what looked to be early Thanksgiving traveling traffic, taking an overnight flight from New York to Helsinki, then a connecting flight from Helsinki to Budapest, and finally spending our Wednesday (six hours ahead of New York time) exploring mostly the Buda side of Budapest, we decided we wanted to have dinner at a restaurant close to our hotel. We walked in two different directions to try to find a place, and somehow, we failed. The only spots we seemed to find were cafes (with no real food), bars (with no real food), takeout spots, Burger King, and McDonald’s. We finally settled on a Turkish takeout spot. They were a typical takeout food place that had different dishes in big metal trays behind a glass wall. We chose a moussaka and Turkish fried rice, and brought it back to our hotel.

When we brought it back, we realized immediately that it was all cold. Those metal trays that are set up that we are used to knowing there are burners beneath — well, those clearly do not exist here. I brought the food back to the takeout spot and asked the guy to warm it for us. “You didn’t tell me to warm, so I didn’t warm!” he said, half apologetically, half defensively. He warmed each for about less than a minute and gave it back to me. It was still cold; I was annoyed but didn’t feel like asking him to warm it again. So I asked our hotel, which warmed our food adequately.

What I’ve learned during our short time here is that not only will takeout food spots not warm your food unless you either tell them you are eating it immediately or explicitly ask, but restaurants do not serve your food piping hot like I am used to back home or in other countries. When we have eaten out here, I’ve noticed that the food is a comfortable temperature for eating, but as I am eating, it’s getting colder far faster than anywhere else I’ve been to. It’s not the best situation, but I’m fine with it since we’re only here for 2.5 days.

Guilt trip

Tonight, Chris and I are leaving for our Thanksgiving trip to Budapest and Hungary. We booked this trip with miles way back in February and solidified our accommodations shortly after, so I think fate worked out when my dad’s surgery happened to be about two weeks ahead of this trip. It allowed me to come home, take care of my dad and be a comfort to my mom, and also still go on this trip. However, my mom wasn’t too thrilled when she found out we were taking a European vacation just three days after I left San Francisco to go back to New York. “I really don’t think you should be going so far away with your father like this. But you clearly have made up your mind and have made your decision, so I hope you have a good time and be safe.” That’s my mother’s very polite but jagged way of saying, you’re selfish for taking a trip to Europe while I have to “suffer” taking care of your father every day.

To be completely rational, my dad is progressing amazingly well and can do almost everything by himself now, with the exception of bathing or climbing hills or running marathons. He’s barred from driving for at least six to eight weeks. But other than that, he is doing well for his stage of recovery. Because of this, I don’t feel bad that I’m going on this trip, but my mom wants to perceive and treat him like an invalid who needs to have eyes on him 24/7. In addition, I’m still going to call home from Austria and Hungary, so it’s not like we won’t be connected. I felt guilty for about a second, and then I realized it’s just her way of manipulating me to say all these things. Then, I downed two drinks at the lounge and boarded our flight.

Misfit

I came back to the office after a week and a half of being in San Francisco. Some people were really happy to see me, some didn’t even realize I was away, and others knew why I was away but didn’t bother to ask me how my dad was doing.

I try to be optimistic about the world and about life, but sometimes, when people don’t even attempt to even be fake at wanting to know how you are doing outside of work, it makes me think that the world isn’t really getting any better. All we are – we’re just worker bees. We come in, do our job, and then we have to leave. What we do outside of that, it’s like some people really don’t care at all.

Love

I woke up at 3:15am this morning to make my dad breakfast since I had to leave at 4 to catch my flight back to New York. I prepared oatmeal for him — three parts water to one part soy milk, mixed in ground flax seed, oat bran, and chia seeds, and grated apples to get some fruit and sweetness in. I mixed it up in a pot and left it on the stove. I fed his fish their separate types of food in their two tanks and cleaned up the kitchen before my mom had a chance to get up to see me off. Before I left, I went into his bedroom to say goodbye. He hadn’t slept very well last night because of one of the eleven medications he’s on as a result of the surgery, and he had to wake up to pee almost every hour, so I knew he’d be awake. I told him to take care, remember to do his breathing exercises, not to cross his legs where his graft wounds were healing, and that I’d call him when I got back to New York. I kissed his forehead and said, “I love you, Daddy.” He waited a moment and responded, “I love you.” And I left.

