Parental fussing and love

It doesn’t matter what time of year I come home or what the weather is like outside. I can always count on my parents’ house to be a complete ice box. It was pretty miserable and cold when we arrived yesterday afternoon, but if you can believe it or not, their house was even colder than it was outside. Chris remarked a number of times how cold he was. He would wake up extra early and take a hot shower just to warm his body up. There is zero insulation on the second floor, and while there is a relatively new and well functioning HVAC system, my parents rarely use it unless it’s during the dead of winter and they are desperate. I think the “natural state” of my parents’ house temperature is likely in the 50s. The concept of 68 degrees Fahrenheit being “room temperature” is completely absurd to my dad; he thinks that’s too hot. I still remember the annoying days shortly before Ed passed away when they would battle over the heat being on. All Ed would do is turn the heat on and set it to 68 degrees. Dad would get mad and turn it off. So it was a constant on-and-off fight all day and night long. I’m sure it’s also motivated by the fact that my dad doesn’t want to pay for heat because he’s cheap, but seriously: when you get to a certain age, don’t you just want to be… COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN HOME?!

So my mom has proceeded to fuss over whether I am warm enough, and now, when she fusses over whether I am warm enough or wearing enough layers, it’s also about whether “we” are warm enough — the baby and me. “Don’t let my baby get cold!” my mom would caution me, as she tried to cover up my belly with my long cardigan-coat that doesn’t have a zipper or buttons in the front. When we were eating dinner last night at the dining room table and I reached over to grab a plate, she raised her voice at me and said, “Don’t reach so far! That will hurt the baby!’ When I bent down later in the evening to grab a tupperware container from a low shelf, she yelled at me and told me that bending down isn’t good for the baby. “Do what I say! I know more about pregnancy than you do!”

She also believes in the old Chinese wives’ tale that when you are pregnant, you should eat one boiled egg and warm milk every day. If you do this, you will have a nice, healthy baby who will have rosy, chubby cheeks. She has proceeded to boil a number of eggs and set them aside for me in the morning. My aunt also told me the same thing: don’t forget to eat a boiled egg and milk every day until you give birth!

My dad has, oddly enough, gotten into hard seltzer. I don’t look at my dad as the kind of person who jumps on the band wagon when it comes to trends of any kind, so this was pretty amusing to me. He also rarely drinks any alcohol of any kind. He showed me the hard seltzer he got a case of in multiple flavors and said that after dinner if I wanted, I could have one. He rummages through a cupboard, stops, then hesitates and looks up. “Actually, maybe you shouldn’t have any alcohol now. No alcohol for you. You can have milk before bed.”

While my family drives me crazy, at their core, I know they love me very much and just have different ways of showing it. These are always the funny moments that make me realize their love.

Home again since February 2020

After a very smooth flight from JFK to SFO today, we arrived about 40 minutes early at SFO into a newly built terminal, Harvey Milk Terminal 1. It felt pretty strange, as we normally arrive in Terminal 2, so when we landed, I almost felt like a foreigner going through this shiny but unrecognizable terminal. We arrived at my parents’ place a short while after that, leaving the sunny blue skies by the airport for the drab, grey, thick overcast of the Outer Richmond District of San Francisco. Yep, I had arrived home with a very cold welcome. Chris complained endlessly of the fog and dip in temperature.

As soon as I walked through the door, my dad greeted me. I attempted to hug him and was totally thwarted, as he backed away and awkwardly patted my shoulder. Thanks, Dad. Good to see you after over a year and a half, too. I also attempted to hug my mom, and she feebly just patted my back and asked if we had eaten on the plane. As per usual, the Asian parents’ love language is not through physical affection or said words, but through asking if your belly is full from nourishment.

My mom had already prepared baby clothes and diapers for us as gifts, and my dad bought two gallons of whole milk for our visit, even though I told him we’d only be at the house for a few days. My parents have stopped drinking dairy milk for a number of years already because cow milk has been giving my mom mucus, so she’s switched to almond or soy milk instead. But my dad is still okay having dairy, and he insisted that the baby and I need the fat from whole milk, which is why he got it. I was really touched by his concern and thought, but just thought, wow, that’s a LOT of milk to have just because I happen to be here!

