Secrets, secrets

I called my mom this evening on her mobile phone. I actually noticed that the last two times I’d called her in the last week at times when she’s usually home, she wasn’t. But I figured it was just because she was out and about. Today, I found out that she and my dad have been in Las Vegas for the last week, and she never even told me she went. “Oh, I just wanted you to know that your dad and I were in Las Vegas for the last week, and we’re coming home today,” she said nonchalantly. “This is confidential, so you know not to tell anyone.”

I always respond this way: no one cares where you go. No one will be jealous the way you think. But this time, I just said “okay,” in my usual annoyed tone, and she told me not to give her attitude.

So my parents love to keep secrets, to warn all the time not to tell anyone anything, not to share information. She even told me not to tell anyone I was looking for a new job when I was (yes, because looking for a new job or going to Las Vegas is likened to… you know, murdering someone or robbing a bank). Now, they’re even keeping more secrets from me. Before, the only things they never told me was information about what was happening with Ed when he was around.

We all know how that turned out. No good can come of this. They will never learn. Ever.

Breakfast plans

My mom was really excited to see me almost every other day for the two-week period I was back in San Francisco for work. She’s so excited that she’s already counting down the days until she comes to visit us in New York in August. I am not quite counting down the days the way she is.

Mom: You always cook all this good food in New York. Are you going to cook all that food for me when I come?

Me: Umm, I can make you breakfast foods, but we’ll probably be eating out for dinner in the evenings after work. I won’t see you during the day because I’ll be at the office.

Mom: Eating out all the time is so unhealthy. You should mix it up when I come and cook for me! What will you make me?

Me: Well, I can make you granola or oatmeal or eggs. I guess we can eat lunch at home on the weekends, and I can cook.

Mom: Don’t worry about it! You work so hard! I don’t really want you to cook for us. I was just testing you!

Why is everything always a test for her with everyone? Does she constantly have to “test” everyone in her life? Isn’t this a sign that she’s miserable and looking for reasons to be angry at me?



Chris came into town yesterday, so we spent all day yesterday with my parents, and tonight, the four of us had dinner together. My parents met me at my hotel, and then I told them to drive to the Mission since I wanted us to eat burritos together. We reached the general area of 24th Street and Valencia, and after driving through two streets, my mom starts getting nervous and negative, insisting we won’t be able to find a parking spot because it’s so crowded. At this point, we’ve only been looking for literally less than three minutes.

“Yvonne, can I tell you something?” my mom says (that’s never a good beginning of anything she says). “If your dad can’t find a parking spot, then we’ll drop you and Chris off so you can eat, and we’ll drive home.”

I was immediately annoyed. “Why are you already saying that?” I retorted back. “We haven’t even looked for five minutes yet, and you’re already being negative! You have to be patient.”

She continued fidgeting in her seat and was clearly uncomfortable. She always thinks the worst.

Less than five minutes later, we found a parking spot. My dad parked. Then, we walked two blocks toward the restaurant and saw two more parking spots that are wide open. So much for the negativity.

Tornado about to hit

I woke up from a nightmare this morning. I had a dream I was still living at home (that in itself is nightmare enough, and I could end the story there, but that’s not all there is), and I was frantically cleaning the house in anticipation of my mother coming home from work. I had this feeling in my stomach that she was going to be really angry and take all of her work-related stress out on us. I guess that stems from what used to happen when we were young, and she’d be upset from whatever dramas were occurring at her office. Ed used to always say that she would take all her work aggression out on us. Ed was sitting on the couch, pretending to dust some side tables, and I asked him why he wasn’t helping me clean. “What’s the point? She’s going to come home and turn the house upside down anyway because nothing is ever clean or tidy enough for her,” he retorted. Great. Now that meant I had to clean that much faster. The tornado was about to come.

I was sweeping up some dirt on the kitchen floor when she came through the door. My dad oddly was creating even more work for me, as he used his hand to sweep off some dust from the counter onto the floor I was sweeping. I was not happy. I heard my mother’s voice bellowing from the front of the house, asking why there is all this junk on the coffee table.

Family anxiety is never too far away, even when that family is thousands of miles away.

Upcoming parental visit

This has not happened since 2011, but my parents look to be coming this August. And Chris is about to set his hair and mine on fire.

The main reason my mom wants to come is to see the new Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in Warwick. The JWs sold their Brooklyn property overlooking Manhattan, just across the Brooklyn Bridge, in favor of a palatial-like space in the lesser known suburb of Warwick, New York. Apparently, you need to be an “insider” and “know people and have connections” to get an appointment to enter, even if you are already a Jehovah’s Witness, and so she said my aunt needed to make the appointment for them all to come. It really sounds like an equal opportunity for all here, doesn’t it?

