Family tiffs

I think that no matter what time of year it is, some part of my family is having some disagreement, some dispute, some argument. And no matter what happens, no one will ever make up. No one will ever admit they are wrong. No one will ever apologize. And the cycle continues.

At least this time, it doesn’t have to do with me or my parents. It actually doesn’t involve my parents at all – thank god. It just involves two of my cousins’ wives having a spat with each other. It all started with an e-vite that went out for my cousin’s son’s birthday next month. For whatever reason, the e-vite was sent only to my cousin and not his wife. My cousin asked his brother’s wife if she could send the e-vite to his wife, as well. She got angry and asked why his wife didn’t just reach out to her herself. And so the battle ensued with passive aggressive messages on text and Facebook, accusations of disdain and “getting up in my family’s faces.” It’s clear this anger has been budding for a while based on the messages I saw. Our instigator cousin-in-law has never been liked in our family because she has a princess personality and has had the nerve to tell my cousin, her brother-in-law, to say “please” and “thank you” to her, and has made etiquette suggestions to my mom, her aunt, in her house. That type of personality is rarely widely accepted.

As I am reading these messages and seeing screen shots of texts back and forth in my cousin text group, I am laughing in my head, so fully amused at the idea of how stupid all this is and how my family not only is dysfunctional, but even chooses to willingly marry dysfunctional people, thus expanding the dysfunctional family tree. Oh, goody.

Chinese New Year dinner at home

As someone who enjoys cooking, I like to cook for others and have people over at our apartment. When more people come, it makes more sense to have more dishes, which is not always practical to do when it’s just the two of us. Traditional Chinese meals always have multiple dishes at the table that are eaten family style, so having Chinese New Year style meals with 7-8 dishes is a comfort to me and a reminder of some of the greatest Cantonese meals I grew up with.

At tonight’s dinner, other than 75 percent of me, we didn’t have any other Chinese guests. No one else would really understand Chinese traditions around the Lunar New Year meal unless they grew up with Chinese friends and were invited to their homes. But that’s part of the fun with food: you get to introduce people to different cultures by feeding them. But the sad thing is that people of my generation don’t really do things like this anymore. They don’t really make the foods that they grew up with. They rely on restaurants and their older relatives who will eventually die to make these things for them. So when those relatives die, when those restaurant owners decide to close their shops, who is going to continue these amazing food traditions for future generations to enjoy and appreciate?

Queens play

Tonight, we went to see the play Queens at the Clare Tow Theater at the Lincoln Center. The play is about two generations of immigrant women, seven of them, who come to the U.S. in hopes for a better future for themselves and their future families. They share living space in a basement apartment and their concerns about trying to make ends meet, even though most of them spend all of their waking hours trying to earn just barely enough to cover their heavily discounted rent. The woman who ultimately ends up owning the building where that basement apartment is located leaves her home country hoping her daughter will come join her, but she never does. Instead, she grows up and builds her own life back home in Poland. She even had a child and got married and never informed her mother in the U.S. Their family and friends back in Poland just assumed her mother was having a grand old time living the easy money-making life in New York.

When I watch shows like this, I always feel even more frustrated and angry at the current political climate which is so anti-immigrant, so anti the American dream… well, according to President Dipshit, the “American dream is for Americans.” He wants a merit-based immigration system. He wants to deny people who are trying to flee life-threatening political situations in their own country the right to come to the U.S… those are people in situations like my mother once was, like so many of the people I know have descended from. People leave their home countries and everything and everyone they know and immigrate for better opportunities, not to enter foreign countries where they can commit mass terrorist attacks and laugh at all the pain they want to cause others. At the end of the day, we all have more in common than we think. We just want to live happy, healthy, prosperous lives and be free. We all have that in common. It’s just a shame that people like Dipshit and idiots on the right don’t seem to get that commonality. People immigrating today — their intent isn’t any different than the people who immigrated after World War II or the Vietnam War. They just want a shot at a decent life. That’s all.

In the Body of the World

Tonight, my friend and I went to see Eve Ensler’s monologue play In the Body of the World. I was eager to see it, especially after having read the original play that made her famous (Vagina Monologues) and seeing it performed by a Wellesley cast during my first year in college.

The play is a monologue of Ensler walking us through the brutality she witnessed over women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The prolonged war over copper, gold, and coltan—minerals used in computers and cell phones—has claimed eight million lives and led to the rape and torture of hundreds of thousands of women. Ensler’s philanthropic organization, V-Day, was beginning to build an urgently needed women’s center there when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. In a series of medical nightmares, she sustains the same harrowing wounds as Congolese women who were gang-raped and is flooded by memories of her father’s sexual assaults. She feels herself gradually being removed from her own body and being separated from it. She aligns her body with the earth and pairs her cancer with the pillaging of the Congo and BP’s poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico. She illustrates her healing through her emotions and courage. Ensler harnesses all that she lost and learned to articulate the essence of life: “The only salvation is kindness.”

