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?

“Don’t cry”

Ed knows I’m here. He can see and feel me here the way I can feel his presence all over this house, and even throughout the Richmond district where I walk. He doesn’t normally visit me in dreams when I am here, but he did last night.

In my dream, I walked into a wide hallway in a nondescript building, and I see him standing there, facing me with a straight face, a slight spark of surprise in his eyes. And like clockwork, I immediately run up to him, grab his neck, hug him, and burst into tears. I tell him how happy I am to see him again and how much I’ve missed him. All of this is becoming like a broken record in my dreams. He puts his arms around me and pats me on my back.

“Yvonne,” he says sternly. “You have to stop this. You do this every time you see me. You have to stop crying. Don’t cry. This just isn’t healthy.”

“I can’t help it,” I respond through my sobs. “I just really, really miss you. And I just really wish you were really here.”

“I am here,” he says calmly while rubbing my back. “I’m here.”

But you aren’t, I think to myself. After these fleeting yet deeply cherished moments that my subconscious has conjured up, you will drift away from me, and I will drift off and eventually wake up. And in my bed in our old bedroom, I will awaken and turn to my right and see an empty bed next to me, the one you used to sleep in, sometimes soundly, sometimes tormented.

And that’s exactly what happened. At 3:30am this morning, I abruptly woke up and started coughing lightly, and I turned to my right and saw your empty bed…. your empty, empty bed.


Home again: the same home, but not

This happens every time I’ve come home since Ed passed away: I walk in, anticipating him to either be sitting at his desk, hoping someone will swivel his chair around and that this someone would be him. He’ll run up to me to give me a hug, and then help me bring in my luggage. If he’s not there, which he obviously has not been since July 2013, then my body is expecting him to be there when I open my bedroom door.

I say my body expects him to be there because my brain clearly knows he is not. It’s like the tiniest hope that runs through my veins that I will see him and be able to touch him again. He is gone from this earth, but my body expects his energy and self to be somewhere in that house, and maybe if I am lucky, I can sense and feel exactly where he is and physically feel him again. I expect him to be sitting and reading on his bed, or lying down and taking a nap. I walked into the house yesterday night, and he wasn’t at his desk. I walked further into the house and opened my bedroom door dramatically, and there was nothing. No trace of him — just his energy permeating the entire space.

I walked up to his old dresser, where that large framed photo of him from his funeral sits next to a koala, an orchid plant, and the funeral program. I ran my fingers over the top of the dresser and noticed it had recently been dusted clean.

“Hi, Ed,” I said quietly to his photo. “I’m home, but you don’t seem to be.”

The first hour or so back home is always the worst for me. I’m never going to get over this. I can try, but I know I will fail. In this one case in my life, failure is inevitable.

Cousins reunited

Yesterday, Chris and I met up with my dad’s younger sister’s son, who is estranged from his mother and whom I have not seen in almost nine years since another cousin’s wedding in the summer of 2007. He’s my cousin, likely my most normal, rational cousin. We didn’t grow up close because his mother, my aunt, wanted to shield him from our side of the family, but since his dad passed away in 2012 and my Ed passed in 2013, we’ve communicated a lot over e-mail and text, and we’ve gotten to know each other quite a bit. We’ve bonded over our familial dysfunction, our relationships with our respective mothers, and the loss of his father and my brother. We share a lot of despondency and a lot of confusion and anger regarding the family life we’ve experienced. It was refreshing to be having lunch with a cousin who isn’t selfish, can speak for himself and have his own opinions, and does not purposely ignore all the very real and raw problems our family causes and continues to face.

I felt sad when we left him, his wife, and his baby son at the end and drove off. He’s the person I wish I had access to growing up, who I wish Ed and I had the opportunity to get to know and get close to. This cousin is real. He’s normal, he has thoughts and frustrations that are just like Ed’s and mine.. or just like mine now that Ed is sadly gone. he doesn’t ignore the blatant issues in the family. He doesn’t make everything about himself and his own needs. I felt so sad when he told me that he may not stay for our entire wedding due to not wanting to cause a scene with his mother when she finally sees him after years of no contact of any sort. We both know she’s very capable of causing a big scene and making the event all about her instead of our marriage.