The last time my parents came, it was for my cousin’s wedding, and Ed joined them. It was probably some of the worst times we’ve had altogether as a family. It was scorching hot in the summer, my Elmhurst apartment had no air-conditioning outside of my bedroom, and my kitchen was roach-infested. Oh, and I had just come back from a 2.5-week-long European vacation with my now-ex-boyfriend, who my mom hated for no good or rational reason.

The circumstances are certainly different this time. Now I’m married and living “legitimately” with my husband, I live in Manhattan, and therefore I’m considered more “acceptable.” But I know all of the things they will nitpick at: the tiny space relative to what they are used to, my belongings, what our supposed rent is, when we will buy a place, what we are eating, how dirty and disgusting she thinks New York City and the subway is, how much time she thinks I should be taking off just to spend with her and my dad because they are inept at getting anywhere on their own in a “foreign” city, etc.

I’m not looking forward to this. I love my parents, but they just do not know or understand boundaries, and they don’t know how to be good guests, especially at their child’s home. My mom always moans and says she “just wants peace,” but she inevitably always destroys the peace in my mind when she and my dad are around. It’s the truth.


Pregnancy announcement

No, this is not my pregnancy announcement. That is what the pill is for.

We just found out last night that Chris’s cousin, the one closest in age to him who was married five months before us in France, is now expecting a baby in August with his wife. It’s crazy to think about it because she and I spoke, and she seemed completely against having kids for a few years and even considered freezing her eggs. The pregnancy was unplanned and came as a complete surprise. She was experiencing nausea when we were with her in late December, but we just assumed it was because of something bad she could have eaten, and her pregnancy was confirmed when she visited a clinic a couple days before New Year’s Eve.

As soon as I found out they were pregnant, I immediately thought… I wonder what Chris’s mother is probably saying. Ben already filled me in. The conversation went a little something like this:

Ben: Did Andy call you?

Susan: Yes – what great news! Hopefully this spurs your brother into action!

Ben: You know that those two things are completely mutually exclusive, right?

Susan: Yes, but there is no better time than the present! It makes no sense to wait until the “stars align” — every generation has to juggle many things – work, travel, children – including yours! And my urgency is also because it would be best to get help from younger grandparents.

So… the first thing I will say is that neither of us ever made any comment about “stars aligning” — that phrase is empty and is the type of thing bullshitters say when they are feeling non-committal. The second thing is that — she doesn’t really think she and Chris’s dad are going to move here and help take care of these potential children, does she?

Granted, none of this was said to me, but I would certainly respond if she did urge me to have children soon. I’ve already flat out said it won’t be happening for at least a couple of years as long as I am in charge of my own body.

My mom wasn’t happy to hear this from me, either. She made sure to remind me of this last week. “I’m sorry to remind you, but I want to see my grandchildren. I am getting older. Don’t you want me to see my grandchildren before I die? You never know when I will go. It could be any day now.” Well, by that logic, if I got pregnant tomorrow, she’d have to stick around for at least another nine months.

It was always a great decision when people got guilted into their parents’ selfishness to make decisions about their lives and bodies.


I don’t remember a time after the age of 6 when I didn’t do chores at home. It all began with drying dishes, then washing dishes, then laundry. It progressed to dusting and vacuuming, and of course, when I had my pet parakeet for seven years, it was my responsibility to care for him and clean his cage.

The one time the cleaning demands became completely maniacal in my house was when my mom’s cousin, the only relative she has in the U.S., had her youngest daughter and the daughter’s daughter come visit from Orange County. They didn’t stay overnight with us, but they did come to our house, and my mom went nuts. My mom’s cousin came to the U.S. from Vietnam shortly after my mom arrived here, and with her, she brought her family of five children. Those children had all married and had their own children by the time I was in middle school.

“Everything has to be extremely clean and spotless,” my mom ranted on. “Annie has very high standards, so we need to make sure the house is perfect.”

Ed would roll his eyes. “This house needs more than just vacuuming,” he muttered, among other things to imply that we never lived in a house that would welcome or “wow” guests.