This was my friend’s first time joining me for a theater show. I wasn’t quite sure if this would be too intense for her first time, but she actually really enjoyed it and found it very profound, and wants to come to more shows with me.

Shopping in Chinatown on Valentine’s Day

My usual end of day meeting got cancelled today, so I left work a little early to do some Chinese New Year grocery shopping in Chinatown. I wasn’t sure if it was because everyone in Chinatown was mostly home preparing elaborate celebratory meals or already off to their romantic Valentine’s Day dinners, but I was shocked to find that the grocery stores I usually go to were extremely quiet. The roasted Chinese meat shop still had a queue out the door, but that was pretty much it. I was able to get all my shopping done in less than 45 minutes after hitting three different shops.

The stores were all decorated with Year of the Dog new year’s decorations. It made me a little nostalgic for the types of decorations and traditions my grandma would do when I was growing up. I’m never going to be that person to deck my house out in Chinese New Year decorations or do the odd traditions of not washing my hair on new year’s day or maniacally cleaning the house before the lunar new year begins, but there actually is a little fun and excitement involved in all of that.

It’s all right, though. I can still embrace the food traditions. Food never will die.

Sore leg, sore mind

Who knows if it’s because I strained my left calf during my Land’s End walk on Sunday, or if it’s because of being idle while lying flat on a bed flying from SFO to JFK, but my left calf is hurting. I woke up this morning limping, so I decided to stay home and work remotely. I was able to do some water therapy in the evening at the spa in the building, and I feel a bit better now.

I still feel hyper emotional, though. And I am still spending a lot of time thinking about Ed. I started going through old AFSP messages I’ve written about him and old e-mails from the time he passed away. I just really, really miss him right now. Maybe the trigger was going home and being at the house we once shared.

Whoever said life was fair never said how fucking hard it can be.

Red eye dreams

I was lucky enough to get upgraded days before my red eye flight last night, so I got to lay flat and sleep about four hours en route back from San Francisco to New York today. I slept well despite it only being four hours, and of course I still felt sluggish, but I felt even more sluggish because I saw Ed again in my dreams last night.

I hadn’t seen him for a while, which made me quite sad. It also made me sad to think about the fact that my last two visits in September and November, I wasn’t able to visit him at the Columbarium. In September, I was too sick to go anywhere, really, so I saw no one other than my parents. In November, the visit was so fleeting that I only saw my parents for one night. And then yesterday’s debacle happened, which really annoyed me. When you think about it, it might seem silly because frankly, we all know I’m not going to visit him, the real living, breathing person. I’m there to visit what remains of him, his ashes, in his wooden urn, in the niche that I tried to make homely for him. But it upset me anyway.

So last night, I saw him. I was in our bedroom at the house, on my laptop doing work. And then suddenly he appears in the doorway. I immediately run to him and jump on top of him, throw my arms around him and start sobbing. “I miss you!” I yell into his ear as my eyes overflow. “I miss you! I don’t want you to leave! Don’t leave me! I love you! Don’t you know that?!”

He hugs and holds me back. He feels warm, but as usual, he doesn’t say anything. He keeps patting my back and finally says, almost hesitantly, that he misses me too.

I’m troubled by this dream because it echoes the types of dreams I had a few months after he passed. After he passed, I had dreams where he kept dying and killing himself in different ways. That progressed into months and months of dreams of him appearing in some room where I was, and my running up to him like a mad woman and sobbing endlessly and telling him how much I wanted him back.

The cycles of grief and pain don’t seem to be predictable or steady. They seem to change the same way the wind and the weather in New York does. We have all these futile tears and pangs of grief, but nothing will come of them ever.

I still have hopes of seeing him. It sounds stupid. But I can always have my own hopes that are unrealistic.

My brother making jook

I was sitting on my bed with my mom for a couple hours before I went to the airport tonight. She’s in a somber mood because she knows I’ll be leaving her after just a short stay. She always wants me to stay longer. Even if I lived with her, she’d want me to stay longer. I think we all know that.

There’s always a point of my visit now where she starts talking about Ed. I usually just listen and don’t say a lot. She needs some outlet to talk about Ed because we know she can’t with my dad. He just can’t handle feelings and emotions. He’s the stereotypical Asian male: block out all emotions and feelings, be stoic, try to stick with things you can do and avoid things that make you feel and be human.

