Sunday, February 18, 2007

Warning: Long Whining Post

Warning: long whining post.

Yesterday was Chinese New Year's Eve. We went to a 99 Ranch Market (an Asian American supermarket) to pick up a few items yesterday. New Year was getting close, and I think it triggered some cravings for traditional foods. Anyway, we were in line, and I knew that New Year's Day was close, so I asked a woman when Chinese New Year was this year. She says to me, "除夕是今天" (which means "New Year's Eve is today." So I made plans to call my mother for the traditional exchange of greetings.

Normally, Chinese New Year is the biggest event of the year, and all the family gathers together. The celebration of the New Year holiday season lasts 15 days. I suppose it is similar to Thanksgiving and Christmas for Americans in that way. Some Chinese even pick out a plum tree. Anyway...

I haven't received a letter from home in more than five(?) years now. When my dad needs to contact me, he calls (which is why my cell phone number will not change). My mother may have stopped writing to punish me; I am not sure, although she told me exactly that one time. It doesn't make sense to me. Anyway, my mother wants me to write more often. I quit calling because my mom tends to tell me what a disappointment I've been and how I need to be a better son to her. We just don't know each other, as I've explained previously. So, I don't call home often. With no letters back, I don't write often, either, although I have good reasons to change that.

My sister in law calls regularly. She encouraged me to reach out to my parents with regular letters, and I agreed that was a good idea. This last letter, I asked Cathy to write a little note; Cathy didn't think my mother cared to hear from her, but she wrote anyway. Well, my sister in law emailed me and told me how happy my parents were to receive that note, and how they were looking forward to my planned summer visit to Taiwan. With all that in my subconscious, I called home.

It took me a long time to get through on the phone. I use a phone card to save money, and I tried off-and-on for almost 90 minutes to get a connection. Sometimes, the phone would ring once, pick up, and hang up. Sometimes I would wait 30 seconds and hear "all circuits are busy." I'm sure hundreds of thousands of Chinese were also trying to call Asia, so getting through was more difficult than normal. Either way, I finally got through and was able to greet my mother with both the wish for prosperity as well as the simple "Happy New Year."

I was expecting neutral and pleasant small talk. That ended after 10 or 15 seconds, and my mother started telling me again (in Chinese) what a disappointment I've been. "You're less familiar to me than a stranger," she said. "Everyone else can talk about their wonderful sons who moved to America, but I'm afraid to open my mouth," she said. "Are you even my son, or were you born from a rock?" she asked.

I tried to interject, to apologize, but she just got louder. I tried to tell her that I am just trying to... Well, I guess I don't know what I was trying to do. I just wanted to call my mother and wish her a Happy New Year. I'm not sure what I said next, but I yelled it. It was something like I didn't call to be yelled at. I told her I had to try a long time just to get through, and I didn't call to give her a chance to hurt me. Who does that? I told her I just wanted to wish her a Happy New Year, and that I was going to hang up. She told my dad that her son didn't want to talk to her, so my dad and I spoke for a bit. We talked a little, and I hung up.

I called back later (it didn't take as long to get through) and apologized to my mother for yelling at her. She told me some more things I was doing wrong as her son (nothing I can understand, unfortunately), and I just absorbed it.

My father and I spoke for a bit, too. He advised me not to plan on visiting anytime soon (he said it would be a waste of time, whatever that means). We also talked about providing for my mother, since he may not live for too many more years. *sigh*

Anyway, I feel kinda like my mother manipulated my sister in law. She seems to want me to figure out how to be a good son but won't tell me how. She wants me to be the son she wanted to rear (but didn't). I cannot become a better Chinese son, because I'm only "so" Chinese. I'm much more American than she realizes. Cathy is trying to help me decipher the clues my mother gives me... there must be a way to understand the "I'm a bad son" messages so I can determine how to be a good son to her.

I could use some prayer on that front...


  1. Lee, my heart aches for you. I will remember you in my prayers.

  2. Thank you. Really.

    As silly as this may sound, I'm thinking about sending money. One of our missionary supports just retired from the field, so we'll probably redirect the funds toward my mother.

    I'm not sure... still praying about it.