Ed was right. Since I began going to other people’s homes from the age of 5, I always remember being ashamed of our house. It was never the size that was the problem as it was just how sloppy, dilapidated, and dated things were. Up until age 14, the carpet we’d been walking on had been there since the 1960s (that’s over 40 years old); the walls were peeling with paint that was just as old, along with the lovely pencil and crayon illustrations I did as a toddler; the dining room table was never visible because it was always covered in my grandmother’s junk and my dad’s tools. My mom, exhibiting “third world” behavior, would open bathroom cabinet doors and use the doors to hang her towels and clothes. She still does that today. The kitchen had cabinets that were (and still are) heavily warped, with paint chipping, and the counters were buckling and cracking. This was not the house you’d be proud to invite Vietnamese refugees into and say “welcome to America, land of the free and the rich!”

My mom’s cousin’s daughter just assumed we lived in some beautiful, extravagant, modern home. When my mom’s cousin told her that my mom married a U.S. soldier, she figured, wow, my auntie has married an American. He rescued her from a war-torn country and took her to a gorgeous new home to live. Add to the fact that she knew my dad was very handy with his hands, she figured he’d make sure any home they would live in would be modern and amazing. Well, that was not the reaction she had when she came to visit.

I only learned of her observations after she left. She would oftentimes switch between Vietnamese and English, and so I only understood her when she spoke English. What did she actually say to my mother? My mom later told me, looking half embarrassed and half annoyed. And unfortunately, she was so honest that she even told my dad.

“You married an American, and this is the house he takes you to live in? This place looks like a dump. I thought that because you had been so lucky to marry an American, he’d give you a better life than what you had in Vietnam. This is not much better than what you had. How can you live like this? Everything is so old. Even my small apartment is nicer than what you have here. Are you planning on doing any remodeling or even replacing the carpet?”

My dad was angry and defensive as you can imagine. He called Annie a snobby bitch, said she was stuck up and didn’t know anything and had adopted the “American way of thinking,” whatever that means. Does she think it’s easy to have a nice home? If she wants to criticize this house, then he doesn’t want her to come! And for his information, Annie was not planning to come back.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting Annie to be so blunt with my mother, especially given that my mom was the generation before hers. But when Ed and I heard this story, we both found it quite comical. Ed agreed with Annie. “Nothing she’s saying is false,” he said. “She’s just saying what’s true.” My mom was embarrassed, but of course, she defended her husband and said he worked hard to support the family. Annie’s response? You support this family, too, and work.

I’m not even sure what triggered this memory. It could just be all the stupid moments collectively from this last week with my parents, with my parents constantly defending all their senseless actions and thoughts. It could’ve been triggered by all my dad’s failings, especially since he cannot even have a regular conversation with his own daughter on the phone without becoming irrationally enraged over a few simple questions. What the memory of this conversation does is remind me that when the truth faces my parents in the face, they can never stand it and will simply defend their stances until the end, no matter how wrong they truly are.

Home from the hospital

After one night at the hospital having every possible test under the sun, my dad is back home. So is my mom because she decided to stay overnight with him and be his 24/7 nurse. That’s the way it is in my family; my mom refuses to ever let my dad spend a night alone in the hospital, just like when he was hospitalized during his heart surgery 2.5 years ago.

I called home to talk to my dad to get details on what happened, and it was clear he was not happy to share details. The doctor confirmed it was a stomach virus, so no medication was needed to recover; he just needed to rest and get more fluids and electrolytes in his system. I asked why they had to take him to the ER; he didn’t appreciate this question and thought I was challenging him on why he was in there. Everything in our family is perceived as an attack. Then, when I suggested he get at least eight glasses of water a day, that’s when he really lost it.

“NO, YOU’RE WRONG!” he exploded. “The nurse said FOUR glasses of water a day, otherwise it will be too much and I could get water toxicity (I’m pretty certain no one on earth has ever died from drinking eight glasses of water in a day). I’m sick and tired of you! You don’t know anything!”

“You know what,” I said calmly. “All I’m trying to do is ask questions to find out what happened, and you want to argue with me. If you don’t want to drink eight glasses of water a day and only want to drink four, then that’s fine. Bye.” Click. As I hung up, he was still yelling, but who knows what he was yelling about at that point because I stopped listening.

I ended the call with my fingers trembling. When my dad gets angry, it’s like the entire earth shakes. He’s always so blinded by by his own lack of rationale, by anything that even is slightly in opposition of what he thinks, that the only way he knows how to respond is to yell and insult you (that is, if you’re immediate family. If not, he’ll yell about it while talking to himself later. He is the only person he is fully comfortable talking to). His bellowing angry voice used to terrify my brother and me, and the infuriating feeling it gave me when I was younger was in me in that moment.

And that’s when I smiled. I’m so happy I no longer live at home or anywhere even remotely close to that house of hell.

