Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jonathan Went to College

     A lot happened since 9.11 in the US, financial meltdown -- human destruction, and in China Sichuan Earthquake and Japan Earthquake -- natural destruction.
     Time flies; my parents had gone back to China for close to 10 years. They felt like prisoners here since they do not have friends to talk to and they could not go anywhere without my driving them. Back home, they could talk to the colleagues who worked with them all their life since they live in the very same buildings. Or they could simply visit whomever by just simply ringing their door bells. We had a Manchu neighbor Li when I was in high school, he was a director of the institute. Now their next door neighbor Ma who is Hui (Chinese Muslim) married a Han wife. He was the communist party secretary which was above my father.  Everything is within their walking distance. Although they could wave a taxi anywhere on the street (like New York City now), they prefer to take a bus if they have to go somewhere farther away since it is free for seniors. Since they are over 80 years old, they each get 1000 yuan each Chinese New Year as a reward on top of their pensions. My mom retired when she was 55 and my father was 60. They are lucky! I felt so bad for my mother-in-law, at age 72, she just went back to work earning minimum wage because their retirement money was disappearing due to the bad stock market. They are not alone, so many others lost their money and lost their voice too. Their financial advisor had told them 15 years ago (from one of the world's leading financial management and advisory companies) that their money was safe with them and they could receive a good income until they were 99 years old. My father-in-law said if he had tucked his money under his mattress, it still be there today. Although my father-in-law worked for a multi-national company for over 30 years as a research scientist, his company owned all of his patented inventions. The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America by  David A. Stockman.
      The GDP of the US is 14.99 trillion (2011), $7720 per capita for 313.9 million people. For China: 7.318 trillion and $157 per capita for 1.344 billion people. Somehow, the US owes $1.2 trillion debt to China. In November 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than 16% of the people live in poverty in the US, including almost 20% of American children, up from about 14% (ca. 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. In 2008, about 13% (40 million) Americans lived in poverty. Between 200,000 and 500,000 Americans were homeless. About 1.56 million people, or about 0.5% of the U.S. population, used an emergency shelter or transitional housing between October 2008 and October 2009.
      I had been working for a independent moving agent (under a bigger worldwide company) for over 10 years now with little savings for my retirement except Social Security if it is still there. My parents spent all their lives working for the oil company. It looked like we had to use oil whether we liked it or not. My brother has been working for an airline in China for over 30 years now and it looks like he is going to work for the same company for the rest of his life.
      About twenty years ago, I started writing my thoughts and memories as a keepsake for my children. It was never finished. Jonathan went to college. I was a little surprised that he was actually interested in history. He took a course called Modern East Asia. He came home and talked about the history he learned and asked me about my family. I really did not know much since I was never interested in history. My high school history returned back to my history teacher right after the test. I felt a little embarrassed after he went back to college. Richard in high school and Joseph in middle school will ask me the same questions soon so I had better be prepared. Still I could not imagine reading a Chinese history book. I could not even read a history novel. I had been a student for so long, the best way for me to learn was through lectures. I found Professor Kenneth Hammond’s “Chinese History 5000” from Yao to Mao, and at the same time I asked my parents to send me whatever they had on our family history.
      I explored my family roots in my second book, "Searching for My Hakka Roots." Modern technology can trace DNA to show one's ancestry via genetics. There is a possibility that I am not who I am by blood since so many Chinese changed their names throughout Chinese history. Just like my cross the hall Manchu neighbor Mr Li in Chengdu, China and Mary from my Church here USA, her family name "Wang" as she knows is not her true Manchu family name. Since it the only family name she knew, she and her larger family of "Wang" will have to defend that name. They will look up to their "Wang" ancestors and follow their good example. I felt so small yet as a part of a family clan, but I have a duty to pass on our family tradition and keep our family's good name.
     Although they knew they had British, French and Italian blood, my three sons have their father's last name "Brach", not related to "Brach Candy". Although most people know how to pronounce "Brach Candy," they always miss pronounce our "Brach."  Since Brach is a German name, they naturally want to know more about the name. His father's ancestors came from Poland in late 1800, but lived on the border of Germany and Austria five generations ago. His cousins have tried to search for their roots, but failed.  Maybe because of their last name, my three sons choose German as their second language over Chinese. My parents, my Chinese relatives, and Chinese friends have always complained that I did not teach them Chinese, as if I could. The first time I heard German without looking at who was talking, I actually thought it was a Chinese dialect, since there are so many dialects I do not understand.  Another time, a person with last name "Han," which is mine, turned out to be a German. He told me Han/Hans are pretty common in Europe. Jonathan had German as one of his majors; he was in Germany for a whole year.  While he was there, he finally figured out what he wanted to do with his life.

Hunan, Chinese civilization center is German ancestry
Jonathan in Germany
Richard in Germany

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Sister Yi (Amy) Married Steven Pao (鲍)

My sister Yi never left home; she worked in the accounting department of the Oil Company my parents worked for all their life. She could not love anyone there since they all knew each other since they were kids. It would be like marrying one’s own sibling. Our ambassador friend from Taiwan introduced us to the Pao (鲍) family in Bristol, NH. The family owned two Chinese restaurants. Their oldest son Steven was looking for a Chinese bride. The ambassador introduced Steven to my younger sister Yi. Steven and Yi wrote to each other and then Steven visited China. I did not have much hope on this, since I introduced a Chinese man that I knew in Boston to my sister before, and it did not happen. Here, we were talking about the other side of the earth.
     One day after I returned home from work, my parents told me that Steven and his parents came for a visit. Steven sat far away quietly while his parents asked permission if their son could marry their daughter after two years of calling and visiting. How much did my parents want? After all, Steven’s father paid over $30,000 for his wife (10 years younger than he). His grandfather was Nationalist went to Taiwan in 1949 when KMT lost. The locals call them province outsiders (外省人), then they came came to US, the locals call them Chinese. When they finally was able to visit China, the locals call them Taiwanese.
     My parents were shocked; they had never been asked such a question before, but only heard such stories from their parents. Maybe people in remote areas of China still held this custom, but not in the cities since 1949.
     My parents told them that they were not selling their daughter; they did not want a penny from them as long as they both wanted to marry each other. Steven’s parents thought that my parents were losing their daughter to them, so after all those years raising her as a good daughter, it was reasonable to ask compensation. My parents married in 1958 all by themselves with a group of their coworkers and friends. They practically put two single beds together, after giving a few candies to everyone who came for the wedding.
     Steven went back to China and married my sister there, then came back to the US to start the immigration process. It took another two years before my sister was able to join him in NH. His parents had a formal wedding banquet in Chinatown with ten tables. Each table had ten people. The newlyweds had to kneel down on the floor and bow to the sky, the ground, both parents, and each other. I only saw this in old Chinese movies. The banquet food covered almost everything, seafood of every kind, chicken, pork, beef…plus a wedding cake. It was beautiful.
     They had a boy and girl. They moved away from NH down south since my sister could not stand the cold winter in the north. Steven wanted to live his own life away from his parents’ shadow. He was out of the restaurant business, eating less and his high cholesterol was in normal range again. His whole family used to go to gambling places every Christmas when they closed their restaurants. My sister, my mother, and I never went with them. They now stayed home for Christmas for three years. My sister is teaching Chinese in the local Chinese school.
     Steven’s parents were heartbroken when all their kids gave up their restaurant business. It was a perfect business in which the whole family could be working together. However, their kids got tired of waiting on tables, long working hours, and no weekends and holidays. They all moved down South, and bought their own houses. They left their parents no choice but to sell one business, and hired all the other employees for the other restaurant.
Pao's (鲍) Family Garden

For Chinese Women, Marriage Depends On Right 'Bride Price' Payback for my grandmother's generation.