It’s only the third time I’ve told my dad verbally “I love you.” He wasn’t raised in a family where words like that were spoken. The first time I said it was just last year when I got home after Ed passed away. I told him that then, and for the first time, he said it back. The second time, I said it in the pre-operation room last week before the doctors gave him his anesthesia for the surgery.

My feelings around my family are complicated… because while I enjoy spending time with them, I reach my limits very quickly and realize how much they can exacerbate me with their set ways and their narrow views of the world. But I love my dad. It terrified me to think that I could have lost him to a heart attack; I’m still shaken by the idea because it’s always been a lingering fear in the back of my mind given our family history and his age. But this surgery is one step in the right direction — to repair his heart physically, but also hopefully, emotionally, as well.

Finally home

It’s been exactly one year and four months since Ed passed away. I never would have thought that at exactly this moment in time, my dad would have had double bypass surgery, finally gotten discharged from the hospital after nine nights, and be back home recovering in his own home with my mom and me. I also never would have thought that he’d finally acknowledge after all these years exactly how freezing this house is, and that the heat actually does need to be turned on. He was coughing uncontrollably when we got home and we finally realized he was coughing so much because of all the cold air circulating throughout the house. Once the heat was turned on to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, his coughing calmed down and he was able to breathe comfortably.

Ed would have been happy to know that our father was recovering quickly from his heart surgery. I think he may have even secretly been more excited that my dad finally acknowledged he was wrong about the temperature of the house and finally decided to voluntarily turn on the heat. He’d probably even be in disbelief right now if he were here to see and experience this himself.

Our dad is finally home, though. He’s survived the scary surgery with flying colors, and he won’t be joining Ed anytime soon. That’s right. My dad is getting closer to his 150th birthday like I said he would. It’s a good moment today.

Complexities

The older I get, the more and more I realize how complex feelings can be. When we are children, everything seems so simple. We are happy or sad or angry. We feel confused or determined or apathetic. As we get older, all of these feelings seem to interweave amongst themselves, and it becomes more difficult to just say we feel one emotion or another.

Maybe I’m not meeting or spending time with the right people, or maybe it’s because people want to simplify things in an attempt to avoid a genuine understanding, but I’m having that feeling again that no one understands what I am trying to say.

I had a friend over for dinner tonight who I just became reacquainted with over the last few months. My mom was spending the night at the hospital with my dad, for what will be his ninth and hopefully last night there before getting discharged, so I had the house to myself for once. I was expressing to him what an arduous endeavor it’s been being back and my constant feeling of emotional and physical exhaustion, and I said that it’s even harder without my brother around. He asked where he was.

That’s when it hit me that I never told him about what happened to Ed.

I told him the condensed version, and of course, he was shocked and had a pained look on his face as I described the situation. I expressed anger and frustration with my family, and he expressed empathy towards them and their lack of understanding of mental illness.

I don’t know why, but while empathy is always something I value greatly, an empathy towards this always seems to infuriate me.

It’s not as simple as a blame game, or feeling like if they understood or tried harder to understand that maybe Ed would be here today. It’s also about taking responsibility and realizing that someone needs help, and we need to give it. It’s about understanding the vulnerability of a human being to criticism and pain. It’s about realizing it’s not always about ourselves and how an action or state of being will reflect on us and acknowledging it’s about the person next to you.

Every time I tell the short or long version of “where is Ed now,” I feel pain all over my body. I don’t like talking about it, but I want to be open about it to increase awareness of the types of pain and suffering that human beings go through and that these are not isolated experiences. I want to make sure Ed is not forgotten and that he is constantly acknowledged and part of my life. I get irritated when people say, “You don’t have to tell me what happened – it’s okay,” even though they are saying it partly half because they don’t want to cause me more pain, and of course, half because they may not want to really know. I hate being afraid of the truth, so I want others to know the truth.

And so it begins… again

I’m spending another night at the hospital. My dad is feeling fine — his chest incision and areas of his legs where the surgeons took the grafts are healing normally, but now, he has an infection on his arm from the IV because it seems that his skin was so thick that the nurses had problems placing the IV into his vein. His arm swelled up to about one and a half times its normal size, and it got to a point where when the nurse took his blood pressure, the blood pressure machine cuff got so tight on his arm that my dad said he felt like his whole arm was going to explode — the woes of having a dad with literally thick skin.

