Health and life

It’s been about two months since I’ve gone to the gym. It’s kind of a weird feeling to not be working out for so long. In December, it made sense since we were away in Australia and then in Hong Kong, but ever since then, I’ve been slowly but surely recovering from whooping cough. It’s not good to be doing breathing exercises and getting over bruised ribs when trying to go to the gym. So Chris banned me from going until my ribs fully healed. And this morning, I woke up for the first time in nearly two months and didn’t feel any pain in my ribs after inhaling deeply. It’s like a revival (and this means I’m going back to the gym!).

The last week or so when I have been able to speak properly has made me so happy. I can speak loudly and clearly without my voice breaking up or sounding like I am choking up, and I don’t sound like a sick person. My voice actually sounds like my voice now. And I have moments through the day when I am speaking to people, and I just start smiling a lot, thinking, “I’m so grateful to be healthy and able to speak and breathe normally again.” Health is the most important thing in the world. Healthy people rarely think about it because they just have it, so they don’t need to. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve woken up in the morning, and as soon as I start speaking to Chris or whoever it is that I first see in the morning, I’ve been really thankful for my health and my life.

Dress maker visit

I went to see my dress maker yesterday afternoon to discuss what the skirt of my dress is going to look like. As we were discussing the material and the stretchiness, she asked me how the planning was going in terms of managing my family. I was vaguely aware that her family had a lot of dysfunction, but for the most part up until yesterday, I never really told her about my family at all. I told her there was more drama than was really necessary and let her know about my aunt, her estranged son, my selfish cousins in Brooklyn… oh, and the fact that we have two of my mom’s long-time good friends coming to this wedding from Hawaii who don’t realize that Ed is not here anymore.

My dress maker has become like my pseudo therapist. She talked me through these situations and suggested I email these family friends and briefly let them know about Ed. “This little gesture will solve a lot of problems later,” she advised. “Trust me. Don’t let this potentially ruin your wedding day.” She even offered to write the email for me.

If only more people could be this helpful.

Dessert selection

Last night, I was going over dessert selections for our wedding and deciding what sweets we wanted to offer. We tasted a number of options that we liked during our visit to Southern California last month, and it will definitely be a tough decision to finalize which ones we want to move forward with. As I was going over the selection and the costs, I found myself thinking about Ed and which ones he would want the most. He always like fruit filled desserts as well as chocolate anything, so as long as that was on the table, he’d be happy and satisfied. I thought about the chocolate mousse with raspberries we tasted and how much he would have loved that, and the oreo and s’more items we tried. The list is endless of the things he would have enjoyed and have been excited about if he were here.

It makes me sad to plan this and know that as each day goes by, we get closer to the big day when he will not be there to enjoy and celebrate with us. I thought about when I have thought about him during this process, and it tends always to be at moments when I am happy or excited about something. I rarely think about him when drama arises with my aunt or my cousins, or when friends or family have made up bullshit reasons for not coming. My brother would have been there no matter what; that’s what siblings do for you. They’re not like your flaky friends from high school or your cousins who say they look at you like you’re siblings, but in practice do not at all, only when it’s convenient for them. Siblings make each other their priority in life; they are extensions of yourselves. if you fail your sibling, you are failing yourself. The sad thing is, this doesn’t apply to my dad or his siblings, but with Ed and me, this was very true. And that makes me even sadder to know he won’t be there for this day.

Rain, rain

It is unusually warm for February in New York. It’s in the 50s, and today it rained steadily all day long. I went from meeting to meeting, call to call, and ended the day at around 6pm feeling the most exhausted since I was at the peak of my whooping cough. I could barely keep my eyes open by the time I left the office. And I knew I had plenty of wedding planning items waiting for me when I would get home. The “work day” wasn’t quite over yet.

Weather has great effects on a person’s mood and energy levels, but what is arguable is, is a person stronger or more resilient the less she is affected by external factors like weather, temperature, etc.? Some days, it doesn’t bother me at all and I keep trekking along. Today, it seems to be up in my face, wearing me down and making me want to go to bed ASAP.

Dumb guests

If I really had it my way, there would be some relatives that I would not invite to my wedding. One of them would be my selfish, negative cousin in Brooklyn, his wife, and son. Their marriage is a complete facade; they got married because they were both getting old, and his wife really wanted to have a baby for all the wrong reasons (to fulfill parental/societal pressure, ticking body clock, etc.). Now, they are married, have a child, and are completely miserable together. They were miserable before, but now they are just miserable married. What a happy ending.