Going Back to Work Full Time

Although my parents gave $4000 for the kids, my parents did not feel comfortable using my husband’s money for trips. I told them I worked at home whenever there was a project. My mom felt sorry for me not working after being in school for so long. She wanted me to find a job, and we thought it best for me to find a part time job nearby. I went to the library and found the local job postings. There was a job at a local emergency response center. Sara, who studied wildlife before and now was working in the accounting department, wanted me to work full-time right away.  I told her that I would go home and discuss it with my parents since they were the ones who were going to watch my three sons during the day. After I told them I found a full time job, my father said he would stay for a year to help me out. My mom did not say anything.
     I was shocked to walk into the office and find a woman at my desk working. Sara told me that she was leaving and she did get up and leave. She looked like she had been crying. I was very uncomfortable to watch her go; I could have worked part time. My officemates told me that she had a lot of personal problems and she just could not do her job. Very soon, I found out that the billing was a mess; cash was not posted into the right account or posted more than once.
     The supervisor Kathy was a single mom. She flew through whatever she wanted me to know in five minutes, and then the phone rang. She went to pick up her phone at her desk. She wanted me to ask her questions if I had any. Yes, I did have questions; she wanted me to write them down and she would take care of them. I would not hear from her again.
     I was familiar with the DOS system while in college, which soon switched to Windows. Lee set up the whole system, so I went to see him. In the beginning, he was very defensive while explaining to me how his system worked. Slowly, he became very supportive after I showed him the problems. The problems were both human errors and system problems. I asked him to show me how to fix the human errors. For example, double posting cash so the customer would not get the bill. Cash posted into the wrong customer’s account. System errors occurred such as new customers did not show up in billing. These were things that his program was supposed to do. He wanted me to give him a list of what I wanted the system to do; he then wrote patch programs to improve his system. I wanted his program to print a list of cash posting amounts that did not match the billing amounts, likely posted to the wrong customer. I wanted his program to catch double payments in the same month.
     He did all the things that I wanted him to do. I was happy how much easier that made my job, when you talk about over 10,000 customers for billing and cash posting.
     I showed Kathy all the double postings and asked her to be careful in the future. Double-check the print out. I did not tell upper management. She did not show up the next day; she called in sick. Then a week went by, so I called her, and asked her if she was better. She said she was not better; she would not be back working anymore, and she was looking for another job. I told her that we do need her here; I hoped she would not take anything personal about the mistakes I found. She said it was good that I found all those mistakes and I should be the next supervisor. She had been there over five years, and Lee had never helped her. I came in for a few weeks; and he was so cooperative to help me.
     Lee told me that 20 years before, he and the owner George were sent to find a buyer for the company, but instead George brought the company himself. The two of them had been running it since. He had not written any programs for so long and he forgot most of the language. Everyone who came had always complained about his system; they wanted the owner to change his old DOS to a Windows-based program. So he had been on the defense for years. I was the first one who was willing to work with him and helped him improve his system.
     I told him that I was privileged working with programmer. Buying a new program package with a telephone-sized manual without on-site support would be worse. Not to mention, it would cost a lot of money to replace the system, money the company did not have.
     His son came in to work with him on college breaks, so I asked about his wife, he said, “which one?” I was shocked and asked how many did he have?; he said three in his over 50 years. He was living with his girlfriend now.
     In one year, I cleaned up the billing, was promoted three times, and became the supervisor. Some customers who called wanted to speak to me only. “ I want to speak with that girl with Irish accent.” We thought it was very funny. It was not funny for me; every one of my customers had a sad story. They just wanted to talk many times since I corrected their billing. One sent me a picture of her dog; later, her daughter called to cancel the services because her mother had died.
     Most of the people working there were young high school dropout kids. They came and went at a high turnover rate. Our customers were mostly old, sick, and dying; most stayed as clients for three months to a year. I had over 10,000 customers for billing each month. We had a data entry center, and just entered new and took out old clients. Also, a monitoring center was open 24/7. One morning when I walked into the office, a girl was crying, and I asked her why. Her supervisor had yelled at her for something that was not her fault. I checked into it and agreed with her. So, I told her to explain to her supervisor or I could go to her supervisor to help her explain. I did not like her supervisor even though I only dealt with him once when I asked him about his morning report. Instead of giving me the report, he let me wait so he could finish eating his popcorn at 9 AM. Then, he showed me how many kinds of vitamins he took everyday.
     The girl told me not to talk to her supervisor because she really needed this job; she needed to pay her mom rent or she would become homeless. I was joking with her; now, your mom cannot kick you out, can she? She said that was not funny; she was homeless before when her mom kicked her out. Yet her mother kept her dog. Sad to say, she was fired two weeks later.
     I felt so bad for both ends of the wire at the monitoring center. Our side were all teenagers struggling very hard to keep their heads above water. The other side were old, dying, and struggling very hard to live. One day when I walked out of the accounting office, I saw this boy’s hair glowing blue. I thought I was at the computer for too long, but it turned out that this boy had dyed his hair blue. As low as their income was hourly, they spent their money like there was no tomorrow. So before payday came, they were broke already. They ordered their lunch everyday. Every now and then, one lunch would be short. The delivery guy said he delivered all the orders, and the one who did not get the lunch ended up crying. I brought my lunch everyday from home. Their parents should have taught them how to use their money wisely.
     One day, our CFO brought in her sister-in-law. She wanted Sara to train her how to do her job, so Sara did not have any choice but to teach her. A few weeks later, Sara was forced out. I had a very hard time accepting Sara’s leaving since we had so much in common. The sister-in-law was not very good to work with. Once she ordered some very expensive computer supplies on-line, and Lee was upset. I told her she should really have asked Lee since it was his field of expertise. She was upset with me and wanted me to have a private talk with her in the office. Basically she wanted me on her side no matter what. I was shocked to see her putting her own interests above the company. As it was, our company was struggling to pay bills. I decided to look for another job.  Sadly this company does not exit anymore.

     I moved on to another full time accounting job nearby my home. I had a lot of adjustments to make after being at home for 10 years taking care of my children. Moreover, I did not to notice my parents also went through a huge change, suddenly becoming grandparents in a foreign country with a foreign son-in-law. One day my cousin in the UK called; he called me one day when I was not at home. My father told him a lot of things my cousin did not think could be true. I suddenly realized that my father had not smoked for almost a year without any complaints. I had not noticed anything wrong at home. My parents and I went up to the 3rd floor for a closed-door meeting. My mom did not have a word to say and my father started crying. He said he was sorry about complaining about me to my cousin; he did not know what he was saying. I was crying as well; I told them that I was sorry for not paying much attention to them after work. I took them for granted since they were my parents. If they wanted to return to China, I could always stay home again till my kids were a little older. After a long cry, my parents decided to stay a few more years till Joseph was older since they really loved him and were attached to him.

My Parents Came To Visit

In 1999, we bought a Toyota Sienna since our 3rd son would soon be born and my parents were coming. My father had never visited the US. He did not like me bugging him to quit smoking, I asked him to come for a visit and he kept refusing until now. My father brought two cartons of cigarettes; I told him he had to go outside of the house to smoke and after he finish his two cartons, I would not buy anymore. He smoked two packs, and then quit cold turkey.
     We took my parents along with us on a car trip up to Arcadia National Park. We enjoyed walking around Bar Harbor then driving through the national park and up Cadillac Mountain. It was the first time for me to climb a mountain next to the ocean. We had lobsters for dinner. It was our first long family vacation.
     After we returned home, Richard broke his elbow while playing with his friends in the backyard. After spending four hours in our local hospital, they recommended us to go to Children’s Hospital because Richard needed surgery. We had our two cars parked at the local hospital, then rode with Richard via the ambulance to Boston about 6 PM. We waited for another four hours till midnight. The surgery was supposed to take over one hour; I was scared because one of the sisters in Jonathan’s class died from a very simple surgery in the same hospital a few years before. So I told Richard to make sure to wake up when I called him later. He did not cry when they wheeled him in, considering he was only five years old. Anthony and I were the only ones in the waiting room. Three hours later, he finally came out. The surgeon said he was trying to reset it; at first, but it did not work, so it took awhile. I went to Richard right away, try to wake him up, he answered me, but he went right back to sleep.
     After a few months when I took him back to have the screws removed from his elbow, he was screaming and wanted the doctor to put him to sleep first even though the doctor said it would not hurt. It sure looked like it was going to hurt. The doctor went out, and came back three times before Richard finally allowed him to remove the screws. That was the first time I went to the children’s hospital. I am so grateful that our children are healthy.
     My friend Wei-lin and her parents came to visit her as well. Together our two families visited Howe Caverns; they said they had seen better ones in China since they were all geologists. Then we went to visit our graduate college where we had spent eight years, and the neighborhood where Jonathan spent his first two years. We stayed with Anthony’s parents in Rochester overnight then visited Niagara Falls.

