Sweet lunch

Today, I met a friend for lunch at Sweet Green. She’s here on a short trip from Seattle, where she and her boyfriend are currently living. Since she left New York in 2012, I see her only about once a year when she is back in the city to visit family and friends, and her schedule is always so tight. I rarely have more than an hour or so with her because there are too many people to see in too short of a time.

It made me think about how as we get older, it’s almost like we feel we have less and less time. Some things are more real, like a woman’s actual internal clock for having a baby, but other things are more around social things, like how much time do we have to spend with friends and family, especially those who don’t live near us when we are all together? We always think about maximizing time with people we love because without love and friendship and relationships in general, we have nothing. But it gets harder and harder when there are people you have to split time up for, and what if you say you will meet ‘next time,’ but next time never comes?

It’s like that time in September 2013 when I came home shortly after Ed passed away, and I was insistent that my parents and I eat dinner with my dad’s good friend Bob. They were arguing over who was going to pay the bill — in other words, over stupid, petty things, and I said to both sides, what if we never have the chance to do this ever again? My parents didn’t care. Typical them. They said, forget it. Bob caved in and said, okay, I thought about what you said. I’ll come and your parents can pay. Well, we never had the opportunity to have a meal together again after that one meal in September because that following November, Bob died suddenly. It was all over. And now, we have that last meal as our last memory all together.

Butter chicken

I spent the later afternoon and early evening making butter chicken, or murgh makhani, from scratch. It involved trimming excess fat and skin off the bone-in chicken thighs, marinating the meat in a yogurt-lemon juice-spice mixture, chopping up tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger, and assembling even more spices for the actual cooking. Even though the marinating time was not as long as I wanted it, the chicken curry came out really well.

I get antsy when I don’t cook for a while. I certainly can’t complain about not cooking because it’s not like I’ve been leading on a miserable life the last several weeks. We’ve been traveling through Japan, socializing with friends, and last Sunday, went to a free U2 concert. That’s when you know that you really love cooking — when even when you are enjoying great things and activities and moments in your life, in the back of your head, you still want to be cooking, even if just for a few hours. And even when those few hours are in the tiniest Manhattan kitchen, it still makes you really happy.

Choices we make

I spent this afternoon catching up for over five hours with a good friend of mine, who is facing one of those adult dilemmas that really make you realize that you are an adult. Her boyfriend, who she has lived with for over three years, has now pretty much become incapacitated because of shoulder injuries he’s sustained to both shoulders, and they are waiting for his surgery, which because he has VA insurance, has a wait of at least six weeks. After that, his recovery period is estimated to be about six to nine months until he is 100 percent. So because of this, she’s been doing everything for him – his cooking, his cleaning, all his errands. He can’t really work, so they’re not sure what they will do money-wise because even if he gets any type of disability, it’s not going to be like his regular income.

It made me sad to see how stressed out and overworked she is feeling. But then part of me thought, well, maybe if he hadn’t been as careless while bike-riding through a city like New York, perhaps he wouldn’t have such ridiculous injuries now. Maybe if he chose not to make such risky moves on his bike as he did repeatedly, he would be fine now. Maybe, if he got his old shoulder injuries addressed when they happened in the past at each point, there would not be such a necessity to have this major surgery done now and have it affect my friend. It’s sad how the choices we make yesterday can have such a negative impact on our lives today. But again, I suppose that’s just part of being an adult and living with the consequences of our actions.

 

Matcha

In New York, there are constantly restaurants and bars opening and closing every single day, and that’s not an exaggeration at all. There are restaurants claiming to be authentic Cantonese or Korean fusion or Japanese-Mexican fusion with a twist. You can find all kinds of things here if you look and are willing to explore enough different neighborhoods.

Tonight, we went to a Korean fusion “gastropub” and had dinner, and then moved downstairs to their hidden jazz bar, where we had drinks and a fusion carrot cake served with a matcha green tea ice cream. The ice cream was notably sweeter than the matcha green tea ice cream we had a few times in Japan, and oddly, the texture ended with a powdery finish. I wasn’t certain if I was a fan of this until the last bite, when I decided I didn’t really want it anymore.

And so the withdrawal continues as the search for green tea matcha flavored things continue, even though we still have bags and boxes of green tea flavored things in our own apartment.

No visit

He didn’t come for a visit last night.

That is just so typical of siblings. They never readily do what you ask them to do.

I did sleep quite soundly last night, though. I guess sometimes, when you are lamenting the past and cursing those who have wronged you, it exhausts you to a point where you just fall asleep right away.