They had been putting off RSVPing for our wedding for a long time, partly because I’m sure they didn’t want to come (San Clemente is too far away from Brooklyn, apparently; they even told my aunt that it was too expensive to go, even though they both earn a very comfortable living and are probably in the top 1 percent of earners in this country), and if they chose not to, I probably would have been happier. But in the end, I’m sure his mother guilt tripped him, and he decided to come. And he had to make sure to be difficult about it. Today, he texted me and asked if he could invite his good friend from high school to my wedding.

What kind of grown 42-year-old man who has a wife and toddler asks his younger cousin if he can invite his grown man friend to her wedding?

Circle of life

Yesterday was the last day of my California trip for the month, and in the evening, I boarded a red-eye flight to come back to New York in time for the Monday work day. It was probably the most peculiar last day in San Francisco I’ve ever had: it started with a funeral, and it ended with a child’s birthday party. I guess you could call it a day that truly represents the circle of life.

This morning, I walked into the funeral home by myself to the loud sound of Chinese chanting accompanied by instruments playing. It was an extremely traditional Buddhist funeral to say the least, complete with professional singing, chanting, and instrument playing, all with very elaborate costuming and the family remaining fully active the entire time – standing, bowing, kow-towing, kneeling, getting up, and doing that all over again probably over a dozen times.

 

Before our mutual friend arrived, I sat by myself for a long time in the back of the chapel, observing the service and remembering the last time I saw this friend’s friend. It made me tear up just to think about it; the last time I saw her was the day of my brother’s funeral service and dinner. She had come despite never having met my brother just to pay respects, gave my family and me a very heartfelt sympathy card along with a generous amount of money, and had comforted me through that period. How strange is it that over two and a half years have passed since my brother’s passing, and I haven’t seen her up until now. Of course, I had been in San Francisco many times since then, but our schedules never really matched up. When is it that the last two times you see anyone is at a funeral of respective immediate family?

Now, we’re bonded by despondency. When I saw her, I gave her a long, strong hug, kissed her, and expressed my sadness, and she cried even harder than she already was, which made me tear up to hear her so sad. I have heard second hand how hard it’s been given that both of her parents have been struggling with health issues for so long, and her mother was so sick that she couldn’t even attend the funeral.

Losing Ed was the single most devastating thing that has ever happened in my life; it goes without saying. It was even harder because it was always my single worst fear, that one day I’d lose my brother to suicide. But as sad as that is, I am also terrified of the feeling of losing my own parents and what level of despair that may bring. And that also made it hard for me to see my friend’s friend in her current state yesterday morning.

 

Sweater dress

This morning , I watched my mom get ready for her Sunday morning JW church service, and I noticed this very attractive beige-grey sweater dress she was wearing. It was very stylish and figure flattering, and frankly, very unlike anything else she owns. Fashion and wearing matching clothes are not my mother’s strengths. She insists fashion doesn’t matter and that she’s old so it’s not important to look good, which I am always debating with her about. I always encourage her; she refuses to listen.

“That’s a really nice dress,” I said to her as she put on her earrings. “When did you get it? It looks good on you.”

She half smiles and looks hesitant. “Ed got it for me… just a few months before he died,” my mom said to me. Her eyes looked down. “He bought this for me and these special shoes for my wide feet just before he died.”

It didn’t help that death was on my mind this morning because I was getting ready to leave for a friend’s friend’s dad’s funeral, but I immediately felt choked up. The first nice thing I see my mother wearing in a long time, and lo and behold, it’s from my brother. Ed always did have good taste in clothes. There were even times in the past when he told me that I didn’t dress well enough and I needed to step it up.

“Don’t say anything else about this dress or anything to me,” my mom says while turning away. “If I say anymore, I’m going to start crying.”

That’s what we do. We just repress our feelings. It hurts too much to have feelings and show them sometimes.

