Today is my hubby’s birthday. Normally my parents come over on Fridays to cook their concoction and to do their laundry at our place. So earlier this week on Monday my husband and I actually went on our little lunch date to claim one of his free birthday meal offer in advance as that was the only day we thought we would both be free to eat lunch together.
Yesterday (Thursday) my parents called to cancel. They said that something had come up, and so they didn’t want me to go pick them up on Friday as scheduled. My parents’ cancellation actually turned out better for my schedules. Today we are closing the April general ledger at work, so things are chaotic, and I might even have to stay later at work. Besides, we already have a dinner reservation tonight with my mother-in-law, so I actually like the fact that I don’t have to worry about taking my parents home after work and meeting up with the rest of the family at the restaurant. And if I am lucky enough, my husband and I may even be able to squeeze in another quick birthday lunch in between our separate meetings—even if it has to be a quick fast food drive-thru.
But what gets me is my parents’ attitude. I know I have to learn to not let it bother me, but it does. I had hoped that my parents’ attitude toward my husband would improve at least slightly after we changed title and gave them complete ownership of the senior apartment, but apparently not.
I know for a fact that a few days ago my dad had mentioned it to my brother that today is my husband’s birthday. So it’s not like my parents could have forgotten about my husband’s birthday. May be I am just too skeptical, but I am convinced that my parents have cancelled coming over today to avoid seeing my husband on his birthday. This way they don’t have to feel awkward not saying “happy birthday” and such.
Oh well, it is what it is. As much as I am saddened by my parents’ animosity toward my husband, I just need to learn to not let my parents push my button and focus on being thankful to God that He has given me such a wonderful man!
While my family was on our spring break vacation, I got a Facebook message from the girl who is supposed to be my brother’s girlfriend—or if I can even call her a girlfriend at all. Honestly, I don’t know what to call them. They are seeing each other, but I cannot read their relationship. They definitely do not share the same level of transparency as I would expect from a couple who considers each other a prospective spouse candidate. After all, this girl and my brother are not even Facebook friends. To me, their relationship is more like a casual date, but she says it over and over again that she loves my brother very much and wants to make him the happiest man on earth.
So this girl sent me a message asking me if my parents like her and how I feel about her being my future sister-in-law. Of course my first reaction was “wow, this girl is really ahead of herself.” And truthfully, I was not sure how to respond. Given that my parents resent my husband so much, I cannot imagine my parents ever accepting a daughter-in-law who is not Taiwanese and of her background.
After all, my parents are still grieving over the fact that they had allowed me to make my own decision on my marriage—which in their mind was a terrible, terrible decision. Not only did I not marry up, my parents felt that I had picked the worst possible human being possible among all the candidates I could have picked. To this day, I still don’t understand what is so bad about my husband. And it certainly does not sit well with me that my parents think I have made such a bad decision on my marriage. True, I did not marry a millionaire, nor did I marry someone rich enough to allow me to be a stay-at-home wife or a stay-at-home mom…..but I live a very happy life…..what is wrong with my happy, simple life?
My dad’s words to my brother were, “We thought that your sister was so smart. So we trusted that she could manage everything. But after we came to the U.S., we realized that we were wrong. We had made a big mistake, which made our hearts broken. So we don’t want you to become our second mistake….” In other words, due to my fallout with my parents, my parents now feel that they have to maintain 100% control over my brother’s life—what he does, where he lives, whom she marries….etc. My dad told my brother that he has to be the “hunter,” not the “hunted.”
But the reality is that my parents have always been very controlling people, even though they always deny it and refuse to acknowledge it. The difference between my brother and me is that I have never been a compliant child. I may have given my parents the wrong impression that I was this quiet, innocent, compliant daughter, but the reality has always been that if I want something done, nothing can stop me. I will always find a way around the situation to get to it, with God’s help.
So in order for this girl to ever become my sister-in-law, I think it will require a great deal of efforts on my brother’s part. Is he willing to break his silence and his compliant personality for this girl? Does he love and want her enough to go against my parents? Of course, ultimately, is she really God’s will for my brother and therefore our Almighty God will make it happen?
