Irritable

I came back late last night from New York and was groggy this morning when I woke up, thinking about all the events of the last week with work and family and feeling even more irritable. It’s as though every time I come back from San Francisco, I need to go through a few days of decompression to rid myself of all the tension and angst that has built up in me with all my family dysfunction. And with the work dramas of the last several days, that just adds to the overall angst.

Is it really going to be like this every single time I go home? Are my parents always going to be their same miserable selves, constantly complaining about every person, every event, every restaurant they go to? Are they always going to view themselves as victims in every situation where there isn’t a victim? Are they always going to focus on the worst parts of the news, on the worst memories attached to places? When I mentioned I was going to MacLaren Park with my friend, my dad exclaimed, “I know that place! That’s the place where a woman was sun-bathing and then completely got mowed down by a truck who didn’t even see her lying on the grass!” That’s a typical interjection of my dad: something negative, tragic, or just completely awful. With the new Vietnamese restaurant we went to on Saturday, my dad said two days later to my mom, “I don’t think it’s going to last. What a ripoff!” That is yet another favorite outburst of my dad — it certainly does not bring joy into the house when these statements are made.

The house is full of clutter, and as a result of that, filth. It smells like mold downstairs. Even the backseat of his truck is just piles and piles of mess. I asked him when he was planning to clean this up, and he responded he just cleaned it a week before and that there used to be 10 times as much stuff back there. What am I supposed to do with all this?! One day, this is all going to be on me…

And their health is in decent shape, knock on wood. They’re able bodied, able to get around on their own and be self sufficient with each other. It’s terrifying to think what it would be like once they are not mobile and need more help, and what that is going to mean for me.

Commentary on Hong Kong protesters

I was sitting at lunch today with my mom, aunt, and their miserable and depressing Jehovah’s Witness friend, who now, unfortunately, is living and paying rent for a bedroom upstairs with my aunt. Every time I see her, I get a little miserable myself, wondering how someone can be this outwardly morose every single time I see her. What exactly causes this to happen to someone?

I think I realized that I was definitely ready to head back to New York (tonight is my last night in San Francisco) when my aunt, who is originally from Toisan in Guangdong, China, who also lived in Hong Kong for 8-9 years, started complaining about the protesting happening in Hong Kong now. She has Hong Kong residency since she lived there for a good chunk of time, and because of that, she usually likes to go back a few times a year. Given the protests, she is not planning to go back until things calm down.

“All this protesting is so terrible,” my aunt said. “These people are ruining the country and causing so much destruction! It’s so selfish!”

My aunt is a sweet, kind, well-meaning person. At the same time, she’s uneducated, delusional, brainwashed, naive, and not particularly deep. Her mentor, a Jehovah’s Witness, was imprisoned in mainland China for over 20 years because she tried to spread the word of Jehovah, which is illegal in communist China. She looked up to this person, respected her and even wanted to emulate her (and actually does now by keeping her house as a hotel for all visiting JWs who pass through San Francisco from around the world). Yet, she is saying that these protestors are being selfish and their efforts are pointless? How can she possibly not see the connection here? The values she has are the same values that these protestors have; they want a free and separate Hong Kong.

Since President Dipshit got elected, it’s hard for me to listen to people who complain about protesters without feeling my blood pressure soar. The people who protest around the world, particularly in places like Hong Kong, are willing to sacrifice their lives so that future people and generations can have a better life; that is the complete opposite of selfish. I have nothing but respect and admiration for these individuals who are truly fighting for what they believe in.

Domestic violence and grudge holding

I haven’t even been at my parents’ house for three full days until I realized my mom’s hatred and jealousy for my aunt has really reached an all-time high, or maybe she’s just being even more open with me about it than ever. My aunt had a difficult marriage; she was verbally (and maybe physically, unsure of this second part) abused by her husband, my late uncle. Their relationship got so violent that he started threatening to kill her, and finally one day, she truly feared for her life and called the police to report him. They arrested him and put him in jail… until my parents bailed him out. My aunt ran away, eventually relocating to Boston, where her mother lived. She stayed with her until she passed away about 3-4 years later. She moved back after her mother’s passing, and then about a year later, my uncle passed away suddenly from a heart attack in his bed one morning. That basically marked her complete freedom from treachery and abuse.