Joseph Was Born, My Youngest Aunt Ju-hua (举华) Died

My youngest son Joseph Maximilian Brach was born in the Spring of 1998. Since Joseph was Anthony’s both grandfather’s name, father’s middle name, and youngest brother Kevin’s middle name, we named our son Joseph. We gave him the middle name Maximilian after St. Maximilian Kolbe. I was sorry that I did not name a Joseph earlier since I kept having boys; now their grandfather on both sides should be happy.
     Anthony took Jonathan and Richard came to see the baby in the hospital, the baby was not in my room so Jonathan stayed with me in the room; Anthony and Richard went to the nursery to get our baby. The nurse decided that they should wheel the baby’s nursery bed to my room, so the boys could enjoy their little brother. Richard was so excited and he was half running trying to keep up with everyone walking in the hallway to my room. He said, “Daddy, wait until mommy sees the baby we picked out for her.”
     When I called my mother to tell her the good news, she started to cry. First I thought she was too happy, then realized that something really bad happened. After a long cry, she finally told me that my aunt, her youngest sister had died while crossing street. My mother did not want to give me stress while I was expecting Joseph knowing that I was very close to her. I suddenly realized that I did have a few dreams about her, and told Anthony at the time.
     She died on Jan 7th, 1998, exactly the same day her older brother died two years before. She was only 53. I received a letter she wrote a week before she died. That was the first and last letter she wrote to me, she was talking about her family, her two daughters. Her letter reminded me of the good times that we had in Zigong years before. I missed her so I dreamed that we went shopping together. The street looked like the street in US, but crowded with Chinese people. Then we were at a crosswalk waiting for the light to turn with many other people. When the walk light came on, I was ready to cross, but my aunt was not next me, I turned around looking for her in the crowd, but I could not find her. I was worried in my dream; I was looking all over for her.
She did not cross at crosswalk. My dream made sense now. 
     I felt so bad. My youngest aunt died on the same day as my youngest uncle; what kind of fate was that? I asked my mom how much money I should send to her family since it was so late. She said she already sent money with my name too. Still I sent $150 to them to make myself feel better. Strange things happened after that; I dreamed that my aunt came to visit me in my house here in US. She brought two tickets to watch a play "Miss Saigon" at the Wang Theater in Boston. She told me that she would watch my three boys; Anthony and I could go since we had never went out alone. Although it was my wish to watch the play at the time. I asked her why she spent money on me since she or me could not really afford the tickets. Chinese money was 8 Yuan to 1 dollar at the time. We were in our unfinished basement arguing about the tickets. I did not question why we were down there instead of my living room or kitchen; in my dream, it was almost normal and accepted. It only felt strange after I woke up. Then my cousin returned my check with a thank you card. Somehow I did not date the check. She could not cash the check in China. That was weird because I never forget to put the date on the right corner when I wrote a check. My aunt must have known that we were struggling with Anthony’s salary alone raising a family of five with a huge mortgage to pay. She must have made me forget the date. I dated the check and sent it out again.
     My youngest aunt used to take me on her shoulders back and forth to the local clinic. I was sick almost all the time.  I spent a lot of time with her when I was living with my grandparents.

My Youngest Uncle (Guan Ju-biao官举彪) Died

My youngest uncle (官举彪) died from a shrimp allergy on Jan 7th, 1995 at age 57. He did not know he was allergic to ocean shrimp. His oldest son came home from the southeast Hainan Island with jumbo shrimps (farm raised/pollutions?). He was swollen right after, but no one in the hospital knew why since he lived so far inland. He wanted to wait till his son left before going to see doctor since his son only came home once a year for a few days. It was too late when he went to the hospital; he could not breathe because he was drowning. His three sisters and oldest brothers were surrounding his bed; he was begging to his big brother. “Help me, brother, I cannot breathe.” My mom said it was helpless, they watched him died.
     My oldest uncle still cries when he talks about his little brother.     In the Cultural Revolution (1960s), my youngest uncle was dragged out from his house and put on display as a Russian spy, since he went to Kiev Polytechnic Institute for college and knew seven languages. They raided his home and took away all his valuables, since they could not find any evidence of wrongdoing. They even took away his radio, so he had no way of knowing what was going on in the outside world. One day, someone pushed him down from a high place and he broke his neck; he almost died. His wife Wang (王) took him to the hospital right away; his life was saved, but his neck was set looking forward only; he could not turn or move his head around anymore. He could not bend his back either; he was like a robot afterward. He also had Tuberculosis.
 Guan Ju Biao (官举彪) #15 in boys) July 14, 1937 to January 7, 1995.  He went to Kiev Polytechnic Institute to study Electrical Engineering in 1957, then the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (成都电讯工程学院). He worked for the National Defense Factory
    I had dreamed about someone who was surrounded by a group of people. The man was so pale and I could not figure out who the man was. The next day, I was joking to my husband that I hoped Fred was okay since he often needed the ambulance and fire department’s emergency help in the middle of the night. Anthony said, “you and your dreams. How could I never remember my dreams?". Later on when I saw Fred’s wife, she told me that Fred was fine. Not long after, my mom described how my youngest uncle died. I realized that my uncle was in my dream. After all, he was the one right there like my father when I came into this world. He had two boys and I was the daughter he did not have. He showered me with gifts when I was young, and tried to take my pictures when I was mad. I was very sad about his passing, why him? He suffered so much. Now his kids had grown up, and he was retired. He should have enjoyed his life a little. It scared me thinking about his being gone.
I did dream about him later. It was at a train station; I used to take an overnight train to visit him and his family. Somehow, I was walking alongside the train trying to board. He was walking towards me from the opposite direction. He walked by me telling me to go to his house for dinner. So we were passing by. Then I kept walking along the train, trying to find a car to get on. My uncle walked towards me the second time; he was telling me the same thing while passing by me. He was trying to tell me something. He wanted me go to visit his home.
His oldest son made good money for a few years; he had a girlfriend who gave him a son. He told me the boy was not his. He never intended to marry her so she took the boy back home to her farm. I did try to ask our family Guan to keep the boy, but nobody was interested. Soon the money was gone and he lost his good job. His younger brother stayed with their parents after he graduated from the University; he could never hold a job for long. Our family had been helping them. Now my uncle did not want us to abandon his family after he was gone.
   VITAS 2010.03.05 聖母頌 / Ave Maria_Moscow 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Trip to Visit China in 1996