Ever since the September 11 incidence, I have never been too fond of flying American Airlines. And given that I have a type AAA personality, I would never consider the idea of connecting multiple flights to get to a destination unless it’s absolutely necessary.
But this time, my brother insisted on flying to Miami to this hole-in-the-wall town in Brazil to catch yet another Brazilian domestic flight to get to his final destination. Honestly I did not like his plan at all—especially just to save $400 in airfares.
First of all, my brother is not fluent in English. Secondly, he has never been to the Miami airport, and I am really concerned about his flight transfer. And finally, I am skeptical about flying into this B town. After all, in Brazil, we use the term “people from B” as a prerogative term to describe a country hick. I even sarcastically joked with my brother:
“Are you sure that you are flying into an airport?”
“May be it’s just a control tower?”
“Does the airport even have a runway?”
Anyway, of course, as I should have guessed, today has turned out to be quite a drama. My brother had purchased his tickets without consulting with me first. He happened to be flying out on a morning when my husband had scheduled meetings at work. Initially, the plan was that my husband would take my brother very early in the morning. But then my parents insisted on going to the airport. So we kept changing the plan with my husband’s tight schedule.
But then this morning my husband called me from the airport. My parents wanted to stay at the airport with my brother for as long as they could and insisted that they would figure out a way to get home on their own. I really could do nothing else except to tell my husband to leave them at the airport and to get back to his office.
Ironically, 90 minutes after my husband left the airport, I got a voice mail from my brother saying that he had gone through security checkpoint and was waiting for his plane at the gate. Apparently, my parents had left my brother not too long after my husband left the airport. Seriously? My parents could have just come home with my husband….
I started calling my parents, and of course they did not answer. I prayed for their safety and a smooth transit. But in hindsight, may be I should not have prayed for a smooth transit. May be I should have prayed for a difficult but safe transit so that my parents would not do the same thing again next time!
Anyway, hours later, I located my parents at the train station. I asked them if they were taking the train home, and they said they were taking the bus. It was probably “taking buses.” But thankfully, almost 6 hours later, my parents got home. How? I am not sure, but they got home in one piece.
Then came the drama of my brother’s flight. His international flight was delayed again and again. By the time I received the third notification, I called AA and asked them how confident they were with their “estimated departure time.” AA did not really want to say much, but they basically hinted that it was an indefinite delay.
Hours went by, and it was clear that my brother was going to miss his connecting flight in Brazil. I found myself obsessively tracking his airplane every other minute. Finally over 200 minutes later, the plane left the gate, yet it was just sitting on the runway. So I waited and waited, and after over 4 hours of delay, my brother’s flight finally departed—thank God!
Since my brother has already lost his next connecting flight, now the next drama will be finding the next available flight from B town. So basically the $400 that my brother wanted to save is all going toward purchasing a new plane ticket for his next flight leg. Sigh!
Today my mother-in-law insisted that she had to go to the Emergency Room (which by itself was another a story to blog about). Her toe nail was growing into her toe, and it was so painful that she could not sleep. So first thing this morning, she was determined that she had to be seen by a doctor. While my husband was at the hospital with his mom this afternoon, I went to water my mom’s vegetables in the backyard. My parents had been away, and I knew that I would be in big trouble if any of her plants or vegetables started to turn yellow.
I slowly moved from one section to another section, from the Chinese squash, to the yam leaves….then to my horror realized that one of my mom’s trees was missing! I was not sure what tree it was, but for years we had always known that my mom had planted a tree inside our lemon tree. What happened was that my mom loved to plant things from scratch and to fertilize the yard with every organic and biodegradable trash. So yes, that was why my parents would not even use the toilets in the bathrooms. They would not let anything go to waste—literally.
As a result, a plant of some sort had sprouted in the same spot where we had planted a lemon tree. Actually, that lemon tree was a Mother’s Day gift to my mom when they were living with us. As soon as I spotted that a tree was growing right by the lemon tree, I had mentioned it to my mom that it would be a bad idea to plant things so close together. But my mom didn’t care, and it was a battle I did not want to fight. My mom always did things that never made sense to me, and it was useless arguing with her because she was always older and therefore always wiser and right—as she said.
