“Please take care of her”

Chris flew into San Francisco today for the week for work, and so we met up with my parents and aunt tonight for dinner at one of the very few spots that my parents will not complain about when we go to eat. Dinner really did not last very long; we generally don’t have much conversation past “How’s work?” or “How’s the weather been in San Francisco/New York?”, so it’s not like we have any real catching up to do. It probably lasted just over an hour, even with five courses of food.

Chris noted at the end that my mom was being unusually friendly and warm to him throughout the evening. She was much more affectionate, touchy-feely, and she smiled a lot more than she normally does (outside of the period when she first met him, of course). At the very end, as we said our goodbyes and we headed back to downtown as they went back to the house, my mom says to Chris, “Please take care of her,” and does her little laugh.

Oh, that’s what this was about, Chris said. She’s scared I’m going to dump you the way my cousin and wife broke up just recently!

I’m still not sure that’s what that was really about, but maybe that is true? All parents’ worst fears are around their children getting dumped or left alone with a child, or being poor.


Anti-social to the max

It’s always a bit funny to me when people ask me how my parents are doing, especially the people in my life who have known me all my life or the majority of it. There’s nothing really that has changed about them, other than perhaps an increasing distrust of the world and people around them. Other than that, they are pretty much the same people, plus whatever number of years that have passed.

Today, my friends and I went out on a day trip and came back, and they dropped me off in front of my parents’ house. My dad was coming out of the garage onto the driveway, which really isn’t that far from where my friend’s car was stopped. My friends, being the friendly people they are who have known my dad as long as they’ve known me, so over 21 years, smiled and waved directly at him. He had a confused look on his face, as though he’d never seen either of them before, and says to me, “who’s that?” When I told him who they were, you know, people we’ve known forever and who were party of my bridal party, he simply says, “oh,” and walks back into the garage.

So much for being friendly and waving back.


Pending danger

I arrived home this morning in San Francisco to the astonishment that it was not only sunny at SFO, but also that the sun continued to remain out even as we traveled up 280 and into the Richmond District. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make these visits happier.

What wasn’t fun was listening to my parents bicker in the car ride home about everything from whether they were going to change Ed’s photo in his niche to something as simple as where a reusable bag was located in the house.

The house looks worse than it did the last time I was here three months ago. More piles of clutter everywhere. The downstairs’ windows are all covered in black blankets for only God knows what reason. The paint has peeled and flaked down there to the point where the Bowery Mission looks more glamorous than my parents’ basement. Looking at the walls,  I really think that this back room leading into the yard looks like it will collapse any day now. I spent about an hour dusting the mantles and cleaning off framed photos in the living and dining areas, and my bedroom. The dusting isn’t going to help a completely cluttered and dangerously piled-up cord situation in pretty much every room. Where does all this crap come from, and it’s not even being used?!

The fun just increased when after we came back from dinner with my cousins and aunt, we opened the front door and were greeted with a big gush of grey smoke and the unmistakable smell of burning. My mom had left a pot on the stove with the flame on unattended for a good two hours. The contents of the pot had completely evaporated, and the pot was burnt to a crisp. The stove top even has burn remnants now.

My fear is that one day, my parents are going to get killed in some accident that they caused, and I’m going to have to fly home and deal with all of this. These are the moments when I feel loneliness the most because Ed is gone from this world, and I have no one else in the world who fully understands the massive amount of stress and adversity our parents can inflict.

Father’s Day dreams

I awoke this morning from a dream where I was in a large, eclectic market, one that is reminiscent of the beautiful markets we browsed and inhaled recently in Oaxaca. Only this time, instead of being with Chris, I was with my brother. I turned a corner into a brightly colored stall to see my brother sitting at a low, round table, painted pink. He had wax paper lining almost the entire table, and on top sat at least a dozen different Dominican pastries. Some were filled with guava. Other looked like rolls. A few others looked like cheese breads. But they all looked and smelled delectable. Ed peered up at me and asked me to sit down.

“Look at what I picked up from the market!” he exclaimed, clearly proud and joyful of his edible finds. Before I could even sit down and take a bite, though, our mother appeared out of nowhere and started yelling at him.

“Why did you buy all this junk?” she yelled. “We can’t eat all this. It’s not good for you. You should have asked before getting us this! What a waste!”

Ed’s face immediately soured, and I was put off, as well. It was like real life once upon a time all over again: Ed being happy about something, then immediately having all the happiness drained from the situation because our mother decides to ruin the situation and make everything negative. Then, my dad appeared out of nowhere and didn’t say a word. How typical.

It was like my reality but in another country. And well, it was a dream. Or was it?

And, a happy father’s day to you, too.

This used to be my garden

When I was little, I used to spend a lot of time in the backyard of my family’s house. Then, when I was wee tall, it felt like a big garden, a place full of mysteries and things to be uncovered. I played with different bugs, chased butterflies, smashed snails (no one likes these hideous things eating our plants), dug holes and buried things. I occasionally tried to grow plants. Some worked out (snow peas, cherry tomatoes, and some didn’t (endless variety of flower seeds that I cannot even remember all their names). I rode my tricycle in ovals around it, failingly attempted to learn how to bike in it (it was too small), and horsed around with my brother and our super soakers. When Willie, my incredibly intelligent pet parakeet, was around for seven years, he used to sun, sing, and take little bird baths out there and keep me company. Once, he even escaped from his cage and chased a hummingbird. That yard is full of fond memories for me. It was like my happy place in a not so happy home. My grandma made that yard into a true garden filled with gladiolus, birds of paradise, Chinese new year pink blossoms, her very proud apple tree (which produced dry and tasteless apples, but at least it looked good), Asiatic lilies, dahlias, and other gorgeous plants.