My mom has always been jealous of my aunt. My aunt was always the favored daughter-in-law of both my grandparents because she was Chinese from China and had lived in Hong Kong; she knew the culture better than my Vietnamese mother from Vietnam. The rest of my family also had racist tendencies toward my mom, so in general, everyone always preferred my aunt whether they explicitly said so or not. It wasn’t fair, but what in life is? It was terrible and racist, but that’s the world we live in. My aunt has been known for her generosity and kindness, which somehow lent itself to a random elderly woman up our block in San Francisco leaving her entire inheritance, including her three-unit San Francisco home, to her. This old woman had no children and no next of kin she really cared about, so she bequeathed everything to my aunt. And so, that adds to the list of endless reasons for my mom’s jealousy; why did she and my dad have to work so hard for their money and comfort whereas my aunt just had it “handed over” to her? That house marked constant future rental incomes that were essentially “free” until the present day.

My mom complained no less than three times in three days about this. “She got that house for nothing!” she fumed. “Your father and I worked for everything we had, and she just gets it for free! And she used to give food we gave her to that woman!” I always assumed she was implying that she believed my aunt should have shared some of that inherited wealth with my parents, but that idea is completely ludicrous to me.

“What kind of wife throws her own husband in jail?” she continued on. “She’s a terrible, selfish person! Only someone terrible would do something like that!”

Once we touched upon the domestic violence, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut anymore. I was literally just having this discussion with a friend a few weeks ago about exactly how prevalent domestic violence is in homes across this country, and now my mom is saying it is no big deal?! “He threatened to kill her!” I raised my voice back to her. “That’s illegal and wrong! What is wrong with you? Do you think that is okay?!”

My mom laughed. Truly, it was a cackle. It sounded so evil that it actually shocked me. “He just threatened with words,” she responded. “That’s nothing. It doesn’t mean anything! He didn’t kill her, so what is she complaining about?”

Wow. I couldn’t even say anything for a moment. I just stared at her, suddenly realizing the exact depth of her hatred and jealousy of my aunt. She truly has brainwashed herself into believing my aunt is a horrible human being who does zero good in the world, and she’s resorted to this type of thought and talk. I told her she was wrong for saying all this and that I refused to hear anymore.

And if he killed her, she couldn’t complain anymore, could she?

How can hatred and jealousy be this deep? I’ve certainly had moments and periods of anger against old friends and of course, members of my own family, but I don’t think it has ever been this ongoing, this lingering, this deep. After Ed passed away, I realized I had to start re-examining a lot of things about myself, including the things that bother me about the world and realizing what I had to let go, and what was actually worth keeping my life, whether that’s people or feelings about certain things. I find it nearly impossible to hold a grudge. Holding a grudge means you are holding onto anger, and holding onto anger means you have to hold on to so much negative energy and resentment, and it just isn’t worth it mentally or emotionally. I still find myself getting ticked off by things that friends repeatedly do that I think are stupid and senseless, but I forget them much more easily now than I used to. It’s a tiny improvement, but it’s still something.

I suppose what worries me the most in my parents’ case is that whether it’s my mom’s hatred and jealousy of my aunt or my dad’s resentment against both of his living siblings, I am most fearful that their hatred of others will worsen their overall health and life outcomes, and possibly even cause a premature death. Therapy will never be an option for them.

Family tensions budding

I’ll be back home in a week, and oddly enough, I think that the time outside of the weekend is probably when I’ll be more relaxed and feel like myself. I told my cousin who lives in San Jose that I’d be back, so he suggested he drive up to the city with his wife to have dinner with me, which would include my anti-immigrant uncle, my cousin’s Jehovah’s Witness mom, and inevitably my parents. Because my parents generally dislike everyone in the family, they hate these gatherings and for whatever reason, feel like everyone else is “cheap” and “fake” and won’t pay the bill, so they always end up paying the bill before anyone even sees it. This has been a decades-long source of tension and resentment, which they’ve pretty much caused themselves. So the last time we all got together when I was home in February, my mom told me not to tell anyone else in the family I was coming home because she didn’t want to see them. “Things are not the same,” she insists. “We’ve changed.”

No, my parents haven’t changed. They love to make themselves to be the victims of every situation (where there are really no victims), and to blame everyone else for any “problems” that exist.

Well, I did. And a family dinner is happening. She just doesn’t know about it yet. And when she does, she’s going to be pretty angry about it and say endless passive aggressive things.

She’ll also add, “And you aren’t pregnant yet!” to the list of things she’s mad about.

When their happiness is in your hands (supposedly)

In the last couple of months, my mom has been doing far more than just hinting that she wants me to get pregnant. She has out right asked me “What are you waiting for?” “When are you finally going to have a baby?” “When will you get pregnant?” “Where is your big belly?” and many variations of the above. She’s even had her friends ask me when she sees me. Whether that was deliberately planned or not doesn’t really matter, but it is clear that it’s a topic she discusses with them — you know, my fertility and baby making abilities. All that is, as you can guess, totally all of their business.