For years, my husband had been complaining about the fact that the mysterious tree was intertwining with the lemon tree, and every time I gave my husband the same response, “There is nothing I can do about it. My mom does whatever she wants to do.”
This afternoon just as I was getting ready to message my husband from my phone about the missing tree, I noticed that my husband had actually sent me a couple messages already:
My husband: “Taking my mom to Kaiser now. Love you!”
My husband: “Leaving Kaiser now.”
Me: “When did you saw down my mom’s tree?!?!?!?!”
My husband: “A couple weeks ago.”
Me: “You got to be kidding me!!!!!!!!”
My husband: “I thought I told you. It was taking over the lemon tree.”
Me: “Told me what!!!!! I don’t care if the lemon tree is dead!!!!!! I don’t need another drama with my mom!!!!!!”
Of course, my husband knew that he would be coming home to an erupting volcano; he just didn’t know that there would be no end to the eruptions tonight.
I am still so, so mad! Years ago my husband had already offended my mom when he cleaned up (and ended up destroying) her plants. My husband is a neat freak, and my mom is overboard practical. My mom has no order to anything. She just simply wants to plant something “useful” in every spot. She doesn’t care if there is green onions between the rose bushes or if the yam leaves are overtaking the lawn. In fact, my mom said we were stupid to spend so much water maintaining a lawn—a lawn that produces nothing edible for human beings. My mom does not just want a garden or a farm in the backyard. She wants a rainforest!
My husband said he thought I had told him “ok” in regards to cutting down the mysterious tree—which sent me even more through the roof. Even if I had truly said “ok,” my husband should be smart enough and should have enough common sense to know that it would be a very stupid thing to do. I mean, even animals can be trained to respond to a specific condition with negative reinforcement, how can my husband be so oblivious and just keeps offending my mom again and again—especially with this whole tree/plant thing again! My husband has certainly broken the Guinness World Records when it comes offending his mother-in-law.
I don’t know. My parents will be here on Tuesday, and I simply do not know what kind of drama I am going to have with my mom….again! Sigh!
Every time my parents are away, something just has to happen. The previous two times my parent(s) travelled, they got summoned for social security interviews. Of course, my parents were convinced that my “devilish” husband had orchestrated all those issues in an attempt to “sabotage” them.
This time my parents didn’t even tell me that they were going anywhere. I had heard about their trip through the grapevine by some coincidental events and eventually got the confirmation from my brother. My parents tried to make it look like my brother was the one who had planned everything, but my brother apparently had no clue about any details. Needless to say, I just played along and pretended that I was that dumb. After all, if my parents want to go somewhere, they can go. I really don’t care why or where they want to go….
Being the skeptical me, I have speculated that one of the main purposes of this trip is to find my brother a “wife”—a Taiwanese wife to be specific, or a “candidate” at the minimum…but I don’t know. I am simply speculating.
As soon as the three of them took off, I received my dad’s jury summon notice at my address—a bad omen I guess. Then last week, my parents’ downstair neighbor called—the same one whose bathroom ceiling was ruined not too long ago due to a leak in my parents’ shower pipe. We had spent quite a few dollars fixing and patching things up—only to find that both the neighbor and my parents wanted to “take advantage of the situation,” or to put it bluntly—to take advantage of our checkbook.
So now the neighbor is complaining that my parents’ unit has this running water all day and all night. We don’t have keys to the unit, so there is really not much we can do. I had sent an e-mail to my brother, but so far he has not responded. Then today during my lunch, the association contacted me. They felt that the water noise is becoming a nuisance to the neighbors and that they are going start taking actions. So if they have to hire a locksmith to enter the unit and a plumber to turn off the water, then a bill will be sent to us.
Well, what can I say? My parents are nowhere to be found. They are not answering their cellular phone, and my brother is not responding to my e-mail or Facebook message. And at the same time, I really can’t disclose too much information to anyone and risk another set of drama with my parents. So I simply told them the truth that I don’t have any keys to the unit, and all I know is that they are travelling with my brother for a few weeks.