I dreamed that I went back to China, and was often lost there because I didn’t know where my parents’ apartment was. Or I was somehow working at the same institute where I was before, only there was something missing that I needed to come back to America.
     A surprise chance to visit China came up when Anthony was to attend a meeting in Kunming in my neighboring province. Originally, we had planned to see my cousins in the UK. The decision came after April. We balanced our budget. Yes, we had enough money to take our family of four. The excitement came both within our family and back in China. My mom sent me information on possible site-seeing. My brother wanted us to visit him in Hainan, the little island called “The Hawaii of the Orient.” My aunts and uncles wrote that they would come to see us at my parents’ place if we could not make it to their place.
     Then the fear of this long trip came when Flight_800 exploded in the air right before our trip to China. I started to rethink whether it was the right time to go to China, even though our children had all the necessary shots. Just the long flight itself made me feel very nervous. The tickets were already booked. My brother had already made calls to finalize the airline tickets within China. My father-in-law was going with us too. Everything was ready but I didn’t want to go anymore. I didn’t want to risk all my children. The only thing that I could do was to pray for God’s protection from danger, evil, disease, and disaster. Jonathan got chicken pox on the last day of preschool. Two weeks later, Richard got it too. Fortunately, they were better before we left.
     Our Flight was scheduled to depart at 6:00 PM from Boston to Chicago. Our neighbor Una’s husband gave us a ride to the airport. We arrived in Chicago about 8:00 PM. For some reason, our plane could not land yet. We circled over Chicago for about one hour. Finally, we landed and ran to the connecting flight to China. We ended up in the last few rows of the plane. Anthony’s father was excited to say that he had never been on a Boeing this big before. However, it was not as new as the one that I took ten years before. We waited and waited. “We have some mechanical problems and our mechanics are trying to fix it right now,” the announcement said. Then we heard this “hong, hong” underneath our seats. It sounded like a car that would not start, only much louder. “Oh, my God, please help us, there are no places to land on the Pacific Ocean.” We waited and waited. We ate another dinner at 1:00 AM although we already had dinner. Anthony’s father was impressed with the Jumbo Cocktail Shrimp to start, followed by chicken or pork for dinner. We never had this kind of dinner on the plane. It did distract us for awhile from the noise underneath the plane. After dinner, the plane was still not fixed, so they sent us to a hotel nearby with our carry-ons only. We dragged along Jonathan and Richard since they were almost sleep.
     We waited outside for a shuttle bus. Unfortunately, there was only one bus available at this hour. It was already 3:00 AM. In order to speed up the process, airport employees volunteered their own cars to drop us off at the hotel. A man with his minivan came. “Families with children first please,” he said. Five of us plus another man boarded his van. “I am George; I am a school teacher, working at the airport on the weekends. I know the hotel nearby, but I cannot promise no wrong turns.” He drove us from the airport to the hotel. He wondered for a second at intersections. We arrived at the Sheraton, but it was the wrong one. He turned around and used his car phone to talk for awhile. Finally, we arrived at the right one. We finally settled down in our room and put the kids to sleep. I was still excited and could not sleep. So, I turned on CNN. “An unexploded pipe bomb was found on a Chicago Airport runway early in the evening. No one knows how it got there.” “Oh my, that’s why we were circling above in the sky for a hour,” Anthony said. “I thought I heard someone talking about a pipe bomb after we landed. Then the News continued, “A student shot his professor and fellow student in California… An unidentified woman’s body was found in the woods of Chicago, etc.” That’s enough news. I turned off TV and tried to get some sleep.
     Finally, we started the long flight the next day. We arrived at Beijing International Airport at midnight. It was drizzling and muggy. Our plane was the only one to land at this late hour. Here, we were in China. I could even smell it. We got off the plane, and we used the bathroom, which was a pretty good one. Yet, Anthony’s father took a picture because it was squat Asian kind.
      At 5:30 AM the next day, I awoke and looked out our window. A young man was making pancakes outside with a coal stove and a little table. A young woman just came out from a shelter made from some old plastic. She looked like she just woke up and started to comb her hair. I realized that the little shelter must be their home. A few minutes later, she too started to work by cleaning the vegetables for filling the buns her husband was preparing. Suddenly, I felt tears rolling down my face. Poor things, that’s all they had. What a hard life! I was wondering what they were going to do in the winter when it was freezing cold. They had to take the stove inside of their shelter, I guess.
     I went downstairs and went outside the hotel gate where there was a guard or gatekeeper already up. I walked to the man who was making pancakes. “How much are those pancakes?,” I asked. “1.75 Yuan,” he answered. I asked for four and gave him 10 Yuan and he said that I was his first customer so he had no change for me yet. I told him to keep the change. Then I went further down the street. I saw a farmer with a load of fresh peaches. They looked so fresh and big. I got two pounds of peaches. I spent less than two dollars and I was going to feed a family of five. Everyone enjoyed his or her breakfast.
     The morning sun had gone up to the sky. I was so shocked to see how small Tiananmen was compared to the new skyscrapers of foreign corporations. I remembered my long walk around Tiananmen Square the first time when I came to Beijing for a business trip. Now the taxi took us in minutes. Then I noticed the cars, bicyclists, and the pedestrians. The city looked like a big fair. Traffic policemen were busy directing the traffic with the help of the lights. What a mass of people!
       While waiting at the airport, I took Jonathan and Richard to the restrooms. Everyone seemed to be interested to see my mixed children. I lined up to use the bathroom while talking to the people inside. People behind me kept sneaking into the bathroom one by one before me. When the next one was free, the one behind me was already in front of me ready to go in. The lady talking to me stopped her.  The one behind me just smiled back. I suddenly woke up that I was in China with many curious people; so after that, I simply said “I am babysitting these children.”  That worked and people moved on after that answer.
     We boarded a Russian-made plane to Kunming. It was steamy hot inside the plane because the air conditioner was broken. An announcement told us it would cool down when the plane took off. Jonathan was all red and kept asking for a drink. Richard was pretty good. It did get better after the plane took off. The seats were not as good as on the Boeing, of course. It was cloudy most of the way to the southwest until we were close to Kunming.
     The weather in Kunming was sunny, cool, and windy. The meeting organizer had a van waiting for us outside. While loading our luggage, I noticed that one of the men looked very familiar. I couldn’t recall where we met before. Then the bus took us to the hotel where the meeting was going to be. Although I had been in the city three times before, I could hardly recognize anything as we passed through the city. Everyone was in a hurry. The driver had to break suddenly several times to avoid hitting people.
     In the daytime, when Anthony and his father were at their meeting, I took the kids to look around. There was a farmer’s market right across the street. It was so familiar to me except with much more choices of everything. Then, I saw cages of chickens for sale. The customer could pick the live chicken, and the seller could kill and clean it while you waited. Jonathan and Richard were petting the chickens first, then saw the whole process. They were shocked to know how chickens came to our dinner table. I explained the whole thing to Jonathan. “Oh!,” he replied. I regretted letting them see the whole thing almost immediately, because I recalled that we told him how lobsters and crabs in the little aquarium of the supermarket came to our dinner table, so he refused to eat them. Chicken was one his favorite foods. We had chicken for dinner that day. They seemed to forget all about how the chicken came to our table.
     The third day, one of my brother’s friends, who was the manager for a small perfume company, came with his company’s van and took us to the “Stone Forest” and “Western Hills.” Personally, I had visited both places and it would be a very tight schedule for both places in one day because they were in opposite directions. Taking along two kids and being my father-in-law’s interpreter would not be a fun trip. After the Stone Forest, I was ready to go back to Kunming without visiting the Western Hills. However, my father-in-law really wanted to go, so we went. It was an easier trip because we took the cable car up. My father-in-law climbed up by himself because he was scared that maybe the cable car could not support his weight.  I was terrified up there with Richard and asked the driver to take Jonathan on his car. It looked like we could fall though. I kept looking back to see Jonathan and told him to sit still. Richard was holding me very tightly. He must have noticed the height.
      By the time we finally reached the top, my father-in-law was already there. He said that if there were no people in front of him, he would have gotten there faster. We looked down and far away to Kunming and the Lake. The cars down below looked like little matchbox cars that my sons had at home. My sons, of course, didn’t have any fear of being at the top at all. They wanted us to pick them up to look down. I was scared now even though I was not scared ten years before when I came here to the same spot. Maybe, because I had my children now.
     The next day, we packed up our stuff and checked out, and waited at the lobby for the bus to take us to the airport.  While we sat waiting, I saw the man who picked up us at airport. We both noticed each other this time. We looked at each other. “Did we meet somewhere before,” I asked. We started to talk. Finally, we figured out that we were in the same English training class for awhile. He was not able to go abroad. Now, he was married with one child.
     It was a smooth ride to the airport and our plane was on time. About 4 PM, we arrived at the Chengdu Airport on time. I saw my father waiting outside. After we checked our baggage, we went out, and we saw my father, sister, and uncle. It was the first time for Jonathan and Richard to see them, although Jonathan said that he “met” my father before, not my sister or uncle.
     My parent’s condo looked about the same except it was older since they did not do any remodeling. I did find a lot of things still the same. I felt at home right away. We had dinner and my favorite wine made by nuns in Mount_Qingcheng.  My father-in-law was not feeling well. After dinner, my brother came back with a lot of tropical fruits that did not help my in-law’s stomach.
     The next evening, my father-in-law started to have chills and was sweating. He looked really weak and pale. My father insisted that we should send him to the hospital for a checkup, maybe get an IV for dehydration. My father-in-law was scared and did not want to go. After an hour of persuasion, he agreed to go to the clinic at my parent’s institute. It was almost 10 PM; the doctor there could not get any lab results because the lab has closed. Therefore, she suggested that we should go to the Provincial Hospital that was better equipped. My father and I took him by taxi to the hospital. When we arrived, there were few patients. Since all the patients were waiting inside the doctors’ office while the doctor was checking and talking to other patients, it seemed very crowded without any privacy.  My father-in-law started crying and regretted coming with us; he thought he would die in China. 
     My father went to find an English-speaking doctor. He came back with one 15 minutes later. The doctor came and checked my father-in-law and asked whether he had any other health problems. He ordered a stool sample. I took him to the bathroom. You couldn’t imagine how awful the bathroom looked to him since he was weak. I was telling him that it was not that bad and he was in good hands.
     It took about 30 minutes for all the lab results. We took them to the doctor. He said that my father-in-law was fine, no bacterial infections, just severely dehydrated. I asked him whether he needed an IV. He said it was not necessary. He gave him a few packages of powder to mix with water to drink. My father-in-law felt much better even without any medicine yet.
    He was better again. My brother rented a car for us for a few days. He took us to the Chengdu Zoo where my children and Anthony and his Dad saw a real Giant Panda for the first time. We went to a few other parks where Anthony and his father enjoyed the oriental gardens.
     Then my brother’s friend took my father-in-law to Mt. Emei, a mountain from 500 to 3000 meters elevation.  They drove up and came down by foot.  It was raining, so my brother’s friend suggested to just drive down.  He refused; he wanted to walk down in the cold rain since he had outdoor gear.  He was surprised why they did not prepare for the trip.  He came home after the three-day trip and ached all over.
     My mom took out the last quarter bottle of Tiger Bone Liquor, it looked like dark scotch.  My father-in-law curiously watching my mom put it into a shot glass.  He held it for a minute, still wondering whether he should drink it. So he took a very little sip.  “Oh! Very good!” He took a bigger sip, then finished it in no time.  The next day, he told us that he was much better.  He loved the Tiger Bone Liquor so much that he finished the remainder in the bottle without any of us noticing.  He wanted more; I told him he should know the Tiger Bone ban has been effect for quite a long time now.  This leftover liquor had been in my home for many years. Now, there was no more!
     My mom went out the next morning; she was gone all day without letting us know where she was going.  It was almost dinnertime when she came back without saying a word.  Later on my aunt told me that my mom went to every one of her places for rare things, hoping to find Tiger Bone Liquor, but failed.
     We flew to Haikou where my brother worked. He met us at the airport and took us on a car trip down the island to Sanya.  Although it was hot there, at least there was the ocean breeze. Our hotel was right by the ocean.  The sand was so white and the water was so clear and warm, but the waves were very strong.  I was a little scared of going in too far from the sandy beach.  I watched my husband took Richard and his father take Jonathan to ride the waves away from the shore, a little farther and father away to the point I could hardly see them.  I started screaming, “Come back, Come back… you are too far away…” That night I had a terrible dream, I dreamed the water was getting higher and higher, and our hotel was submerged in the ocean.  I guess it was the sound of waves, being too close to the water made me uncomfortable. 
     My brother drove us to the south end of the island called the “End of the Earth” and all the major sites on the island. We also went to the local aquarium. We saw the biggest spider we ever saw, and its web on the side of the road, so we had to take a picture.  We never saw that many crocodiles in one place; a local school kid was killed a few years later after we visited because he thought they were sleeping and somehow got inside. It was a horrifying scene because no one could help him when so many crocodiles attacked him at the same time.
Jonathan trying to eat steamed sea urchin
Jonathan pointing to where we were
Jonathan and Richard loved my brother's carved hardwood chairs