Sometimes when I am walking, especially when I am by myself, I look up at the sky and the shining light, and I wonder if he’s actually watching me. He could be hanging out with God or some other higher power, chilling in the clouds, looking down on me and my self-pity for having lost him, and wondering when that part of my mind will move on.

“I’m not sure if losing a parent to death is the same as the lost that you have experienced with your brother. It’s hard to say, isn’t it?” A friend said to me last year around the anniversary of Ed’s passing. All loss to death is painful, whether it’s to old age, cancer, murder, or suicide. But there are some pains that leave more loose ends, and those loose ends can have different damaging effects on people. With old age, I think eventually it’s healthy to accept the cycle of life, that when you are old, you must die, and then be replaced by babies who will eventually become adults, grow old, and die, as well. You never lose the sentiments, but it’s more an acceptance that life must go on, and in order for it to truly go on, the elderly must die.

Murders and suicides are hard, though. They are untimely deaths, deaths caused by events and feelings that are out of our control. In my head, I group them together because I think that these are things that legitimately, people can never fully move on from. The pain just stings too hard because there’s a lack of understanding of why or how and why these particular individuals? What drives someone to kill someone else? What drives a person to want to end his own life? However, it is sad to me that while the rate of homicide has significantly decreased over the last 50 years in the U.S., the rate of suicide has remained the same, and little is being done about it.

I’m so saddened thinking about it. I have nothing left to say.

Two years.

Dear Ed,

$%&#. It’s been two freaking years. It’s so trite, but I can’t believe it. I really cannot. Somehow, I managed to get by the last two years knowing that you were not breathing in the same world as me. I spent the last few days reading different parts of the Bible. I also spent some time reading articles on grieving, or what they call the “grieving process.” One quote I read summed it up pretty well: Step 1: Grieve. Step 2: Remake yourself. What that quote does not reveal is how much energy and effort it took to get from Step 1 to Step 2. It really should look like this:

Step 1: Grieve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: Remake yourself.

I wouldn’t say I’ve completely done a 180 and “remade” myself, per se, but I do think that I’ve made some hard choices about people, life, and my perspective that now, life feels much different, and not just because of your absence.

I get self-conscious about it, though, and I think that maybe in some way, because of how much I’ve pushed myself in terms of accomplishment and thought process, that along the way it’s almost made me even more judgmental than I was before. It’s like that quote that Steve Jobs loved: “If you aren’t busy being reborn, you are busy dying.” It really stayed with me since I read his book in 2012. If I am not accomplishing anything now and trying to achieve something, then what the hell am I even doing here? What is my purpose? I’m still searching, but maybe I am a little optimistic when I say now that I feel better about life now than I did this time last year.

I guess that’s something you struggled with: purpose. For a good 12 years, you were a devout Christian. You felt your purpose was to serve God, study the Bible, do good work, volunteer to help those less fortunate than you. Then in the 13th year of the 2000s, you broke. You were already breaking in late 2011, but you hid it from me that Christmas. You didn’t tell me you were hallucinating. You hid it so well that I had no idea until you told me in March 2012 when you quit your Macy’s job that anything was really wrong. And even then, you described everything so vividly that I believed what you told me. How could I not believe you? I believed what you said was real and really was happening to you. It took me a full year to realize it was all hallucination. And at that point, it was too late. Your purpose was lost, and your will to live was gone. And then you left us. It escalated way too fast for me to digest it and figure out how to help. But I was too slow and too late. This is what happens when you have a little sister who is slow to process things.

You did a lot of good things with your final years, Ed. I’m sure not many people have said that to you, but I thought you tried really hard, even when I was pushing you to try harder. I only said it because I loved you. I wanted to help you, to make you realize that you were capable of doing more. I hated everyone who tried to make you think otherwise, whether it was explicitly said to you (and we both know it was) or implied. Some of that hate is still in me and will continue to live on in me as long as I breathe.

It’s hard to have faith in life sometimes, though, when I know you are gone, and when insane acts of violence and racism happen like in Charleston and Ferguson and now Hempstead, Texas. I can’t wrap my head around it sometimes, and all the violence and racism and apathy and laziness of the world starts getting to me, and I feel flushed and angry that I am just this one, single, powerless person who can do absolutely nothing to help. I couldn’t even help you. Our mom reminds me indirectly that no one has reached out to ask me how I am doing today in light of your two-year-passing mark. It’s another reminder that I try not to take too personally — that no one really cares — or cares enough. But it’s comforting and brings tears to my eyes to know that Chris’s parents and brother reach out to me to say something. No one else does. But they do. They do because they are my family now. They’re your family, even if you’re not here anymore, and even they think of you. See? There is some hope in the world. I have to take what I can get. I guess having low expectations isn’t so bad after all, is it? Our own blood family — our cousins, our aunts, our uncle — they don’t even reach out to say or ask anything to me. I can’t stand our family. But you already know that, and you gave up on them a long time ago and realized how screwed up they all are.