When my mom is in ultra guilt mode, she loves to say that all she looks forward to in life and lives for is to see grandchildren, that once she sees them that only then, she can peacefully leave this world and be okay. Before the wedding, it used to be that all she looked forward to was seeing me get married. Now that we’ve already passed that 3.5 years ago, she’s checked that off her list and moved on to the next major milestone she wants me to hit for her.

It’s frustrating to constantly be bombarded with these questions all the time. I get them from Chris’s mom, too, but it’s far more subtle. Either way, it’s annoying. Isn’t that news for me to share with them rather than vice versa? With my mom, I wish she lived a happier and more fulfilling life than she does because if she did, she wouldn’t be waiting around every day to hear news about some upcoming grandchild. Rather, if and when that happened, it would be like an added bonus in life as opposed to her end-all, be-all. She could live a happier and more fulfilling life if she wanted, but she just chooses not to. It’s almost like she’s in a prison of her own mind.

40th

Today, Ed would have turned 40. It’s crazy to think that over six years have passed since he died, and each year around the time of his death anniversary and birthday, I can feel pain in my body when I think about how he’s gone.

At the same time, I also get pretty angry at our parents and how little they did to help and encourage him. It tends to manifest itself in a series of dreams, usually where I am screaming, yelling, kicking, and hitting one or both of them. This past week, I had two dreams, one night after the other, in which I am screaming at my mom and threatening to never see her again. I just don’t want to deal with her constant drama, negativity, and hatred anymore. I’m sick of her constantly victimizing herself, blaming others around her for her pain and suffering. I am fed up with her lack of ownership over her own life. I cannot deal with her laziness in getting things done around the house that would make her life easier. She constantly complains that she needs my dad’s help for “everything, even “just to take a bath.” A couple of solutions that I’ve suggested which have gotten shot down: change the faucet head so that it can switch between being a hand-held shower nozzle and a regular faucet. What prevents this? Cheapness to pay for a new nozzle and to get the plumbing adjusted, in addition to sheer laziness. What about how to reach awkward spots of her back? Use the extra-long shower brush I got for her that she refuses to use. Wow, what solutions! And even more amazing, what complete rejections of said solutions that would solve the problems being presented!

On my dad’s side, there’s just the complete lack of recognition of the fact that he ever had a son. He never recognized Ed’s birthday or even his mere presence in a room before Ed died. Occasionally now, he will say they should visit Ed’s niche. I’m always tempted to say, “well, why do you acknowledge Ed now that he’s dead, but you never wanted to acknowledge Ed when he was actually alive and right in front of you?” He continues to act like a child, think like a child, behave like a child. It’s amazing that once a man has a regular steady job, gets married and has children, all those checkboxes become a semblance of a “mature functioning adult” when they actually are not in reality.

My parents could have a much better life for themselves if they just made things happened. But they don’t. Their inaction angers and frustrates me, but there’s nothing I can really do for them to help. As awful as it sounds, it’s probably a good thing Ed isn’t here to witness this and endure their constant verbal abuse and contempt.

This is life today without Ed. He’s not missing out on much with this family.

Family proximity with a new baby

We had dinner with two friends tonight who are married and have been living here in New York for about two years. They were eagerly anticipating leaving New York to head back to Hong Kong, where they lived for about eight years. They are both originally from Melbourne and had fantasized about a glamorous expat life in Hong Kong, but it didn’t seem to work out job wise. That, plus they got pregnant, and now our female friend is five months pregnant. They both rationalized that despite the job opportunity not being in Hong Kong that it probably made more sense for them to move back to Melbourne to be close to family, anyway, especially in light of the little one on the way.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t think I’d really love to have my parents “nearby” when I would have a baby. If anything, I think it would add to the stress, especially with my parents’ constant (wrong) belief that they are always right about everything. Not to mention the fact that despite my mom being a JW, she definitely has still kept a lot of her superstitious beliefs, so she’d probably tell me ridiculous things like, I can’t wash my hair for X number of days after the baby is born, or I can’t do Y activity until Z number of days after the baby has been born. Or, I need to drink all these Chinese tonics to cleanse my body (I’ve warmed up to some Chinese medicine ideas, but not all of them). I really could not handle any of that. I’m an adult now, and I don’t need to be told what to do. And when my mom is around, I’m no longer an adult and am of course treated as an eternal child.