My dad was unusually talkative while we sat and talked around the dining room table while my mom predictably was nervously rummaging through random things and fidgeting in the kitchen until I told her to stop and join us. I was happy to see that despite my dad’s usual negativity and complaints about rising costs of everything that he looked in pretty good health. He looked like he was about the same weight, and his skin tone looked good, plus his face had some good fat on them. My mom, on the other hand, always seems to look worse and worse when I come home. She looked even skinnier today than a year and a half ago, her hair even thinner, and her cheeks more sunken in. She told me that she’s physically gotten weaker over the last year and needs to rest more after cooking or cleaning and even walks, but her mental health just seems at its peak of nervousness, which obviously doesn’t do anything for her overall health. It also doesn’t help that she’s stopped caring about dressing herself well, so nothing fits her properly, which makes her look only more haggardly. I don’t know what I am going to do about my parents; it seems like nothing really helps them.

20-week full anatomy scan

This morning, we went to the hospital for a full, detailed anatomy scan. These are usually done between 20-22 weeks of pregnancy, and they are just as detailed as you’d imagine: they’re basically taking pictures of every single organ, limb, finger, eye socket, genitalia that exists. They also take very zoomed in shots of the different chambers of the heart and sections of the brain to ensure proper development up until this stage. While it’s always exciting to be able to see the baby and watch her move (and she certainly does a LOT of that!), it’s not always that fun to have your stomach pressed on constantly and then to have a wand stuck up your vagina when they’re not able to get the proper pictures just from the abdominal ultrasound. The doctor had to come in towards the end because the original brain photos weren’t clear enough, and he pressed down HARD on my belly while also moving around a wand in my vagina. That was pretty miserable and I held my breath, hoping it would end soon. I was literally lying on that table for over an hour.

Well, the stars seemed to have aligned: baby’s development looks great, and the doctor says he has no concerns at all. They asked me to come back in 10 weeks at the 30-week mark to measure overall fetal growth. My little schnookums is doing quite well, maybe even a little too well with how active she is. She certainly loves touching her face and flipped a few times during the scan. She even stuck her feet up in her face!

When bad dreams return

It must be my subconscious slowly building its anxiety level, greatly anticipating when I will be back at my parents’ house in San Francisco. That bleak place with an odd, eerie chill and a damp, musty vibe rarely has a positive effect on anyone.

I woke up this morning from an annoying dream. It could be characterized as “bad,” but it’s more annoying because it really encompasses, to me, how frustrating my family can be. I’m here in New York and suddenly my mom calls, and all she says is, “Did you hear that Ed died?”

First of all, assuming that Ed were actually still around, why the hell would anyone ever so casually ask you if you “heard” that your own brother DIED? There is something so wrong about that that I cannot even put it into words. Death is not casual. It is especially not casual when it is the death of an immediate family member.

It is really insane to think that nearly eight years ago, my brother died. Tomorrow will mark eight years since his funeral, since the day I stood up at a podium and gave a eulogy for him that I never wanted to write, a eulogy that gave subtle but pretty obvious hints at what he died from. When I think of going home, I am always reminded first and foremost that he is gone and that I will never see him ever again.

Family drama has already begun and I’m not even home yet

My mom insisted she didn’t want to go to dim sum with my uncle and cousins because she was scared of getting the delta variant. Yet, she suggests that the four of us all drive down to San Jose just to eat at a very “high quality” Vietnamese restaurant. Wait, let me get this straight: you don’t want to eat out because you’re scared of getting the virus, but you will willingly drive an hour south just to eat a quick meal at a restaurant… key words: AT A RESTAURANT. OUTSIDE. What she has really said here is: I refuse to eat out unless it’s on my own terms and exactly what I want. When I point out her hypocrisy, she gets defensive and tries to guilt me, saying, “well, I only suggested it because you haven’t come home in a long time and you haven’t had this food before. I wouldn’t offer it to anyone else.” That is not even the point. The point is that you only want to eat out when it’s yourself calling the shots!

The level of manipulation here is just so transparent, and it’s frustrating when she doesn’t even realize how stupid the things she says sounds.

The delta variant and fear of catching it while fully vaccinated

The United States is one of the world’s richest countries, full of plenty of everything: money, food, land, water. Yet somehow, the people who live in this country tend to take it all for granted, and when they are offered something that could save lives for free, like the COVID-19 vaccine, and three different variations of it, they turn their heads and say, nah, it’s okay; pass! Meanwhile, other far poorer countries don’t even have enough vaccines, and mass graves are being dug for them. It’s a really sad situation, and one that angers me pretty much every day since the COVID-19 vaccines have become readily available. This country has so many vaccines, too many, that we don’t even know what do with them, thanks to a bunch of self-entitled, anti-vax idiots who somehow think their “alternative research” is superior to some of the top scientists in the world. Many of these same people who get angry about being “forced” to get the vaccine, citing, “my body, my choice,” are the same hypocrites who believe that the government should decide on women’s reproductive choices. Isn’t that fun and interesting?

