Pants for Dad

February 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

This story comes a month late, but I think it’s still worth sharing! I like to write a blog post every year when I’m home for the holidays, so here’s mine from Christmas 2015:

On the evening of Tuesday, December 22, my parents and I spent almost an hour and a half at Macy’s…just to buy a pair of $39 pants.

We had already gone to a number of stores (Whole Foods, Ulta, Target), and Macy’s was our last stop. Mom was trying to spend $40 in Macy’s Money she had gotten for spending $200 online. Before we left the house, she tried to print the coupon from her iPad, but whenever we tried to enter the captcha to print, the popup disappeared. We figured the cashier could just look it up in her Macy’s account. Macy’s customer service is always obliging as long as you’re a cardholder!

We didn’t really have anything in mind to buy, but I brought up to mom that dad really needed some new pants. Since coming home, the only pants I had seen him wear were baggy, light-wash jeans that would fit someone 40 pounds heavier than him. His belt cinched so much extra material that at first glance I thought he was wearing jeans with an elasic waistband. They’re not just dad jeans, they’re dad jeans for the formerly fat dad.

The thing is, my dad has never been fat. And right now, he’s quite trim at 160 pounds. But he likes his pants loose and cheap — he’s proud of buying them for $7 from whatever clearance department he trolls on his business trips.

So at Macy’s, I grabbed a pair of black Levi’s (regular fit, slightly relaxed in the thigh) and made him try them on. He came out complaining that they were too tight but mom and I both agreed they fit him perfectly! Plus they were on sale.

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Death In The Family

March 1, 2015 Comments Off on Death In The Family

My grandpa — 爷爷 — died this morning.

He was more than 90 years old, and his health had been declining for years. The most recent pictures I saw were of him lying in bed in some kind of hospice, curled up with his eyes tightly closed and a thin tube wrapped around his head going into his nose. He didn’t look comfortable.

My dad told me last month when he showed me the pictures that my grandpa was no longer able to eat or digest food, thus the feeding tube. 爷爷 wasn’t tall from what I remember, but he was still healthily hefty just a few years ago, but had wasted away to skin and bones.

He had dementia for the past number of years as well. He had started forgetting who we were even in 2008, the last time we went to China as a family. Grandma would admonish him to say hi to us. “Who?” he’d say. Dad would have to introduce himself. “It’s me; your son.” 爷爷 would smile and nod. “Ah, yes, good.”

I have a picture of him from when I visited Shenyang by myself in 2010, when he could still feed himself and get around slowly with his walker. “Sometimes grandpa remembers who I am … but usually not,” I wrote.

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Holidays At Home

December 25, 2013 § 1 Comment


I said in an earlier post that I wanted to start blogging more regularly, especially writing more about my day-to-day life just to have some sort of non-social-media record of it. Seems easy enough, but I realize now that it’s going to be harder than I thought.

When I blog now, I can’t help but try to make the content seem more significant somehow. For example, my parents stopped haranguing me about my appearance (now that I’m back down to a slimmer size and my skin has cleared up). I could just report it plainly, but I always end up going off on some tangent about the past or how this new development fits into society at large, etc. Then my brain gets tired and I don’t end up writing much of anything at all.

But I’m determined to try!

Doctor WhoThis winter break has been better than most. I finally, finally have a full-time job (on the horizon; if I haven’t told you about it yet, feel free to ask me in person!), which means that my parents can relax. They’ve probably been stressed out about it for the past three years…I feel bad. But now it’s all good! As I mentioned above, they have nothing to criticize about my appearance (Asian kids know what I’m talking about…no pimple is off limits). Plus, I already have a boyfriend I’ve been dating long-term and whom I’m basically moving to be with, so I don’t have to deal with who-or-when-are-you-dating questions. (Inquiries of marriage are a different story, though I’m still young enough to deflect them lol.)

So, for once there are no grey clouds hanging over our heads. (Unless you count my brother, who just locks himself in his room to play League of Legends.)

My parents have been busying themselves with cooking, especially dad. He’s definitely head chef in the family when it comes to dinner parties and such. My mom can cook too (I mean, what Chinese person from their generation doesn’t know how?), but she doesn’t enjoy it nearly as much as he does.

On Christmas Eve, we had my aunt’s family over as well as some “orphaned” Chinese kids (not really orphans; that’s just what my friends and I call people our age whose parents live overseas or happen to be on vacation elsewhere), which brought us to nine people total. Dad ended up cooking enough to feed at least 20. An impressive spread to be sure, but mother was displeased and remarked later that he could’ve done with making a bit less. He didn’t reply, but I could tell he was thinking woman, let me cook! It doesn’t help that everyone seems to be more aware of waistlines than before and tend to eat less than we would have maybe five or 10 years ago.

Sailor Moon gif

nom nom nom for 20 minutes before we all get full

Thus, we ended up with so many leftovers. Dad doesn’t have to worry about them because in a week and a half, he’ll be halfway across the country again for work. My dumb brother is incredibly picky and refuses to eat leftovers, which leaves poor mother to slowly graze through them (she’s tiny and doesn’t need much food to begin with).

Overall, though, things are fine in the Li household. Me finding a job lifted the tension considerably. My relationship with my parents has always been tumultuous, so my goal for now is to simply keep my parents happy. For today, that means DJing Christmas music (now playing: The Nutcracker Suite) and recommending mother movies to drag my dad to watch. Hehe.

Ode To My Mother

June 21, 2012 § 5 Comments

I have an uneasy relationship with my mother.