Tiger Farms in China Feed Thirst for Parts

Is the Soul Always There? My Five Year's Memories in My Tummy

Our neighbor across the street had a new baby. I bought Jonathan and Richard over for a short visit. That night when Jonathan went to bed and I slept across from him in another bed; we started a conversation about babies. Usually his mind was very active before he fell to sleep; he became very talkative around this time. He would tell me what happened in his kindergarten class even though he told me nothing new about school on the way home.
     “Where did you come from, Jonathan? Do you remember?” I asked. “From your tummy,” he said.
“Do you remember what you were doing inside of Mommy?,” I asked. “Yes, I was exercising in your tummy and I played with you backbones. Remember, Mommy when you put your hand over your tummy, I was touching your hands.”
     I became very interested in his story. “Where were you before you came to Mommy?” I asked. “I was living in the clouds, going around and around until I landed on you.” “What are you made from then?,” I asked. “By fire.” “Fire?, it wasn’t hot? You did not get burned?,” I asked. “No, this fire was not hot,” he said. “I was a mouth so I eat and eat; I used the fire to make my head, eyes, nose, ears, tummy, arms and legs, hands and feet, but nails last, mom.” I was so surprised what my five-year-old was telling me. “No, mom, it was not hot and I could make everything with fire, even toys,” he continued.
     “Where did you sleep?,” I asked. “I slept in your brain, I just climbed up. When it was morning I came down, splashed into the water,” he said. “How did you know it was morning?” “I saw through your eyes. When you opened your eyes, I could see it was light, when you closed your eyes, I could not see anything,” he said.
     “How did you eat inside mommy?,” I asked. “When I saw food come down, I started to grab it,” he answered. “Did you like whatever mom ate,” I asked. “Yes, Mommy; no spices Mommy,” he added. Maybe that was why when I was carrying him, it seemed that I was fighting over food between my mouth and tummy. I loved certain spicy Chinese foods and I enjoyed eating them. Only a little later, I threw up or my tummy didn’t feel good. If I ate heavy American food with cheese, which I had the hardest time to swallow, the food stayed and I felt better afterward. Now I know why.
     “How did you know it was the time to come out?,” I asked. He said, “I just knew it was time to push and get out; I pushed and I pushed.” “Was it hurting when you pushed?,” I asked. “No, it was not hurting,” he said. I could not help telling him that I was hurting; it really hurt. He said, “oh.” He did not know it hurt me. “What did you see when you came out?,” I asked. It was amusing that he saw my legs, then the doctor, then his dad.
    “Where are you going then?,” I asked. He only knew that he was a little boy now. He didn’t know where he was going. I told him that he was going to grow up and someday have his own kids just like Mommy and Daddy, then he would get old like Nana and die someday. He became so quiet and I thought that I scared him. I went over to check him and he was sound asleep.
    Later on, I asked him the same questions over and over again. He told similar stories that he was in the clouds before he came to me. It was like he was a real entity all along and had a mind of his own, yet still connect with me and depended upon me. While inside of me, he seemed to have learned something from me. When he saw my father for the first time, he told me that he met him before, but not my brother or sister even though they were all in the pictures that I showed to him.
     He described the apartment building that was in my dreams often. He told me it was a red brick building. He was never there because we moved before I came to the US to a new apartment building that in my dream I was never able to find. I have always dreamed about the red brick building where I spent my teenage life
      I tried to ask my two other sons the same questions when they were five years old.  I did not get much from Richard because he did not remember, Joe was able to tell me that he was a soldier.  He described the battlefield like an old movie.
I had some strange violent dreams when I was pregnant with Jonathan, it was an ancient bloody war. All the men were fighting with swords. Somehow I saw my grandmother was killed. The doctor said it is common for pregnant woman to have war dreams.

