In the late morning today, I sat in the Intercontinental hotel lounge while working, waiting for my parents to pick me up. My mom was hell bent on taking me to one of her favorite Vietnamese restaurants in the Tenderloin, which I admit is good, but is on the dodgiest street and has questionable sanitation based on the latest San Francisco health violations report. Then, we’d eventually go home to that cold house on the hill in the Richmond which I have so many negative associations with; “home sweet home,” as some would call it.

This is what I am used to now, as my friend marveled yesterday, a life of four- to five-star hotels, travel, and most importantly… freedom; freedom from having every action I do get scrutinized and criticized, freedom from being told that my showers are too long or that I’m using too much toilet paper or that the brownies I made are too sweet and bad for my parents’ health (even when they asked me to make them). Life now is a strong contrast to what it used to be while living under their roof and their senseless, suffocating, and irrational rules. My “normal” now is vastly different from my “normal” as a child growing up in this house.

That’s why it’s always so frustrating and embarrassing every time I come home and get reminded endlessly of all the insipid things that happen in this house: the constant food waste because they both insist on cooking enough food for 6-8 people when it’s just the two of them; the shower head that won’t adjust to pull down because my dad is too cheap to get a removable shower head installed, the kitchen that was technically expanded but never fully finished because he decided to put the project on hold.. for the last seven years; the piles of junk he’s accumulated from ex-tenants who never cleared out their apartments (that he insists on bringing home) and the hoarding from Craigslist; the constant sorting of “compost waste” from paper from plastic as what appears to be a daily hobby, or in my eyes, a complete and stupid waste of time; my parents eating dinner “together” while my father sits at his computer like a child and watches YouTube videos while my mother actually sits at the table eating by herself. Other than the carpet that my mother had installed 17 years ago and some cheap plastic “dressers” in the two bedrooms, this house is almost exactly like what it was when my dad was a teenager; slightly dilapidated, completely free from renovation, and freezing as hell. He never moved out of his parents’ house. This house is pretty much exactly the same as then.

But this is what is “normal” to them. It’s “normal” for them to sit like that at the dinner table. It’s normal to have a peeling kitchen counter when they could afford to have it replaced. It’s normal for them to hoard junk so that beds and chairs are no longer places where you can sit or lie down without clearing everything off them for five minutes.

My version of “normal” was once that, but even as a young child, I knew so many things here were not normal. I know that the “normal” I have in my mind now will never, ever be achievable in this house with them. Ed tried to believe he could somehow get there, and he realized at the end of his life it was impossible. The only way to have a “normal” life is to separate myself from all this as much as possible.

Thank God Chris comes here for work, otherwise I’d have zero buffer and zero normalcy.


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