I really wanted you to come by and surprise me today, in some way. It’s what I anticipate this time of the year, that you will pop out and say hello. I’d throw my arms around you the way I do in pretty much all the dreams I have when you appear, and I’d squeeze you until you get mad at me for cutting off your circulation. Today, as last year, my senses are heightened because I know you suffered immensely and ended your life so tragically two years ago. I felt my whole body go numb this morning thinking about it. But I forced myself to wake up in time for gym class so that I’d have no choice but to push myself in group fitness or look like a complete idiot. And you know how competitive I can get in these classes. I have to have better stamina than all those others in the class. This is how I deal with losing you — I guess I just push myself even harder. At least my muscles are benefiting from it.

I miss you a lot, Ed. I don’t know if you realize how much. Before you died, I worried about you and thought about you every single day. I even watched as you slept when I was in San Francisco sometimes, especially that last time I saw you for two weeks in March 2013. What am I going to do, Ed? I wondered. What are we going to do to get you better? I failed. I don’t think I will ever get over this failure. I literally lost a life — your life. It makes me feel sick literally to the bone. I can seriously feel it right this second.

I’ll be selfish when I say this. I don’t care if no one else thinks about you, if no one else misses you, if no one else ever visits your niche at the Columbarium. All I want to say is that all that matters is that I care and love you, and I’m never going to forget you or the importance you still have in my life. Everyone else can burn in hell. You’ll always have me even if you left me. I can’t wait to see you again — in my dreams hopefully very soon (tonight maybe? Please?), and when I’m ready to join you wherever you are. You’ll be waiting, right? Right at the door for me?

I love you. Don’t forget to stop by in my dreams. It’s the only place I’ll ever fully be at peace with you. Since you left this world, I’ve never looked forward to sleep more because it means I have a chance at seeing you again. So, consider coming tonight?

Love,

Yvonne

 

Bible scripture

Every year as we approach the anniversary of my brother’s passing, I find myself reading Bible scripture. I told myself when he died that one day in the near future, I would have myself sit down and read the Bible as a piece of literature, cover to cover, Old Testament and New Testament. I would do this for him. He always wanted me to convert ever since he converted to Christianity in 2000. We pretty much grew up with a lot of Christian values and read a lot of Bible stories as kids, but we never really went to church growing up. After he passed and I was settling his estate with his State Farm agent, who was also a friend of his through his church, she told me he had communicated many times with her that one of his greatest wishes was for me to convert and devote my life to Jesus. I never fully agreed, but I did acknowledge that of the religions I had studied, Christianity in its most modern form made the most sense to me.

I have two copies of the Bible. One is the copy my brother bought for me and sent me off to college with in August 2004. He instructed me to open it from time to time and read it when I was troubled or wanted to think. The second copy is one of his. After he died, I found that he had two copies of the NIV Bible. I put one copy in his niche at the Columbarium and took the other back with me to New York.

There are many comforting words in the Bible, and many words that can be interpreted in many ways to mean many things. But I do agree and believe in what the Bible says about love. Love never fails. Without love, we are and have nothing. I hope when Ed died, he knew that he had my love even when I was far away. Now, we are physically even farther from each other, but oddly, sometimes, I feel even closer to him now.

New York friends

I love New York a lot, and after living here for over seven years, I wonder how much I will miss it one day when I leave. But then, I remember the things about it that I’m not very fond of, especially regarding how commitment phobic people tend to be here, and I realize that’s the biggest aspect I will not miss.

Planning things in advance is not something that people generally like to do here. I’ve always loved to plan things in advance, so I will usually ask friends at least a week in advance if they are free for whatever dinner or event I’d like to attend with them. In an age of texting and when e-mails get ignored and never responded to (and people think this is acceptable behavior), texts oftentimes don’t get responded to within a day, or two… or even four, despite the fact that these messages are “instant,” and most of us have our phone settings so that text messages pop up on our lock screen when we click to view the time on our phone.

In passing, we always say to people, let’s do this! Let’s have lunch at this place! Let’s get drinks at that place! Everyone is so excited and happy about it in the moment. Then, when it comes time to actually locking down a time and date, people freeze and don’t respond right away, if at all. It’s as though you are literally locking that person in a room for the hours that you will be with her, and she just can’t handle it. So she doesn’t. And it never happens.