Toddlers Discuss Memories From Being In Mothers Womb
Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains
 Mother & Child Are Linked At The Cellular Level

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Richard Was Born

I delivered Richard after Easter. It was a smooth delivery and I came home the next day. I could tell my mom was so excited. She waited so long to help me after the delivery just like the way her mom did for her. I desperately wanted her here when I delivered my first son Jonathan. We were still graduate students at the time so it was impossible for me to invite her at the time; we simply did not have money or enough room.
     I should have known that my mom could not cook or do much of any housework. She cooked me a chicken with traditional Chinese herb roots. Different from her mom, she made more, much more for me. So she put in a whole pound, instead of one or two roots. Now, you can imagine how strong the flavor was, it really was like eating medicine. She brought me a bowl even before I woke up in the morning and asked me to eat it while it was still hot, followed by eggs and so on. She didn’t want me to come downstairs. Traditionally, mothers stayed in bed for 40 days after delivering a baby, and were not supposed to do anything. Otherwise, something might happen and the illness would stay with you for life. It might have been true in the old days when everything was not so clean.
     It was okay for a day, but 40 days? I could not even think about it after I tried one day. I was so bored and I could not sleep all day and all night, and I didn’t want to eat that much. No wonder my mom looked so full in her face in pictures after she delivered my sister and brother, and that was the only time she was not too thin.
     I had experience from Jonathan though I did make plenty of mistakes. I hoped that I could correct my mistakes this time around for Richard or do things a little differently. My mom came to try her best Chinese ways of doing things first time. She was so upset when she saw me come downstairs and do things my way. She felt she couldn’t help me the way it supposed to be and she felt unwanted. It was a big adjustment after I managed my own house these many years without anyone around though I hoped my mom was around. Now she was here and I felt that I was trying to do better following the best and most recent findings on what was good for my baby. She told me that was not the way my grandma did it and so on.
     My mother’s homesickness started to worsen when she felt like she was not helping as much as she originally thought. Although she said she and my father were an old couple and they were not like us inseparable. They hardly did anything together and they even slept in separate rooms now that they had extra rooms since my father snored so loudly. In fact, she still cared so much about my father and when my father’s letters came, they would lighten her face all day. She loved my father and my father loved her. I guessed it’s the companionship and she knew my father was around and nearby.
     She started to worry about my brother’s girlfriend who she introduced to him two years before in my parents’ city Chengdu. My brother was working on a little island on the South China Sea. He came back to my parents’ home every few months for about a week. My parents were very fond of this girl and she came to our home every weekend and holidays since her parents were not nearby. She even knitted two sweaters for Jonathan, which my mom brought here. She graduated from medical school and worked in a pharmacy. Only my brother didn’t make any move. It seemed to him that she was my parents’ friend. My parents asked him many times and he did not have any comment. Now that my mom was not home, my father didn’t know what to do. He told this girl that my brother had to be the one to make a decision about this although they had tried very hard to push him. Maybe the best thing for her was to look for someone else since she waited for two years and she was close to 30 years old, and everyone knew in China, it was very difficult for a man to be interested in a woman over 30 years old. She cried and left my parents’ home and didn’t return. “Now, your father doesn’t know how to handle this delicate matter. I am not there, and she has not come back. Oh no, we are going to lose such a nice girl. It’s very hard to find girls like her, pretty, professional, and knows how to do all the things around house. Look at these sweaters she knitted; you and I can’t knit this good and it only took her two weeks in the evening hours, and I watched her knitting.” My mother couldn’t stop talking about losing her and praising her; it almost made me jealous.
     Then she started to worry about my sister getting married since she was 26 already and she was not even looking for a nice man for herself. I tried to tell her that maybe they had not yet met the one who would stir their hearts. They would meet someone when the time came. Then she started to worry those mice or insects might eat her dry goods at home without anyone taking care of them.
     One weekend in June, Richard was baptized at our Church. Anthony’s brothers and their wives, his parents and our friends all came at the same time. Like Easter, this was another completely overwhelming experience for my mom. Not only did she feel that she could not help me cook. She could not talk to any of her in-laws. I was busy cooking and watching my newborn at the same time between people’s arms. My mom was alone in the corner of our house and seemed completely forgotten.
     The next day, my mom told me she might have caught a cold and she had a running nose and watery eyes all night. I was a little disappointed. Once again, she wanted me to massage her with that buffalo bone to ease her body pain. I tried but she didn’t think I tried hard enough. She wanted me to rub a few spots on her body till the skin turned blue then she would be better. I refused and tried to give her some medicine we had. Then I felt my nose was a little itchy when I was watching TV in the living room after the busy weekend. That huge basket of flowers someone gave us caught my eyes. That was the source for my mom’s runny nose and watery eyes, and my itchy nose. I had the same symptoms when I worked in the library where there were fresh bundles of flowers. I got up right away and moved all the flowers outside. Sure enough, my mom’s cold recovered right after, so did mine (obviously an allergy).
     It was hard to convince my mom that she was allergic to flowers because she insisted that she had a cold. She started to worry about getting sick in the US or even dying here. She told me that her friend came to see their daughter and grandchildren in the US and was fine until one evening right after dinner. She suddenly had a stroke and died here in the US. She thought that it must have been awful for her friend to be stuck in the strange world of “Yin” and not understand anything. She wanted to go home.
     I tried to ask her stay for six months so that my children would know their grandma better. I needed her too. Recognizing that my mom was not happy here, her unhappiness also affected me emotionally. I felt like she was rejecting the world I found for myself and she was going to abandon me here like the old Chinese who say that a married daughter is someone else’s. That was probably why my father refused to come. I once wrote him a letter asking him to give up smoking for his grandchildren’s sake, especially since my brother and sister were not even married yet. He never replied until my mother came and told me that my letter made him very upset and he blamed me for giving him a bad omen by saying that.
     I booked my mom’s return ticket and took her to one of the fanciest Chinese restaurants. She was impressed by the style of the building and decorations inside, but as usual, not impressed by the food. There was nothing tasted good here, but only looked good. When I just came to the US, I felt the same way. Everything here in the supermarket was already preprocessed and from big industrial farms where the seeds were bred to meet standards such as looking good and easy shipping. They used so many human-made chemicals to either increase the growth of the plants or prevent diseases, or keep the produce fresh. I still had a hard time seeing artificial coloring, especially beef, the colored bright red water dripping. I would rather see its true colors. It was very different from where my mother purchased her food from the farmer’s market every day from small family farmers’ fresh daily pick.
     My mom had the impression that in the US, everything was big and strongly made. The land was big, the roads wide, house large, and people big too. She tried to change my pants’ elastic one day. It took her all day just to take it apart because it was machine-sewn back and forth in so many rounds because it was intended not to be taken apart again.
     She also enjoyed the Annual Flower Show, the Museum of Science, and beaches and parks around. We also took her up north to see New Hampshire and Maine. She was impressed by how much empty space there was everywhere because in China, every possible inch had been used for something or the other.
     We all went to the airport to say goodbye to my mother. I was fine until my mom’s airplane took off. My tears couldn’t stop running down my face although I had Richard in my arms, with Jonathan and Anthony by my side. I tried to tell myself that my family was around me. But to my mom, I was always a child. Her departure made me feel abandoned by her. I felt very sad that my better life, bigger house, and her grandchildren couldn’t keep her here longer.
     It took me awhile to adjust to everything around without her, just like I had to adjust myself when she was trying to take over my kitchen and my way of life. I did quietly accept much of my mom’s way of doing things even though I was fighting hard with her. It was the modern and old-fashioned way. I had to accept that a lot of old fashioned ways just used common sense, the most effective simple ways to do things.

We went to see the Monkey King (my childhood favorite) performance at the Children’s Museum.