Once she died, the garden died. The entire place went into disrepair because my mom didn’t have the time to maintain it, and my dad didn’t care to take care of it even though he talked about caring about it. Weeds overtook the blossoms, and the flowers gradually stopped blooming. My dad occasionally tried his hand at things like rhododendron, lilies, hybrid tea roses, and star jasmine, but it never really stuck. The place of calm and beauty that was once a part of that house was gone.

When I came back home this morning after an early morning flight, I went downstairs into the yard. It just looks worse and worse every time I go home: the fences bordering off neighbors are chipping and discolored. Piles and piles of dirt are everywhere. It’s weeds galore no matter where you look. What was once grass is now a bunch of yellowed, hay-like crunchy stuff. But there are some hints of life of things my dad has tried and successfully grown, such as rosemary, English lavender, and a single Double Delight hybrid tea rose shrub that is managing to survive despite having most of its leaves covered in some speckled black disease. There’s even a beautiful cymbidium orchid that is now blooming in the corner of the yard, away from what you’d see when you take a quick glance around. It still looks like hell, though. This is certainly no garden or paradise, and I’m certain if my grandma were to be reawakened from the dead to see the state of her yard, she’d probably drop dead on the spot.

It’s strange, though, to think that this yard used to feel so big to me, and now it feels so small. Yes, I’m bigger and obviously an adult now; decades have passed since I used to spend long hours out here. But the way I look at it is so different, everything from the size to the scale to even the way the apple tree and the fences look. It used to be so comforting, a mini escape. But now, it’s not happy anymore. It’s depressing and not even a fraction of what it used to be to me.

It’s like that Madonna song “This Used to Be My Playground,” with the chorus that goes:

This used to be my playground (used to be)
This used to be our pride and joy
This used to be the place we ran to
That no one in the world could dare destroy
This used to be our playground (used to be)
This used to be our childhood dream
This used to be the place we ran to
I wish you were standing here with me

It’s all been destroyed.

Calling home

I didn’t call home at all last week. It wasn’t really a conscious decision; it was more that work felt very stressful and dramatic given all the changes that had happened in the last two weeks that at the end of each day, I felt very little energy to talk to anyone on the phone. And talking to my parents would not be an upside to the day given all the inane questions they typically ask. I’d also worry that my mom would sense my tense tone and think something was wrong, and the last thing I really need is for her to worry even more about me than she already does.

So tonight, I called home, and when my dad answered the phone, he didn’t even say hello in response to me; he simply handed the phone to my mom. My mom said he was in the middle of something and was busy; too busy to say hi to his own daughter?

That kind of thing is just ridiculous. How difficult is it to greet your child over the phone? Does that sort of thing need to be taught?

Dysfunctional relatives visit

So my aunt has been in town for the last several days, and she suggested that we meet up for lunch with Chris today. That lunch ended up never happening because she insisted on bringing her friend, who we will call Marie, with her. My aunt is constantly inviting random Jehovah’s Witness friends to pretty much every single family gathering we’ve had since before I can even remember.

I’ve never liked Marie. She’s a free loader, a gossip, and judgmental to the point where I highly question how “Christian” she really is. She’s a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, which is how she and my aunt met. To me personally, she’s said disparaging things about my brother (yeah, you really do not want to go there with me), made sweeping statements about my husband just because of his Indian ethnicity, and has made generalizations of what it’s like to be the wife of an Indian man and that I should “be aware” of those things. So, the last thing I want is to meet up with my aunt and have her insipid JW sidekick join me for a free lunch.

The worst part is that even though she’s fully aware that I dislike Marie, she still brings her to meals with me unannounced. So I don’t even get to decide whether I see her before I actually see her. This time, she actually told me via text that Marie would be coming, to which I said, “can you please come by yourself?” She then responded that Marie needed her help and that she could not leave her alone. Let me get this straight: she can’t be left alone because she’s supposedly unwell, but she can travel with you to a restaurant in the East Village to meet me?

There’s enough dysfunction in my family as is. I don’t need someone who is not family from the JW world to be brought in to annoy me and eat with me. When I told her I didn’t want to go if she would bring Marie, she simply responded that she’d see me the next time I’d be in San Francisco. I guess that’s the way it’s going to be, then.

Story time

This afternoon, I went uptown to my cousin’s place to drop off a very belated Christmas gift for his son and to spend some time with his son. He’s just over five years old now and in kindergarten at the autistic school in the neighborhood. It’s been really trying for my cousin and his wife to be a parent to this little innocent child, and for the short time I was there, I was already feeling a bit impatient and tired being around him. You can’t really help what kids end up with, and so as I am trying to interact with him, play, and read with him, I can tell his focus isn’t quite there. I’m having a hard time gauging what he wants. He’s interested in me one second, then physically pushes me away another, and his eye contact is still poor. One minute he wants me to read him a book, and the next, he takes the book out of my hands, throws it against the wall, and wants to play with his toy guitar. It finally took some coaxing from his mother to get him to sit on the couch properly with me and read together. It was short-lived peace, though.

I felt terrible as I was leaving. I don’t think the best of my cousin or his wife. But I do feel sorry for them. I was barely there an hour and already felt frustrated. How do they probably feel every single day? 

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.


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.