It’s okay. I didn’t expect it to happen.

There are few things worse to me than saying that you will do something and not following through. And it’s the worst of the worst when it affects someone else’s life that cares about you. I experienced it from a very young age and then pretty much expected the world to be full of shit. I generally don’t believe anything anyone tells me about what they will do until I see it happen. But now, I’m a bit relieved to say I don’t take it as personally anymore and just sum it up by saying that the number of people who care about me — really, genuinely care — as in, will cry for days if I died and then be haunted by my (hopefully happy) ghost for decades after — in life is really, really small. And everyone will disappoint me. But what’s most important is how I choose to deal with that disappointment.

Evening with U2

Because Salesforce is a sponsor of U2’s latest concert tour, a large number of Salesforce employees all over the country were given tickets to their sold-out shows. Chris was one of these employees, and I’m pleased to say that I was his very lucky companion tonight.

I’m not a crazy U2 fan, but I am familiar with a lot of their songs. Their favorite song of mine, as is with a lot of people, especially us saps, is “With or Without You.” It doesn’t seem to matter when or where it’s played, but every time I hear it, I stop for a moment and just listen. It’s simple, powerful, and so emotional the way it’s delivered.

Tonight, when they were singing it, I was reminded of Ed. The very first concert I attended was because of my brother. He took me to Seattle where we saw Shania Twain live in concert. I thought about that time during the rest of the U2 concert and became pensive, wondering what he would think if we told him we got to see U2 live in concert for free, singing this song, which I’m sure he enjoyed because it’s one of those “very Ed” type songs.

It’s hard to think about my brother without getting a little sad or emotional. People always say that you should celebrate one’s life after one has passed and remember the happiness you once shared with the deceased, but it’s hard to remember that without thinking about that person’s absence in this world, in your life, today, particularly given the way he exited this world. When he was here on this earth, I thought about him and worried about him often. I loved him every day and only wished that he’d get better and somehow find his way. Every day, I loved him. And now that he’s gone, every day, I miss him. I still love him, but my missing him some days seems to overtake my love for him. That seems selfish to see it that way, but we can’t help what we feel. We just feel what we feel.

Even after nearly two years, I still feel like I’m going to see him again on this earth. It’s just a feeling. Like when we approach the anniversary of his death, I think that I’m going to see him that day. I felt this last year, too. I’m not even sure why, but it’s just a feeling, like he’s lurking in the corner of my bathroom (as tiny as it is, and Ed was never that tiny), and he’s going to pop out any second. It’s a reoccurring thought in my mind.

I guess I’ll never fully get over the fact that he’s gone, and because I know I can’t get over it, I just keep wishing that I will see him again. Because as our parents used to fool us into thinking when we were younger, if you wish hard enough for something, one day, it may actually come true.

Day trip to New Jersey

Chris’s friend and her husband recently left the glory of Manhattan for the supposed stillness of New Jersey, so they invited us out to their home in Dunellen, New Jersey, today for the husband’s belated birthday celebration and housewarming party. This meant we needed to take the subway to Penn Station, take New Jersey Transit to Newark Penn Station, and then transfer to a final train that would take us to this suburb.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really happy and grateful that we were invited, and I was happy to see our friend’s beautiful new home — which it really was. It was beautiful, barely a year old, incredibly spacious, with great outdoor areas, high ceilings, and a massive kitchen with stone counter tops. But New Jersey Transit… no. That is not beautiful or spacious or even cheap. Our round-trip tickets cost $23 each. I was flabbergasted at the cost given the distance, the fact that on the weekends, it only ran once an hour, and that the seats were so small.

Then there were the overhead bins. Even on the Tokyo subway there were large overhead bins on regular transit to store one’s luggage. You rarely saw anyone placing a purse or bag on the subway floor ever. Here on NJ Transit, you could barely store a full backpack on the top overhead “bin,” which was really so pathetic that you couldn’t even comfortably place a duffle bag packed for three days. I was so annoyed by the whole sight and experience.

The ticket man who comes around to check tickets — he littered on the subway by hole-punching passengers’ tickets and allowing the punched holes to fall all over the train floors. It’s like litter everywhere, and no one seems to have a problem with it! He’s dirtying up the train floors! Am I the only one annoyed by the filth and dirt?

That’s it. Nothing can compare to Japanese trains or cleanliness or manners or even the price for what you are getting. I think I’m ruined for life.