Perhaps this is true of many people, but among my close friends, I always seemed like the odd one out. I envy the people whose mothers are their confidante or close friend or basically anything that doesn’t involve disapproval 90% of the time and indifference the other 10. I’ve tried confiding my romantic interests in her ever since the first crush, but she usually manages to use that information against me (“He’ll never like someone like you,” “You’re not allowed to date,” “He’s not good enough by my standards and I don’t care what you think,” etc.), so I put an end to that just this week.

Recently, I figured that 99% of the criticism toward me in my life has been from my mother. I think that’s the main reason why I take criticism very poorly, especially from female teachers/professors. Even the most neutral constructive criticism from an older woman can feel like a personal attack, because that’s basically what I’m used to. It sounds harsh, but most of my friends who have grown up with me know how scared I am of my mother. (It’s weird because at approximately 5’1, my mother is the shortest person in our family, yet I’ve learned that usually short women are the feisty ones.)

I don’t know when it started. Perhaps it was after my brother was born. (I was 7.) Perhaps it was after I entered middle school and it became clear that I wasn’t going to reach my mother’s expectations, a shortcoming she has frequently reminded me of. There have been so many emotionally destructive instances over the years that when my mother actually acknowledges my wish to be a writer and urges me to write some kind of memoir, I just chuckle wryly to myself and think, yes, but I wouldn’t allow it to be published until after you pass, because you’ll probably be horrified by my memories of you.

She brought up this memoir thing again last week, and after once again exhorting me to pitch something to Reader’s Digest or our local newspaper (“Do you think journalists only get paid to write about themselves?!” I asked), she said, “You know, if I had the time or ability to write well, I would do it, and I bet I could get published easily. I have a lot of life experiences to write about.”

And that made me pause. Yeah, I bet my mother, who grew up in communist China and immigrated to the U.S. 21 years ago, does have some interesting stories to tell. The sad thing is that I don’t know any of them, because we basically never talk. The majority of our exchanges, while I was a teen, were one-sided lectures. My mother’s not the kind of person to ask how I’m feeling. And in college, I only spoke to my parents once every few weeks, and though it’s slightly embarrassing to admit, those conversations only lasted 10 minutes or so. (It flabbergasts me that B talks to his parents on the phone for at least 30 minutes almost every day. I can’t even imagine doing that in person.)

I always thought to myself, well, we’ll get closer when I get older. When I have a job. When I’m successful. When I’m good enough. Then, maybe, we can talk. But what if it’s too late? The mother of a guy at church was in a horrible car collision last week that put her in a coma and required emergency brain surgery. She’s recovering well now, but life is just that fragile and unexpected. As a journalist, my goal is to tell other people’s stories — what if I never hear those of my mother? Her own mother died of lung cancer when I was 2.

It’s a pity that I never got to know my grandmother. I have one photo of her, which I keep on my bookshelf. She looks like a kind woman, and as the youngest of four girls, my mother was most likely as spoiled as anybody in the lurches of Mao’s Great Leap Forward could be. My mother always spoke fondly of her mother. I imagine that they were close, and I wonder if and when I’ll be able to experience that kind of relationship.

Grandma and me

A friend once asked me if I have daddy issues because my father has traveled for work for as long as I can remember, around the world for maybe months at a time. I was surprised, because that was the first and only time anybody had brought it up. After thinking about it, my answer would be a resounding no. I’ve never been boy-crazier than the next girl, and I’ve had healthy, functional romantic relationships so far. I’ve always known that my father loves me. What I have is just the opposite: mommy issues.

For most of my life, I just wanted my mom to like me. It might seem like an exaggeration, but I rarely got any hint that she did. There are a few positive memories, such as her coming to my badminton games or taking me prom dress shopping, buried in the mountain of why aren’t you good enough why aren’t you good enough recollections. (At this point, you might be inclined to think that I enjoy victimizing myself a bit too much, and I might agree with you, but traumatic memories are hard to rewrite.)

It’s a bit tragic to admit, but one of my greatest fears is that I’ll turn out like my mother. (Pretty sure only deadbeat parents would enjoy hearing that.) Yet there are small things I’ve picked up that might not necessarily have originated from my mother, but make us alike nonetheless. For example, she has always liked painting her nails. I mean, she doesn’t do it to a crazy manicure addict’s degree, but she does like keeping a few bottles of pinks and reds around to decorate her toes. I remember being fascinated with her nail polish as a child, and once when playing with one, I accidentally dripped some onto the carpet. When she found out, she furiously forced me to kneel on the ground in the living room for an hour. (Never let it be said that my parents were particularly good at appropriate discipline.) So…yeah. There was that, but hey! Nail polish buddies!

My still-expanding collection

We both have a thing for cats — she has a penchant for tigers because she was born in the year of the tiger, while I tend to like all cats in general, though she’s pretty much afraid of all animals (even hamsters) and I’m allergic to cats, so we could never actually have one. And she basically loves the color red just as much as I am obsessed with hot pink, so we share some kind of…inclination/loyalty toward bold colors? (I’m trying really hard here.)

When I peel back her scathing layers, my mother has a lot of qualities I would find cute or lovable if I weren’t so damn afraid of her all the time. I think it’s cute that she loves Jennifer Aniston movies. I think it’s cute that she inexplicably cheers for Lebron James (“I like him and I think he deserves a ring.” Uhh okay). I think it’s funny that she thinks 3D movies are “great.” (You mean money-grubbing and pointless??) I think it’s funny that now that she has a Facebook, she asks my brother and me for advice on things like tagging the photos she proudly posted. And I’ve always thought it was funny that she loves animal print and will sometimes wear clashing ones to church.

But I’m barely scratching the surface of who my mother is. And as this is (God willing) my last summer at home before I go off to NYC and find out more about who I am, I hope to find the courage to hear my mother’s stories while I still can. Today, on my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, I want to thank my mother for everything she’s given and done for me.

Stolen from mom’s FB

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