Everyone comes from a different family. I accept that. Yes, it’s attractive to have family help nearby because well, it would be free. Childcare is expensive. You don’t have to worry so much about your parents killing your child as you would a total stranger you’ve paid. But still, the idea does not sit very well with me.

Monday, July 29th, again.

Ed died on Monday, July 22, 2013. In this year 2019, six years have passed since his untimely death, and with Leap Year in between, it also meant that it was also Monday, July 22, just last week, which means that today, Monday, July 29, 2019, is also the same Monday as when we held his funeral. It made me sad to think about this last night, to think about the general somberness and misery in our parents’ house that week, how I edited my eulogy for him on the Sunday before, and even argued with our idiot selfish cousin the night before about some reprinting he wanted to do on the program that I refused.

But I also thought about how although time has passed, although my parents lost a child and my dad had heart surgery in this time, they’re probably even more miserable than ever before. You’d think that if someone had heart surgery, they’d rethink how they want to live life. You’d wonder if someone had something so gut-wrenching and tragic happen such as losing a child that they’d make some positive changes in their life, create a new start. But our parents really haven’t done anything like that at all; instead, they barely float in their day-to-day delusional life, my mom with believing Jehovah will save her if she continues her preaching with her Jehovah’s Witness acquaintances and friends (despite never having even converted a single person), my dad with believing that if he just keeps organizing his pills, pulling more cabinet doors apart and breaking them, and accumulating more clutter and junk in the house that everything will be just fine. But it isn’t. It’s like a big accident waiting to happen. And that freaks me out because we all know that if anything happens like that, I’ll have to suck it up and deal with it.

I like to think that a lot inside of me has changed since moving out on my own, losing Ed, leaving my dysfunctional and constantly angry and resentful family. I worry less. I’m still judgmental, but I judge a lot less. Frankly, I also “care” less than I used to about even the closest people in my life, but I think that’s for the better. I used to obsess about whether certain partners were the right fit for my friends, whether they were really making the right choices for themselves, if X action was really going to produce Y result like they’d romanticize… but then finally I realized that what I perceived as “care” (or really, what my mom perceives as “care” which she instilled in me) is really a disguised form of judgment. There’s an innate sense of “I know what’s better for you than you know what is good for you” message in that, and that’s not really right, is it? I am more patient about some things, like when my colleagues are telling me they’ve had a bad day and want to discuss their parents’ alcoholism or their dad’s abusiveness towards their mom. But I’m also a lot less patient at the same time; I have a higher tendency now than ever before to cut my parents off, tell them when I think they’re doing something thoughtless or stupid, and just to tell them that they’re wrong and going to cause their own premature deaths. It’s not very Confucian of me, but I kind of don’t care. What I will tolerate from them has changed quite a bit. They may never fully acknowledge they are wrong about anything because that’s just who they are and what they always will be. But that doesn’t mean I can’t let them know they’re screwing up along the way. The truth hurts.

Ed is gone. It’s really terrible. I feel the most hurt from it every time I go back to San Francisco and leave again. I think the other thing that always gets me is the lives our parents are living and how they do little to nothing to acknowledge him in any way. I’m sure our mom does some self reflection and self blame from time to time; she’s told me a few times. But with my dad, as per usual, I’m pretty certain he’s just blocked it all out of his head. He has no methodology for handling and acknowledging emotions. Instead, he chooses to spend most of his time talking to himself, yelling and swearing in all the ways he would have wanted to if he had more courage and confronting all the people who supposedly have wronged him… including Ed and me.

Ed would be sad to see them today. Even though his relationship with them was tumultuous, I think inside, he just wanted to them to be healthy and happy; towards the end of his life, he used to tell me that he’d pray for our mom’s health every night. But we both always knew that was pretty much impossible.

When everything is filled with drama

I had plans this morning to meet my friends for brunch and some time at the botanical gardens, and given timing, I told my parents that I would meet them at the Neptune Columbarium, where Ed’s niche is. I said I would leave the Golden Gate Park area at around 2 to meet them. Somehow, despite telling both of them this twice, they both “heard” me say that I would meet them at the Columbarium at 2pm. My mom called at 2pm as I was waiting for an Uber to pick me up, and she was panicking as she always days, asking me where I am and why I am not there. I repeated again what I originally said, and I can hear both her and my dad in the background claiming that I never said that, that I said I would meet them at 2pm. I told them that they both didn’t hear me correctly and that I was on my way.