I am sure that when my parents find out about this incidence, they are going to point fingers at my husband—again. But may be this is just another way that God is assuring and comforting us for our decision to take our names off the property. We are never going to be able to change my parents or to sever the family drama web, but at least it would be nice and wise (to a certain extent) to get ourselves untangled from the legal mess….
My kids had Tae Kwon Do tonight, so as soon as we got home, I rushed my daughter to get dressed in her uniform. Instead of going straight to her room as instructed, my daughter went to get the mail from our mailbox. I heard my daughter greeting and talking to someone at the door, so I got impatient. I shut the front door and reprimanded my daughter for not following instructions.
“But I saw grandma outside,” my daughter protested.
“What???” I peeked through the front door, but not one was outside.
“Yes, grandpa and grandma were just outside on the driveway.”
I went outside, called out to my dad, and found my parents “hiding” in a corner.
“You just got here?” I asked.
“No, we are just about to leave,” my dad hesitantly said.
“Ok, then let me take you home.”
Surprisingly, my dad did not decline. When I saw the bags of stuff my parents had collected, I realized why my parents had accepted to be chauffeured back. I was not sure what was in the bags, but they looked heavy.
I tried to make small talk, but I purposely did not ask about their appearance at the house. My dad, however, felt like he had to explain or something.
“We were not planning to come here. But we were on the bus, and since the bus took us to the neighborhood, we thought we should get off the bus to come water the vegetables,” my dad explained.
I did not respond to that, but in my mind I was thinking, “So you randomly got on a bus that somehow took you to our neighborhood…” I think my parents lost track of time and thought that they could sneak out before we got home, but as luck would have it, my daughter decided to get the mail today. So they were “caught.”
Except for a couple brief phone conversations, I haven’t really had much contact with my parents lately. On the night my dad flew in from Brazil, my husband brought a bag of food and snacks to go pick up my dad at the airport. But my dad did not eat anything except for the banana. I would not be surprised if he was concerned that my husband may be trying to poison him. When my mom found out that I was not going to the airport, she said that she would not go to the airport either. She was probably worried that my husband may try to murder her or something….
As soon as I found out about my parents’ Social Security Office interview, I went ahead and scheduled time off from work so that I could take my parents to their appointment. But my parents insisted on taking the bus themselves and declined my offer to take them or to pick them up. I did not want to pick up a fight with them, so I just let it be. I also invited my parents to go Easter egg hunting with the kids during the weekend, but each time the response was “we will see.”
On Friday night I invited my parents for the third time to the Easter egg hunt. When my dad found out that we were going to a park, he actually finally agreed after much hesitations. So on Saturday morning I called to confirm the time. My mom picked up the phone, and as soon as I said “mom,” my mom passed the phone to my dad without saying a word. Then when we went to my parents’ place, only my dad had come down to the sidewalk.
I asked my dad, “Where is mom?”
He replied, “She is at choir practice.”
I felt strange but did not want to ask any more questions. I handed the grocery bag to my dad and asked him to take the bag up to the freezer first. As I moved to the back seat to join my kids, I happened to look up and saw my mom staring at us from the third floor public hallway window. As soon as our eyes met, that person turned and walked away. Since it was just for a split of a second, I can’t say that I was entirely sure that it was my mom, but she looked like my mom….
In a way it was actually better that my mom did not go. For sure she would have complained about the kids eating candies, decorated cookies….and particularly getting the face painting with glitter. My mom has all these phobias with things that can cause the slightest health concern, and she is very vocal about her concerns. She even hates it when my son’s hair is gelled because the hair gel is a “chemical product”.
Thankfully the afternoon with my dad was uneventful. He did not say much, but at least he seemed to enjoy the train ride and the hay ride with his grandson. We took him to Hawaiian BBQ afterwards, and while he didn’t really eat much, at least he did not complain about the unhealthy food we were eating. If my mom had been there, she would have once again griped about the cancer risk from BBQ meat….and definitely her dislike of the artificial coloring in the Hawaiian shave ice.