My Mother’s Visit

My mom came to help us about two months before I delivered Richard. She had not seen me for ten years. She said that I changed a lot, mostly the way I spent money. In her memory, I had a “big hand.” I thought that I was always good about saving. I never worried about money when I worked in China, every time I went out for business trip. Except for business expenses, I did buy a lot of local specialty goods wherever I went. I thought I did my mom a favor because I carried them home. Then my mom gave me money to bail me out. With my trips all the time, I guess that really put them on a very tight budget. I never heard my mom complain. I stayed home with my parents and ate at home most of the time without paying my parents and they never asked me to pay for anything. I usually bought fruit, vegetables, or whatever I saw that looked good on the way home to share with everyone. I rarely bought clothes or anything else for myself except books. My monthly salary, plus government bonds in four years was in savings before I left China. I gave everything back to my parents.
     The first time I started to get worried about money was here in the US, right after I paid my first month rent and security deposit with my $400 per month stipend. I knew that my mom’s money could not help me anymore.
     Now, the first few weeks after her arrival, we had so much to talk about especially now that I was married with children of my own. I felt that we had so much more in common. Things I never knew or I did not understand before, I understood now. I felt more respect for my mom, since she worked full time, watching and caring for the three of us plus our sick grandma at the same time in a very small two-bedroom apartment. She did not know how to ride a bicycle so she had to carry everything while walking. I understood why she forgot some of my requests, overlooked my sensitive needs and her high expectations. I knew that I could not do the same.
     Jonathan did not take my mother’s visit very well at first. He could not understand what we talked about. He often came between us and said, “no Chinese please! English please!” I was too close to my mom, which made him insecure. He was the center of my life. He rejected my mother’s help with everything. “Mommy do it, Mommy do it” became his routine. If I didn’t do it, he would insist on doing it himself. It was so funny to watch him and my mom fight over putting laundry on the clotheslines in the backyard in the morning and taking them down in the afternoon. He would bring a chair under the clotheslines and try to put on and take off the clothes while standing on the chair. He got upset if my mom tried to help. “I will do it, I will do it,” looked like he could do a better job. My mom’s only English, “No, No, Jonathan…” while she tried to correct him. Jonathan would then run to me and cry, ask me to hold him and give him a bottle of milk, rocking him in our wooden rocking chair and singing “Rock-a-bye baby on the tree top….” at same time. Every now and then, my mom came by and said in Chinese, “Oh, still mommy’s little baby! Someone needs to know that another baby is coming and he needs to grow up to be a big brother.” My mom at the same time felt rejected too. I tried to explain that they were both going through culture shock.
     I don’t know when they started to like each other and they seemed to know how to communicate with each other. He let my mom help him take a bath, use the bathroom, dress up in the morning, etc. My mom seemed to return to her childhood in the playground. With Jonathan, she tried out everything that she never had a chance to try herself when she was a child. She went up and down the slide with Jonathan, encouraging him to take big steps on the challenging ones. I was pretty nervous since she was over 60 and she seemed to often forget that.
  On Easter weekend, Anthony’s parents came and we took Jonathan to the playground again. There my mother hurt her wrist when she fell pushing the swing. She felt so bad especially in front of my in-laws, which started her worst turn. She put on her Chinese medicine she brought with her when she came, but it smelled so strong that she went outside in the backyard. She was also using her buffalo bone to massage her wrist. Hoping for a quick recovery, she followed the book she had brought along with other stuff from Taiwan. I tried to give her ice to prevent her wrist from swelling but she refused.
     The next day, her wrist was swollen so badly and her hand was blue. I was really worried and asked her to stop whatever she was doing. The buffalo bone massage might be good for something, but not for everything like the book claimed. We would have to send her to the hospital if the swelling didn’t go away. We asked her to try to use ice for the swelling and warm water to increase her blood circulation. She tried and her hand was much better the next day.

Not Feeling Alone in Our House

One night not long after we moved into our house, Anthony woke up and heard music downstairs. He woke me up and asked me whether I could hear it. Yes, I heard Jonathan’s music book the one you press the button, and it plays silly songs like “Down by the station, early in the morning…” and so on. The funny thing was it kept playing again and again several times. The next day, we joked that maybe Lucille was down there playing. The next night before I went to bed, I said into the air, “Lucile, if it’s you, we don’t mind. But don’t scare us at night. Please help us and protect us.” Then we never heard anything more. I was curious to check if the book had ran out of batteries; it had not. After that, the book did not play by itself anymore.
     I always felt sorry that we did not have the chance to pay respects at her grave where she was buried in her hometown. A few days before her death, her older brother and nephews drove six hours from New Hampshire to say goodbye to her and asked her what her wishes were after her death. Then they drove back to NH on the same day. I was hoping they could stay at her house and go to the hospital every day until she died since it was her last days and she never married and had no other family members around. They told us that they already made arrangements to transfer her body back home after she died.
     Marjorie and Lucille were housemates for most of their lives. Marjorie could not drive or cook; Lucille loved to drive and cook. They shared a two-bedroom house and half of their expenses. I thought that was very good compared to living alone.
     Not long after that music incident. I dreamed that we were walking around this flower garden. Then we turned a corner and went into this tiny door and tiny space that looked like a fireplace. Lucille’s bed was half out and half into the fireplace. She was lying in her bed and I could only see her upper body and she seemed very crowded in that bed and she couldn’t even turn over. We too hardly had any space to stand by her. I felt a draft come in from the door behind me so I tried to close the door and push my body inside. Then Lucille said that there was room next door with a double bed for us to stay. Yes, indeed. I saw this sizable double bed when we walked into the next room. I woke up. When she was alive, she told me that Marjorie’s family’s cemetery plots only had room for one person. She and her single daughter would have to fight over that one plot. If there was more room she didn’t mind joining her in her family plot. 

    Marjorie was married to an Afro-American singer in the 1930s in New York City. Both sides of their family disowned them afterward. Soon after she had her daughter, her husband died in a flu epidemic. She had a very hard life bringing up her daughter in New York City. Unfortunately, her older sister had a genetic disease and died young. Finally, she inherited their family farm, which she had no interest in. She called her cousin somewhere in the Midwest. She told her cousin that he could have the farm for free if he was willing to take her family name. Her ancestor took Mayflower to this new land and she was hoping her cousin would take the land. But he said, “this soil is not fertile and no thank you.” Then he flew back home. Every time Marjorie talked about this, she had tears in her eyes. Her nearby cousin would only admit they were friends in public and not related today.
     I tried to comfort her by saying see how many friends she has now. They are all your family. Yes indeed, she spent her whole life building friendships around the world. She even had some government agent visit her doorstep once when she tried to sell friendship yarns from Russia back in the 1970s. She was working for UNICEF as a social worker all her life. Lucille was a director of a daycare. They traveled around world. They had a good home and nice orderly life.
Lucille holding Jonathan’s hands and Rebecca’s son Joshua in front of Marjorie.  I was baby-sitting and keeping the elders company.
     Our house had all carpets on the first floor, the former owner had pets.  Although it looked clean, I could still see the stains and smells after professional carpet cleaning.  I bought a carpet steamer myself and cleaned a few more times.  One afternoon, I was watching the soap "General Hospital" while Jonathan was taking a nap.  It was 90 degrees outside and I felt that all I smelled was a mix of cat's urine and carpet shampoo.  I could not stand this smell any longer.  I got up and looked at the carpet at the end of the wall next to the TV, and I gently pulled it up and it was easy.  Only the edge had a strip of wood with small nails attached to the carpet.  I could see the hardwood floor underneath.  Oh, this carpet was not glued to the floor.  I could easily put the whole thing out. The hardwood floor looked perfect. I was so sick and tired of this smelly carpet and why I did not find out this when we moved in.  After hundreds of dollars spent, I should have pulled this dirty carpet out before I moved in. So I started pulling and moving the sofa and furniture around. Very soon, I rolled up the carpet in the living room and dining room. Only I was surprised that the dining room did not have a nice hardwood floor underneath, but old green and white tiles, but still better than the dirty carpet.  I was trying to pull the rolled up rugs outside of the house, the living room to the front door and the dining room to the back door.  The rug stuck in the little turn at both doors, and no matter how I pulled it, the rugs would not move.  It was over 90 degrees; I was very tired and had to give up.  Anthony came home; he saw a half-pulled rug stuck in both the middle of the front and back doors.  "What did you do, Ying?"  I replied, " I am sick and tired of these smelling rugs and I had it; I want you throw them all out".  He was upset -- "why didn't you tell me so I could do it in on a cooler day. You have to do this today...we ended up spending more money on putting a new hardwood floor in dinning room.
       Our house was over 100 years old, a colonial, and it needed a lot of repairs.  We spent a lot just to fix the plumbing. We had planned to buy a bigger car and some new furniture such as a dining room set.  Our front porch was leaking somewhere since we could see water stains on the ceiling.  One day, I opened the window in the upstairs bedroom, and looking out, I could see a few small holes on the roof tiles. Oh, that must cause the leak. The only thing I had in the house was silicone caulking for the bathroom tiles.  That would do it for now, so I climbed out of the window with my bare feet for a better grip.  I started filling those holes with the caulking. A voice was calling on the street -- one of my neighbors drove by and stopped in the middle of the road.  "Ying, Ying, are you OK? can I help you with anything?..." She was very concerned about me since I was three months pregnant with Richard.  She was afraid that I would jump down from there. It took me a few minutes to figure out her concern since she did not want to move on.  I assured her that I was OK.  Anthony came home upset again asking me what I was doing up there on the roof...