So as I’m getting ready to go back home for the first time since the pandemic, I invited some relatives for dim sum this Saturday, and my aunt and my parents have decided they do not want to go out to eat because they are all scared of the delta variant. This is despite the fact that all three of them are fully vaccinated, and only 1.1 percent of all national hospitalizations are by vaccinated people. That means over 99 percent of all the positive COVID cases are due to unvaccinated losers. They are all scared, saying that it’s too much of a risk. That number isn’t even statistically significant!

While I get that they are scared of catching the variant, this annoys me because this basically means that if I ever want to eat with my aunt or my parents at all during this trip, it has to be at home… one place only. That’s it. That house is a miserable place with a miserable vibe. The point of going home was to be out and about in San Francisco and see friends and family while we were all vaccinated. And somehow, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen unless it’s in the funeral home that is my parents’ house.

19 week OB visit

On Friday, I went to my OB-GYN office for my scheduled 19-week appointment. There, I got to see my little baby on the ultrasound once again. She is still growing with a healthy heart, thankfully. The doctor measured the amount of liquid in the amniotic sac to ensure it was adequate and also checked her heart rate, which all looked good. We also got to see her move her hands around and even try to cover her face; it was as though she knew we were looking in and wanted to get away from us! “And there’s her little distinct nose; she’s so adorable!” the doctor exclaimed. Yes, the nose was quite distinct, even on this ultrasound screen which wasn’t super clear.

I go back in five weeks for my 24-week appointment, when I have to do the test I’ve dreaded this entire pregnancy: the glucose test. This is the test where, about an hour before my visit, I have to drink a bottle of this disgusting “glucola” solution, and when I come in, they draw my blood to test for gestational diabetes. If the test is negative, then YAY! Good news, and I can proceed as per usual with diet and level of activity. If the test is positive… well, that’s when I’ll be completely upset and terrified and have to prick my finger multiple times a day to check my blood sugar level and watch all refined carbs/sugar intake until I give birth. I’m hoping and hoping hard that I do not have it. I know a lot of women who have had it, and it’s really no fun AT ALL.

Still exploring our backyard

Now that some of our domestic travels have ended and our move is now complete, we went out for yet another Saturday to explore the other side of Mott Haven, the Bronx, that we didn’t visit last autumn when we went. Even before the pandemic was here, I think I did a decent job of going to neighborhoods where I didn’t live. It also helped that I lived in a lesser known and unpopular area like Elmhurst, Queens. I knew I had seen more of New York than the average life-long New Yorker, and far, far more than the temporary New York person who stays here for a year or so and leaves for another city. But the pandemic has really given us more time to further explore and appreciate our own backyard. You could actually spend an entire year or so exploring all the neighborhoods of New York and NEVER get through even half of all the businesses. That’s the range and diversity that New York has that most cities lack.

Just today, we visited a Dominican bakery for a fried potato and pork treat, a couple of different Latin bakeries, a well appointed and stylish Australian owned restaurant bar, a trendy sushi spot, a brick oven pizzeria, a super light (!) and delicious local burger spot with a secret “milk” sauce (they even had a delicious virgin pina colada — so refreshing and really hit the spot on a hot day!), and a local Bronx microbrewery. This was all within walking distance from each other up in Mott Haven. The diversity of New York is just subway stops away no matter where you are here, if not just a few blocks away.

When Chinatown shuts down early due to racist attacks

As the global pandemic of COVID-19 continues with a delta variant that is quickly sweeping across the globe, attacks against Asian Americans has unfortunately continued. Many elderly Asians have been attacked, beaten, robbed, stabbed. Asian restaurant workers have been attacked going home after dark. It’s been an unfortunate time for Asians in America, and it’s instilled a lot of fear in Asian business owners, who not only want to continue running their businesses obviously, but also care about the well-being and safety of their workers. And for that reason, many across Manhattan Chinatown, as with some other Chinatowns across the country, have decided to shorten their hours to allow their workers to get home safely during daylight hours. Most businesses that typically closed in the middle or late evening are now shutting down for the day by 5 to 7pm. Others that used to stay open until 7 or 8 are now closing their doors by 4 or 5pm. It’s been really sad to see this. Even Hong Kong Supermarket is now closing at around 6pm here, and it’s a major grocery store in Chinatown. When we were planning to go have Thai food in Chinatown this evening as our usual tradition around the anniversary of Ed’s passing to have a meal he would have enjoyed, I checked to see if Chun Yang Tea would still be open by the time we finished dinner. I’d been wanting to visit here for a long time since they opened, as they are the spin off of the very original bubble tea house in Taichung, Taiwan. I especially was eager to go when I found out they started a partnership with a local, Asian owned ice cream business to make a hojicha ice cream latte. Unfortunately, they have shortened their hours, as well, as they close every day by 7pm now.