Brothers who aren’t really brothers

We had a family dinner tonight with my parents, aunt, uncle, cousin, cousin’s wife, and a random JW friend of my mother’s. It was filled with as many uncomfortable moments and silences as I originally imagined, along with some tense exchanges of looks. My dad, who never sees his brother unless I am home (my uncle likes to see me, just not his brother or his wife), barely made eye contact when he said hi to my uncle, and my uncle gave him an awkward pat on the back to greet him. They proceeded to barely speak to each other throughout the meal until health-related topics came up, like who has what level of HDL vs LDL, what so and so’s blood glucose level was, and how someone else is cutting back on their meat intake. There were times when my uncle would say something, then my dad would loudly announce to my mother sitting next to him what my uncle just said as though she weren’t at the table with the rest of us. Uncomfortable and annoying. Then there were so many moments that I can’t even count where my dad would make know-it-all remarks back to my cousin or my uncle where the conversations would just end because no one ever wants to respond to someone who thinks he is a know-it-all, especially when everyone at the table knows he isn’t.

Every time we have one of these family meals, I always kind of sit back and just observe the awkwardness. I notice when my dad decides to tune in and tune out. I can see when my mom is trying to suck up or seem impressive to my aunt, or when she is babying my father by dumping food on his plate because he cannot seem to serve himself. I also notice when she decides she doesn’t want to listen to what anyone is saying and just start her own random, boring topics, or when she forces everyone to get up and leave when everyone is not quite ready.

But what really annoys me at these meals is the interaction between my dad and my uncle. They are two adult brothers who can’t seem to act like adults with each other; in fact, maybe neither of them has really become a true adult in the most genuine sense of that word (that begs the question, which of us is really an adult and why? But that is another tangent). They’ve held grudges against each other since their teen years, which is so embarrassing now considering they are in their mid to late 60s. They don’t even have a relationship with each other period, and are only forced to see each other to have some superficial guise of normalcy because of my existence. They have shared their intense criticisms about each other with me, and yes, much truth lies in both sides. It is just so sad to me because they are missing out on sibling love. They are so blinded by their grudges and hate and anger and hostility that they can’t see what they are lacking and giving up. That is just so pathetic.

So many dishes

I woke up early this morning to the sound of my mother doing chores in the kitchen. The faint sound of her step is unmistakable, as is the clashing sound of dishes hitting each other in this house for me. I walked into the kitchen, and multiple piles of dirty dishes had somehow already accumulated and lined the entire counter top. Only two people live in this house… two people, so how the heck are so many dishes possibly generated before 7am?! This isn’t even due to making complex, multi-step dishes… this is simply from making a bowl of oatmeal and reheating leftover food. Something is seriously wrong here.

When Chris and I are at home, we never have that many dishes just from reheating food. There’s no logic to this mess. When I told my mom that I didn’t understand why there were so many dishes, she shakes her head and simply says, “You just don’t know.” Thanks.

I watched her move around the kitchen, doing lots of busy work that was really repetitive and unnecessary. She bangs things about when she wants attention and to seem as though she is working hard to prepare my dad or me food. It was clear that she was just making up more work for herself to do when there was nothing left to do; she just wants to keep herself seeming like she is busy. She dirtied dishes just by dropping a dirty spoon into a clean pot, and there you go! Another pot needs to be washed now!

We ate breakfast together, and I didn’t pour myself a cup of milk and just sat and ate because I was in a rush to get back to my computer. She noticed I had no milk on the table as we ate, and she said to me in a cold tone, “You know, you can’t expect me to get you your milk when you work from home. It’s all there for you to take care of yourself. You have to stand up and do things on your own and not rely on me.”

(??????).

 

Over it all

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend who unfortunately will not be able to make it to our wedding. He was planning to come, but then he got scheduled for a work project in Ghana and Kenya for over a month around the time of our wedding, so he let me know that he wouldn’t be able to make it in the end. It’s understandable, I said to him then and now.

“I’m really, really sorry I won’t be there for your wedding,” he said to me. He seemed so sad that he wouldn’t be able to make it, and expressed gratitude for the invitation at all.

After so many people, especially on Chris’s side, have declined, and after a very intense planning weekend this past week in Orange County, I realize more and more that I can’t stress or get sad or mad that anyone is not coming anymore. I’m kind of resigned to just not have any feelings anymore about attendance or lack thereof and have really not felt that disappointed about anyone not coming since probably the first week of January. I’m over it.

And as my friend said… though I’m not sure I’m fully in agreement.. if they don’t come to my wedding, I guess that means I don’t have to make the effort to go to theirs if they choose to get married?