Say Goodbye to Our College Town

Anthony was trying to finish up his work for his professor and other graduate students. I started to check apartment listings. David kindly sent us a Boston Sunday Globe with some recommendations on where to avoid, what was the going price, etc. After dozens of phone calls, we finally found an apartment in Malden, north of Boston for a lease of 3 months. That would give us more time for house hunting.
     We had Mayflower as our moving company. Three young men came in the morning and packed for us in a few hours. Then in the afternoon, another three young men came for loading up the truck. This time there was a Native American among them and he was in charge. I was surprised to see him carry our full, loaded dresser on his back with a cotton belt loop from the 3rd to the 1st floors since we didn’t have an elevator.
     While he was loading the truck, two other young guys were struggling to get our couch out of the door. They tried for about a half-hour and somehow the couch just didn’t want to go out. I called Anthony at the office and asked him how he got the couch into the apartment in the first place. He said that his father, brother, and he struggled for a long time to get it in, but he did not remember exactly how. Finally, I told them just to chop it up and put it in the trash since it was old anyway. At the same time, the Native American came up and yelled, “what are you guys doing up here?; I finished all the loading and took a break, and you are still up here.” They explained to him about the couch and I told them just forget it and break it up. He smiled and said, “come on guys, pick up the couch and turn around, and…” The two guys followed his directions and within a few seconds, the couch was out. It went so smooth and I said, “wow.” He did not say a word and continued his work. (Mayflower, part of Unigroup ).  I did not know that 10 years later I would end up working for them  too and it became my longest career.
     Jonathan felt a little lost between the trip and now that the apartment was empty. We slept on the floor that night and drove to Boston the next day. We thought we mapped out the trip pretty good. After we got off Route 90, we went by Route 60 where we got lost in the little towns. It was 4 PM in the afternoon. We had to be at the apartment rental office by 5 PM, otherwise, we would have to stay in a motel somewhere overnight. Luckily, we made it to the office at 4:55 PM.

Lucille Passed Away

Marjorie and Lucille’s health had worsened. First Marjorie had to go through a whole series of tests to find out what was causing her pain. She gradually couldn’t walk anymore. The doctor did not find anything and she was in the nursing home temporarily.
     This gave me a chance to see a nursing home for the first time when we went to visit. She had a roommate who lost her mind. From her words while she moaned and groaned, we knew that she had a son, but we never saw him come to visit. Every time we were there, I heard a man’s voice down the hall calling “help, help.” So desperate sounding, so helpless, it made me follow his voice one day. He sat on his chair with one of his hands supporting his head on the table. He was motionless; his lips were so dry and cracked. I was standing in front of him. He did not even acknowledge my presence. So, I bent down to get closer. I said, “can I help you?” He did not show any movement and seemed trapped in his own world still calling for help. Marjorie said he called for help all day and night and that she was so stressed by all those people. Very soon, she had to make a decision with her daughter, whether to stay in that place and give up all their belongings or go home with a helper. Finally, her daughter decided to take care of her at home.
     Lucille had been in and out of the hospital. I took Jonathan to see her every now and then. One day, I was in her room at home. We discussed our uncertain futures and where we were going to be in the future because of the job prospects. She was also concerned about herself. She never married and had no children. I told her that she could go with us if she wanted. I wouldn’t mind to have a “grandma” around. She said that it depended upon where we went because she needed to have a dialysis center nearby for her kidney needs. That was why she could not go back to her hometown in New Hampshire where most of her family lived. She said she would consider my offer. But not long after, she was in the hospital again and one day, Marjorie called me and asked me to go to the hospital right away and say goodbye to Lucille. Lucille was not going to be better and she had only a few days left.
     We rushed to the hospital. She saw us by the door and stopped us from bringing Jonathan in. She didn’t want Jonathan to see her. So, Anthony and I took turns to go in and see her. She had changed a lot. Her eyes were sunken and she looked very weak. She did have a clear mind. It was so hard for me to see her that way. I was trying to tell her that she was going to get better. She told me, “no, I’ve said goodbye to my brothers and most of my friends.” I told her that she would drive home again since I knew that she loved to drive. She said, “I already gave away my car to Rose.” She had a living will; she didn’t want the doctor to do any more.
     I felt desperate because I didn’t know what to say. But I couldn’t accept the fact that she had no hope and she was dying. I sat by her bedside. I took the record board by the foot of the bed. It clearly showed her blood pressure dropping day by day to dangerous levels. She had stopped dialysis and eating but her mind was so active. I just could not accept that she gave up the fight. Rose told me, “No, Ying, not this time, no, dear, she is not going to get better this time. We just hope and try to make her as comfortable as possible.” I knew Rose had been a doctor herself.
     We came back the next day and knew that Lucille was getting worse. She told me that she couldn’t breathe. Very soon, she started to call, “doctor, doctor, please help me, please, please...” I started to worry and went to look for the doctor. The nurse told me that her doctor was on the way but Rose told me that the chance that her doctor would come was small because he could not do any more. I went back and told Lucille that the doctor was on the way. She was going to be okay. She was going to be better.
     We left the hospital at 5:30 PM. After we got home, I felt very bad. I did not want to eat, so I went to bed and lied down there. Lucille’s face was in front of me. I saw her calling for the doctor. I felt so bad, helpless that I was she and I felt that I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t understand why none of the doctors or nurses came. They should have at least come to comfort her or do something because she needed help while dying. About 6:30 PM, Rose called Anthony and told him that Lucille had gone to heaven finally. Anthony tried to comfort me with the assurance that she was no longer suffering. She is with God. I just burst into tears crying. I cried and cried, reliving that I had lost my grandma again.
     A few days later, I dreamed about Lucille, she looked so young and full, not like how she looked when she was dying, thin, with sunken eyes. “Hi, Lucille, you look so good! See, I told you that you were going to be Okay and you are going to be better.” She smiled and said, “You are leaving the city!” “My offer still stands and you could still follow us,” I said. She should not feel much different because we got some of her spare furniture in her attic that her brother did not want to move back to NH. We left her bedroom untouched because Marjorie and her daughter Rachel wanted to rent her room out to students for extra income.
     Then I dreamed that I was in their house again. Lucille was healthy, walking from the kitchen to the dining room holding a small cake like she used to surprise me with for my birthday, only I was trying to guess whose birthday was. I then noticed there was only one candle on the cake. While she was walking towards us, she sang, “Happy birthday to me, Happy birthday to me!” On the other hand, Marjorie who was still alive, looked so pale and sick lying in bed. Marjorie lived a few more years after.