Then, as I spent time at Ed’s niche, they both left me alone and wandered around, getting their free coffees from the front office as they always do, and sitting in their car. It’s a great way to bond with your dead son, making sure you are always getting free refreshments from the place that you spent tens of thousands of dollars on his niche at.

I got back into the car, and they immediately started arguing over where to eat for dinner. I told them that I didn’t mind, that they could choose; it wasn’t a big deal to me. My mom gave me an icy tone, saying she wants to “show respect” to me and have me choose. That’s her not-so-thinly-veiled way of saying that I should choose and “care.” I truly do not have a preference, so I said she could choose since she ate at these places more. Then randomly, my mom started marveling over the visit they had with us to the Salesforce Tower roof yesterday with Chris, and she said she really enjoyed the oat milk latte we ordered for her. Dad said out of nowhere that the free latte was tasteless and bland, and he had no idea how anyone could drink something like that. I told him he rarely drinks lattes and doesn’t know what they are supposed to taste like, plus he probably just had the oat foam. In his usual childish and defensive tone, he said I was wrong. Then, he continued to talk to himself and repeat the word “tasteless” about 10 times on our ride home.

Even after we got home, I could still hear him muttering “tasteless” over and over. This is after he not only had a free and beautiful visit at the tallest building in San Francisco to get a 360-degree view of the city, but he also got free coffee and food there, plus a gondola ride and a walk through the Salesforce Park with me, which he got annoyed about within ten minutes of walking around and said he wanted to leave.

I’ve read so many books and articles about mourning, about parent-child relationships, about death. One of the topics that seems to come up repeatedly is that once someone is dead, you start realizing that you end up missing all the things they used to do that would annoy the hell out of you and increase your blood pressure when they were living. For Ed, this could mean asking me really basic questions that I felt given his age, he should be aware of, or asking me the same question three times over the course of 30 minutes. In my parents’ case, it could mean… hey, one day, when my dad isn’t here anymore, I might actually miss how childish he is and how much mothering he needs. I could end up missing how he needs to ask you the same question three times in three different ways in an hour just because he probably wasn’t listening to your answer the first or second time when he asked. I could possibly end up longing for how ungrateful he is for experiences that I expose him to and how little appreciation he has of pretty everything in the world, whether it’s a beautiful view or a free coffee drink (that someone else is ultimately paying for, one way or another). For my mom, I will probably end up missing how she panics over my safety every second of the day, how she insists on packing me oranges or kiwis in my luggage even though I could easily buy these same fruits in New York, how she is overly critical of me and pretty much every human being on earth.

So when I get annoyed, I have to step back for a second and say to myself, maybe I should be grateful they are pissing me off right now and showing a complete lack of gratitude for how kind and generous Chris and I have been with them. Maybe I should be thankful that they are sitting here, able to complain and criticize everyone. Maybe I should be grateful because of the fact that they are actually still alive, and not everyone is as lucky as I am to have one or both parents still alive.

Annoying family meals

Chris and I planned to have dinner with my parents tonight, but my mom told me last minute that she wanted to bring one of her good friends, as well. I think we all know the reason she wanted to do this: she loves being able to brag about how well her daughter is doing, whether it’s explicit or implicit. I really do not like it, but her friend is actually not the most boring of the people she spends time with, as she actually talks and seems somewhat cultured, so I figured it would be okay.

The conversation really just ended up being between her friend and me. We talked about her recent travels, her cruise, how well her husband, who is pretty much bed-ridden, is doing. And of course, she asked about when we were going to have a baby. She’s personally devastated because she has no faith that her oldest child, her son, will ever meet anyone and be serious enough to get married; then, her daughter, who has been married for over seven years now, seems to be facing some fertility issues. So as a result, she and her husband have decided they will not have children. And because she is so close to my mom, she claims she looks at me like her “second daughter,” so she has all eyes on me and a potential growing belly.

I told her she’d find out when anything new happened. I left it at that. But that answer apparently was not enough, as she asked a second time. “When will you have babies?”

I’m not really sure what kind of a different response you expect when ten minutes have passed, but it was not fun. And to add to the annoyance is my mom saying, “I’ve been waiting and looking forward, but I’ve heard no news!”

And then Chris, to stoke the fire, said, “We have no plans!”

I left to use the restroom. And Chris let me know afterwards that my mom and her friend proceeded to have a 1:1 conversation about why we were not having babies: they travel too much for fun, they travel too much for work, what are they going to do with travel once they have a baby; they might stop traveling; no, they will continue traveling.

When I hear conversations like these, I always wonder: are people choosing to have these pointless conversations because they truly have nothing else to discuss at all or look forward to?