When we returned to my parents’ place, my son had fallen asleep. So I stayed in the car while my husband and my daughter went up with my dad to go put in the new bathroom vent. Interestingly my mom was actually not home. I had lowered the passenger seat to take a nap in the car while I waited, so I did not see anything on the street. But supposedly, while my husband was putting in the bathroom vent, my mom returned.
Of course as expected, my mom did not say a word to my husband. But at least she greeted my daughter. It was kind of hard to believe that my mom would be in choir practice for 8 hours, but then I really cannot say that the woman I saw looking through the window earlier was definitely my mom….who knows, may be I am becoming as paranoid as my parents….
“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life; getting back up is living.”
-José N. Harris, Mi Vida
My friend J gave me this quote two weeks ago as an encouragement to help me cope with all the stresses dealing with my parents. I must admit, it was not easy to “walk away.” Even back in 2008, the first nurse whom I saw at the pregnancy clinic already told me that I needed to remove myself from my negative parents, but I just could not do it. I was pregnant for the third time at the age of 37, a huge shock and emotional roller coaster that I was not ready to deal with. And to compound my emotional, spiritual, and mental problems, my mom was very adamant about it and insisted that I terminate the pregnancy. The situation was so bad that my boss actually paid for me to go get counseling….another crisis in my life that deserves a separate blog….
This morning my colleague M complimented on how good and happy I look. She said that lately I have been looking so sad and depressed that she was afraid to say anything. She just quietly prayed for me. Yes, despite the fact that my daughter has been driving me nuts since last night for not staying on top of her academic tasks, I actually woke up happy and excited to go attend the award assembly at my daughter’s school. Even though I know that my parents must be fuming and bubbling anger lava in their little corner, I have been more peaceful and calmer emotionally in my little corner due to the lack of direct contact with my parents.
So for now, I need to learn to focus on what is truly important, to spend my energy on what truly matters, and just enjoy my moment of being a “proud mom.”
José N. Harris, Mi Vida
This morning my brother e-mailed to let me know that my dad got to the big city and was able to get a seat on the international flight to come back to the U.S. This is by far the most expensive travel expenditure ever. Had we known that my dad was going to be in Brazil for just a couple weeks, we could have gotten the cheaper ticket and could have saved $500 on the international airfare. And since the trip was not planned in advance, even the domestic portion from the big city to the little town where my brother is cost a whopping U.S. $777 for ONE-WAY. But since my dad has to make it back to his interview appointment here, we had to pay $100 penalty fee for my dad to move up the travel date and to be on standby. I didn’t even want to ask my brother how much he had to pay for another last minute domestic flight from his little town to the big city for my dad to catch the Boeing 777 at the international airport. I am just thankful that this time it’s my brother who is absorbing the costs of the big ticket items.
So I called my mom to let her know that dad is waiting at the boarding gate in the big city. As soon as I gave my message, I wanted to say bye and hang up. But my mom had other requests. She wanted her pot (actually our pot) and sugar to make her secret cure-all potion. My husband and I had actually “inherited” the pot from my mother-in-law. And I had actually since then bought my parents a new pot, but….I didn’t even want to ask my mom what had happened to the pot I gave them. May be they are just creatures of habits and have to use this particular pot? May be they are too frugal to use the new pot? Or may be they have forgotten about the new pot?
As my kids were getting ready for school, I pulled out the “pot,” and once again it was filthy dirty and stained. I really should have taken a picture so that I could post a before and after photo, but I didn’t. Frankly, I don’t know how a person could have stained the pot to the extent that my parents do with normal cooking.
I used vinegar, baking soda, and I tried to scrub off all the brown stain and sticky stuff. I made some improvements, but honestly I would not want to use that pot ever again. I am not a neat person, but I am a germaphobic. I also noticed the screws on the handles were loose, so I reminded my husband to tighten the screws before he delivers the precious pot to my mom. Or else she might accuse my husband of “destroying their pot.”