Stomach virus

It looks like my dad is getting hospitalized tonight for what appears to be symptoms that are either of a stomach virus or food poisoning. My mom thinks he’s dying… because she always thinks he’s about to be dying. This is what happens when you get a fever and diarrhea; people think you must be dying.

I’m back in New York, but I still have to deal with all this dysfunction.


I’m currently sitting on a flight to return back to New York City today. Thank God. If I had to stay here a day longer, I probably would have lost it and really screamed at both my parents after already yelling at my uncle yesterday.

In the midst of trying to keep up with the news given the Muslim and refugee ban and protests at major international airports around this country, I’ve had my own version of personal hell to deal with at home. It all started yesterday afternoon when I was making brownies at home at the request of my mother. She went out to do her usual JW preaching, and my father was at home with me. He complained to me that he was feeling weak and had a slight fever, so I told him to lie down while I made him some ginger-honey tea. My mom, the paranoid woman she is, called three times in two hours to ask if everything was all right. I said everything was fine and that the brownies came out chewy. I said that my dad was feeling weak, so I told him to lie down. He insisted he still wanted to come to dinner but didn’t want to walk, so my aunt drove all of us to the restaurant a few hours later. We arrived at the restaurant; he greeted no one and scowled at everyone. He sat down at the table with his arms crossed, looking like a tense and unhappy toddler. My mom arrived later, and he kept snapping at her. She asked him what was wrong, and he responded, “Don’t you know? I have a fever!” No, she didn’t know because he never told her.

Dinner went on, and she tried to get him to eat, and he continued to whine and whinge in the same tone of a young child, insisting he didn’t want more food and didn’t have an appetite. My parents socialized with no one except for the occasional question to my cousin sitting next to them. They sat there as “statues” as my parents once criticized my mother-in-law of being. My mom got angry at me when I served tea to my uncle and cousins before her and my dad when I didn’t even see that they had finished their tea. Then, when dinner ended, we went home. The whole crew came back to the house to hang out for a little bit, and while everyone went upstairs to my aunt’s, my dad went into his room and shut the door. My mom followed him.

After spending some time upstairs, Chris arrived back again, and my mom pulled me aside into her room. “Why didn’t you tell me that your father had a fever?” she says in her signature icy tone. “If I had known he had a fever, I would have come home earlier to take care of him, and I definitely would not have let him go to dinner. See what happens when you don’t tell me anything? You have to tell me these things. This is when things go wrong. He won’t tell me because he doesn’t know how. Your father doesn’t know how to take care of himself. Now he’s sick and has a fever. Can you read this thermometer and see that it says 100 (F)? Can you? If I came home early, he wouldn’t feel weak like this now.”

So in other words, it’s my fault my dad had a fever and went to dinner when he could have been an adult and decided himself he didn’t have to go to dinner. It’s my fault because I didn’t tell my mom sooner, and because my dad needs my mom to mother him endlessly. It’s our responsibility to take care of him because “He cannot take care of himself. Without your father, we would have nothing. Don’t you realize that? Do you not understand?”

And to continue the drama, we scheduled a dim sum lunch near the house with my aunt at noon today. My dad didn’t go because he still claimed to feel weak, though his fever had miraculously disappeared. My mom announced at lunch that my dad had diarrhea and felt weak, and I suggested that maybe he ate something bad. My mom changed the subject.

When I got home, that’s when she voiced her strong dissatisfaction at my saying that. “Yvonne, I want you to know that your father did not eat anything bad,” she said in her usual tone of “don’t fuck with me.” “I never gave him spoiled food. I only give him good food. Everyone at dinner last night was fine and no one got sick, so it’s not the food. He has the flu. Do you understand?”

It just got more ludicrous as the seconds went by, and I was eager to get out of that house as soon as possible and was thankful Chris and I were about to leave.. in a car not driven by my dad. I told her that no one has accused her of giving him spoiled food and that wasn’t what I was saying at all. I was only raising the possibility that he could have eaten something bad because… hello, what is diarrhea usually a sign of? And with contaminated food, a single piece could be bad and that’s all it takes for a person to get sick, so just because no one else got sick doesn’t mean something he ate was not bad; don’t they remember what happened to me in Vietnam? Oh, or was that because as my dad accused me of then, “You have a weak stomach!” as I was running to the bathroom every hour (as I always say, everything is my fault in this house. Everything — especially after Ed passed). “Stop arguing with me!” she raised her voice. The man-child chimes in. “That is NOT what happened here. I have the FLU!”

In less than 24 hours, I was accused of giving my dad a fever, having his weakness exacerbated for “allowing” him to go to dinner and not telling my mother in advance, and then supposedly suggesting my mother tried to give my dad food poisoning.