This will be his eighth night in the hospital. We were originally hoping he’d only have to stay here for six nights, but it seems it’s going on for eight or nine now. Part of me is a bit relieved that he will be staying because it means less care taking on my mom’s part and more for the staff here to do, but the other part of me just wants him settled back at home to be comfortable and in his own space. Because my time here is coming to an end, my mom is gradually hinting that I should extend my stay since she says “I can’t handle all this by myself. There is so much to do. How am I supposed to do all this myself?” The guilt tripping had to start at some point, so I guess that some point is now. In the beginning, I heard a lot of “thank you for supporting Daddy and me.” Somewhere along the way, it became, “I’m not going to be angry with you if you decide not to, but you really should stay here longer.” Thanks, Mom.

 

DMV Woes

California DMV is a complete disaster zone. Why would someone who walks in somehow manage to wait for less time than someone with an appointment? I guess I shouldn’t complain because I ended up benefiting from this today to renew my driver’s license. I was in and out within an hour this morning.

It’s a pretty depressing place, though. Everyone is in a bad mood because they all know that they have to wait — first, just to get into the building (it was raining today, so that made this part even more fun than usual), and the second time, to actually get the real work done, whether that’s a written test, fingerprinting, an eye exam, and/or get your photo taken. I had to fill out a form, have my eyes checked, get fingerprinted, and take my picture. It’s been 13 years since I’ve had my photo taken for my driver’s license. I am smiling in the last photo when I was just 15, but in this photo, I am half smiling. I couldn’t bring myself to fully smile because I remembered the last time I really looked at anyone’s California driver’s license, it was my brother’s — the license he never got to use because he died before he had the chance.

It was sitting in his desk when I came home on July 24th last year. Ed had very recently sat in person at the DMV, waiting to renew like everyone else, because as per California’s stupid, inefficient law, you can only renew via internet or mail two times in a row; the next time, you have to go in person to renew. He had his number called just the way I did, and then had his photo taken. His photo was absolutely miserable. He looked depressed, with eyes as though they’d given up on the world because the world had given up on him. His lips were straight, almost frowning without even really trying. My eyes watered when I saw it.

His old license was in his wallet when our parents picked it up from the Marin County Coroner’s Office. That’s why the new one wasn’t in his wallet. And I had panicked on July 22 when my mom informed me that he was missing and said his driver’s license was in his desk, because I thought… oh my god, he doesn’t want to be found. That’s why he left his wallet behind.

Life really sucks when even a visit to the DMV reminds you of your brother who committed suicide.

Reconciliation

My younger uncle and my dad have never really gotten along. It stems from seemingly ridiculous childhood problems and their respective high levels of stubbornness. In my family, everyone loves to blame each other, and no one ever wants to admit fault — at least, out loud to others.

I guess it had to take a family history of heart disease to get these two to start reaching out to one another. They both saw their older brother pass away from a heart attack 14 years ago at just 65 years of age, and then my uncle had his angiogram two months ago that revealed his blocked artery, which prompted my dad to call him. And ultimately, it was my uncle who suggested to my dad that he get the stress test and angiogram done, which led to my dad’s bypass surgery this past week.

My uncle visited for the second time tonight, and he spent two hours in my dad’s room with us and my aunt, talking about childhood memories, recent events, and my grandpa’s position in the U.S. Navy during World War II. For the first time, I found out that my grandpa went to Okinawa to fight during the war, and he got within 10 inches of some sharp object that almost killed him. He apparently kept it and brought it back to the U.S. with him after the war — as a reminder of how close he came to death and how precious life is.

My dad and uncle were laughing so hard at a few points that my dad had to ask everyone to calm down because he was afraid his laughter would open up his chest incision. It was amazing to see them both laughing so freely together. It looked and felt natural — I couldn’t believe it.

Is this what it takes for two hostile brothers to reconcile? It’s never too late. This surgery will save my dad’s life — and perhaps even my dad’s relationship with his younger brother. Here’s to hoping we’re all moving in a positive direction for both.