The irony is that my mom complained to me that my husband is useless, is no good to me, is filthy, and is dirty. He doesn’t ever help clean the house and doesn’t care that our kids are exposed to dust and germs. Yes, my husband has given up cleaning up after them because my parents revert everything back to square one the next day, whether it’s the pot, the stove, or the floor. So my husband no longer does the deep cleaning unless we know that they are going to be gone for an extended period of time—the weekend at least. But really, I don’t think I can find a person on this planet who will say that my husband is dirty and doesn’t clean. A neat freak, yes! But sloppy? Far, far from it. Even my husband’s closet is color coded by hangers. He has all the dress shirts on pink hangers, all the casual pants on light blue hangers, all the dress pants on dark blue hangers, etc. I don’t even think my mom sees how dirty she makes everything! She clearly cannot see how bad the pot is.
My dad is flying back from Brazil tomorrow, and I have been dreading so much about it that I find myself progressively being more and more easily annoyed by everything and everyone today. Someone from the Bookstore called the Cashier. I answered the phone and actually said, “What do you want now?” My daughter got a choice slip from school due to missed assignment, and I have been fuming about it the entire night.
Every little thing ticks me off, and physically I am starting to feel sick again. My sore throat is getting worse, I don’t have an appetite, and I am torn between all my thoughts. I am worried if my husband is going to have another incidence with my dad during the airport pick-up. I guess it’s a good thing that my mom has declined going to the airport. I think she fears that my husband will do something to her on the way.
And I know that as soon as my dad returns, the inevitable topic about the money, the house, and the senior apartment will come up again. We have so much money meddling with the debts and the two properties that there is really no easy way to determine what is fair and what should be done.
In my parents’ eyes, our home is their home, and our names should have never been on the title to start with. It should have been their names all along. We were all too naive to think that my husband and I could have borrowed the money from the bank to purchase the house under my parents’ names. Long story short, we ended up borrowing the mortgage under our names and purchasing the house under our names. Hence, we have scammed my parents’ money—as my parents call it.
And to make the matter worse, our original loan application didn’t get approved as our income-debt ratio was too high. So my parents had to borrow money from my aunt to help pay off our debts—my husband’s debts actually as his parents had filed bankruptcy and couldn’t fund his college education or car.
Initially we had actually signed a quit claim deed to my side of the family, but when we refinanced, the parties involved were “forced” to sign the reconveyance. And I haven’t really been too proactive to initiate a second quit claim deed because the truth is that after all was said and done, there was not much equity left for my parents to claim anything, and with the interest rates dropping, I was too lazy and too cheap to do and redo this whole process again if we were to refinance again. But in hindsight, yes, I should have pushed for the quit claim deed again.
Then when things started to go really sour with my parents, my brother gave me the permission to use his money to move my parents out of the house. Living together for that one year just brought out the worst in all of us, and it was fights day after day, night after night. Even with my brother’s monetary help, we could not find a rental where we could sustain the rental payments for more than a year. Then we ended up using my brother’s money to purchase a small senior apartment. At least that way, we could afford the second mortgage payment.
My parents were furious when we asked them to move out. They were already upset that we had scammed their money, and now we are also scamming my brother’s money and kicking them out of their house. In the heat of the fight, I said and promised my mom something that I should not have—I told her that once the senior apartment is free of lien, it will be my brother’s name on the title. Not mine, not husband’s, just my brother’s.
In reality, the whole mathematical calculation is out of balance. We are the ones who have been paying the mortgage payments, the property taxes, and all the home improvement projects on both properties. Yes, we could have never ever purchased any of the properties without my parents’ or my brother’s money, but we have poured in a lot of money, not to mention that we have been funding all of my parents’ expenses: telephone, utilities, association fees, health insurance….we have always taken care of them….down to the international airfares and gifts….
I am physically and emotionally tired, so given that they are my parents, I am more ready to just walk away from this whole mess than my husband ever will be—just to have no string attached . I have to admit, my husband has been a person with a very big heart these last 10 years. It’s not easy to put up a superficial smile and try to act normal around and toward people whom hate you guts and call you the devil. Every encounter with my parents has been a walk on the eggshells. So I am just really praying for God’s guidance and wisdom for this very, very messy situation. May be I should start buying lottery tickets =)
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