It’s been depressing to see the racist acts in the news, the rate of Asian hate crimes increase during the pandemic. And it’s also been sad to see Asian businesses close early out of fear. I hope this doesn’t continue forever. Chinatown will only lose business if this all keeps up. We need to keep Chinatown alive.

8 years.

To my dearest Ed,

It’s been eight years since you departed this life. This is the first year that, in the weeks leading up to your death anniversary, I did not feel a great anticipation of seeing you again. Every year up until this year, I’ve always gotten a sense that I would “see” you again, whether that was through my dreams or through some sign you’d send down to earth, letting me know that you were still out there watching over me. This year, I did not feel anything. Maybe it’s my subconscious’s way of expressing that I’ve finally and fully accepted that you truly are gone. Granted, I’ve never been in denial that you were gone. It’s more that I always got the feeling that your spirit was still nearby, especially while I’d be at home in San Francisco.

A lot has happened in the last year. My relationship with our parents is further strained. This country is even more torn apart than it already was. People are somehow still dying from COVID-19 because they don’t believe in science and refuse to get vaccinated. I went through IVF and finally got pregnant (lucky you, you will never be acquainted with the total hell and roller coaster that process is).

I’m still pregnant; every day I wake up, and every night I go to sleep at night, marveling at the fact that I got pregnant and am continuing to be pregnant. I can’t believe how lucky I am. Each night, I give thanks for what I have and what my body is carrying and nourishing. When I found out I was originally pregnant with twins, I got so excited. One of my first thoughts was of you and what your reaction would have been like. I imagined your face breaking out into a huge grin, marveling over the idea that you’d be an uncle to identical twin girls, in shock at the idea that this was actually real. I teared up thinking about the fact that you will never get to react. You always liked babies, and you especially liked little girls. I just thought it was another sign that it was meant to be. And when one of those twins’ hearts stopped beating, I was just shattered. I wondered if embryo baby angels go to heaven, and if they do go to heaven, do they get to meet people like you, who actually lived a real life on earth and have since departed? Do you know where the embryo baby angels go?

I always knew you’d be a great uncle, the kind of uncle who would always want to spend time with nieces and nephews, the one who would spoil them rotten with all the gifts they wanted, even if it was against my own wishes. It really breaks my heart that you will never meet this baby, this little human I am growing. You will never get to hold her, feed her, kiss her, spoil her. I will never know what it’s like to have my child meet her mama’s brother and have a relationship with him. The world robbed you of so much, and by default, it’s robbed me and my future child of so much, as well.

As this pregnancy has progressed, I’ve reflected a lot on our shared childhood and involuntarily had a lot of flashbacks of awful situations that happened between us and our parents. As we all know, no parent is perfect, but I am especially and painfully cognizant of the effect that they had on you. I want to take the good that they did and emulate it, but I especially want to take the bad that they did and learn to never repeat the same mistakes of the past. I don’t want to continue the cycle of dysfunction and tyranny. I want your little niece to feel supported and unconditionally loved. I think at the core, that’s what every parent wants; whether that is actually the result is a completely different story.

I hope you will look down on me and help give me the strength I need to be the best mama I can be. I will make sure to tell your little niece all about the great uncle she will never meet. You will still be a part of her life, even if you aren’t here on earth with us. Every day, I wonder if you are watching over us, giving us your blessings to continue with this pregnancy and ensure the baby is happy and healthy. I hope you are with whatever abilities you have; I need all the help and good vibes I can get — seriously.

I miss you. Every day, I think about you and miss you. I wish you could still be with us in a happier and healthier state than you were last in when you were here. The world still goes on, though, even when great individuals like you leave us. But I will never forget you. How could I possibly forget you? It still makes my heart ache thinking about all the sibling bonds that are out there, and how we no longer have one here in this world to actively continue. But I still feel you — just in a different way. I love you, Ed. I hope to see you again in my dreams soon since it’s been quite some time. So, when are you going to come again?