I feel so torn. My family always makes things harder for me, even at my own wedding.

Photo shooting

Chris and I never wanted to do an engagement shoot. Well, let’s put it another way: we never wanted to pay for an engagement shoot. The wedding photographer we chose completely got that, so to “manipulate” us into having one, he threw it into our package and said the cost would be the same with or without the engagement shoot. So what do you think we chose to do?

I loved the session on Friday. I loved our photographer and his personality and the way he gave direction. He was just as personable as I remembered him during our Skype interview, and just as much fun as his e-mail correspondence throughout the last year (we exchanged a LOT of e-mails leading up to this meeting and photo shoot). I enjoyed the assistant he brought with us, who made it even more full of laughs and lightness. He even provided background music when Chris joked about it. I like that he calls his flash filter a “boob,” even if that’s not its technical name. I also realized how weird it is to have a camera constantly following me around and taking photos of me when I least expect it, and how weird it is when that creepy camera is not Chris’s. I think anyone who is not used to being in front of the camera all the time should consider an engagement shoot to get ready for a wedding, not just to get comfortable with the camera, but also with your photographer. As corny as it sounded, we felt like friends at the end and ended the early evening session with drinks and dinner. It was a great ending to an appointment-packed day.

We already saw a sneak peek, too, and this is exactly what we wanted: a lot of art, creativity, and intense colors.



In the last 24 hours, Chris and I have been inundated with food. When our catering manager told me months before to come hungry, she really meant it. We had so much food that it really would have been fitting to have added two or three more people to our tasting session (but we weren’t… Since it would have cost $50 extra per person, so… Pass). We had samplings of all our canapes we selected and asked for customizations on, as well as our food stations and potential desserts. And since we barely scraped the surface of our food, we ended up getting two massive bags of food plus branded water to take back to our hotel with us. And then to add to this, we had our rehearsal dinner tasting for lunch, as well as two cake and dessert tastings. It was like a non-stop eating fest. It was also a non-stop “what do you think?” and “what would you like changed or modified?” session.

I can see how planning a wedding can brainwash you into thinking that you are so special, that you can have anything and everything you want at your beck and call… Well, if you are willing to pay for it. It can really go to your head, all those little tiny accommodations that people in this industry are willing to make for you two, the bride and groom, just because you are getting married, and your wedding day should be the happiest, most perfect day of your life.

So this is what wedding planning really is — self indulgence, and a lot of money going outbound everywhere.


Makeup to get made up

This morning, Chris dropped me off at the design studio for my hair and makeup trial, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it because I’ve never had professional makeup done on my face that I was really happy with. But maybe this time will be different.

I spent 2.5 hours at the studio, showed my artist a bunch of inspirational photos that I liked a lot, and then she began her work. The end result was about 50 percent like and 50 percent hate. I hate blush, I hate heavy foundation application, and because I am Asian, I really don’t want my eyes to appear any smaller. I walked out feeling like I had too much on my face and that maybe I’m just not a big makeup person after all, even if it’s done for me.

I rubbed a lot of the blush off before our engagement shoot that afternoon because I couldn’t handle looking at my face. My artist kept telling me not to make any snap judgments, to let myself “get used to” seeing myself in the mirror, and then to provide feedback via email. “This will photograph well,” she said. Maybe, I thought afterwards. But I still want to recognize myself and feel like myself in real life. Well, I ended up providing a lot of feedback, which ended up as a bit of an essay separated out by face section and hair section due to the length. I don’t mean to be rude, just honest about how I want to look. I still want to look like myself and recognize myself on my wedding day, and I really, really hope not to scare Chris when he sees me. He got scared when he saw how long my fake eyelashes were today. It’s not a good sign when your fiance sees you after your wedding makeup trial, frowns, and looks a little disappointed to see you.