This time, she said that she finally saw him again and was so happy. He finally came to her in a dream recently. He was at the house with her, and they were making jook together (Ed never really liked to cook, so this is an odd dream). He spent most of the time watching her and also helped stir the pot and add some ingredients. Then, when it was done, he went back to his bed and was reading a book. But she was just so happy because he was there again… and alive. And she said he looked very good — healthy, smiling, happy. He had no acne — his face was clear. And then she woke up and became extremely disappointed.

“It was so real,” she said. Maybe the reason my dreams are so vivid is because I get it from her.

We tried going to the Columbarium to visit Ed at around 3:30 and were shocked to drive up to find the gate locked. I looked at the sign: did they update their hours? I swear they were open until 5pm on Sundays. The sign on the gate said they now close at 3pm on Sundays. Given I hadn’t been there since last May, I was so irritated.

I felt a sinking feeling as we drove away. Ed’s in there, all alone. I can’t visit him. I can’t spend time with him this trip. He is lonely. Or is he? He was. He spent most of his life feeling lonely, like no one really cared about him and wanted to spend time with him. I didn’t realize it until I was in college that my brother was lonely. It just never occurred to me. I went back and forth on it, sometimes feeling bad, sometimes trying to get him to try harder to make friends. It was never that easy for him, though. And who am I to talk? It’s not like I make friends easily, either. I just don’t have the same struggles as he did, which of course would make this process exponentially harder.

I hope he isn’t lonely anymore. When both of us dream of him now, he always seems to look healthier, be glowing, and happy. He genuinely looks happy and healthy. This world just wasn’t for him.

“In Loving Memory”

I was sorting through a few things in my old drawer at my parents’ house this afternoon when I came home. I do have a number of my own belongings in the desk, but for the most part, my parents use it as additional storage. One familiar piece of gold card stock paper was on top of a bunch of other paper: my wedding program from almost two years ago now.

Obviously, I recognized it and immediately knew what it was. I read through it, as I hadn’t done that in a while even though I made a whole wedding scrapbook with all the random papers and things from that three-day period. But as my eyes traveled to the bottom, I read the one line that always made me so sad, even though I was insistent on having in on there: “In loving memory of Edward Y. Wong.”

The goal of having Ed everywhere at the wedding in different ways wasn’t intended to be a sad thing to do; it was a way to inject him into the wedding and be a part of it so that he’d still be a part of our life, even after his death. It was meant to be a celebration of him and his life, of what he meant to me. But I couldn’t help but tear up when I read this today. And then I just started crying. It’s been nearly two years since my wedding, and almost five years since he’s passed, but I still am not over it. It still makes me cry to think that he wasn’t at my wedding even though I clearly knew he was not. But to remember it stings so badly. It shocks me when I think of the time that has passed since he died. I always wonder even though it’s pointless if there was anything I could have said or done differently, if I could have expressed my love for him more. I think we both knew we were at the end when I started repeatedly telling him I loved him on the phone that July. I’d never done that ever. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever even told my brother I loved him verbally before that month. Maybe I could have hugged him more or called him more. I don’t know. But I think about it anyway.

I know most people didn’t care about him. They thought he was average and forgettable. Most of our relatives say they miss him, but do they really? Probably not to be honest. They thought he didn’t do anything with his life. But none of that matters to me because he’s my brother. I still love him. And I just miss him so much right now. Today’s just one of those hard days.


I met my parents for dinner tonight. Even though I’ve been here since Tuesday, given that our company had our kick-off in Napa, I wasn’t actually in the city much at all until today. I met them at a restaurant we used to go to all the time, and I hugged both of them in greeting them. My dad pretty much looked the same as he did in late November when I was here. My mom on the other hand… I don’t know. I just feel like her appearance has been going down hill for the last few years. The bags under her eyes have gotten worse, and her complexion is just haggardly. She increasingly does not care about what she wears and how she carries herself, so nothing seems to match anymore, and she doesn’t mind. She just throws clothes together and goes out. Most of what she has doesn’t even fit her. It doesn’t help that she’s naturally a hyper worrier and is paranoid about everything. Her paranoia has only increased in the last five or so years, and her distrust has increased exponentially of pretty much everyone.

I feel terrible and want to help her. I try to encourage her to buy clothes she likes that actually fit. She is always cheap about buying things for herself so rarely does unless they are on sale. I buy her fancy face creams and cosmetics because I know she’d never spend the money on them herself, and she always used to like these indulgences because she would never treat herself. She doesn’t seem to be using them much anymore. I noticed them in the bathroom barely touched.

I don’t know how to help. I just look at her and feel sorry for her. I’m powerless to do anything to improve her life or help her outlook. There really isn’t anything I can do to help.

Well… that’s a familiar feeling, one that terrifies me.