Tag Archives: family

Parental Issues

My father is a cadger. There’s no denying it. When I was growing up, I remember being upset that he would always find some way to quit his job and go on unemployment. It was extremely embarrassing. While everyone’s father was out being significantly more successful and more hardworking than my father, he was out socializing with people from his hometown and occasionally trying to to steal money from his kids. Yes, that’s true. After a year of working and going to university, I was due for a huge income tax refund. My own father intercepted it and told me that I wasn’t getting any refund that year. Luckily, the guy who was doing our family’s taxes wasn’t keen on playing my father’s game once I talked to him about it.

He’s probably one of the least adapted immigrant I’ve ever met. He distrusts anyone that doesn’t share his color. He looks down on white people, black people, and Native people. He even looks down on people from his own country if they’re not from the same region he was born in. He looks down on all of them. And yet, if he could get away with not working and just sit at home collecting government benefits, he would. He’s the horrible, faineant immigrant that racists use as a caricature to scare people against foreigners coming in.

My mother kept the family above water. She had to save him a couple of times from his debts. And the day she died at the young age of 53, my father decided he would no longer work. He’s the same age as my mother. I doubt if I could ever properly retire. And looking around at my in-laws and my sisters’ in-laws and my friends’ parents, most of them still work. My poor father-in-law is 72 and he still insists on working. My father collects money from his meager pension and my mother’s pension. Our old house in Canada, he sold and used the money mostly for himself. He bought some land and built a house in the boondoks in the Philippines. He bought land from my uncle who is also much like my dad. And lucky for that uncle, he gets to spend that money and not be stuck with land that no one else wants to buy. My mother’s childhood home was sold. Our share was mostly taken by my father as well. Despite all of this, he still occasionally gets handouts from my sisters. I stopped sending him handouts.

He spends his time between Canada, California, and the Philippines. He’s been flying between these three places for over ten years now, financed by my sisters. They justify paying for his tickets because he gets to babysit his grandkids. He really doesn’t. It sounds fun to spend the year flying around the world and just hanging out with family, but he always makes it sound like a horrible chore. Summers in Canada, winters in California… sounds like heaven. But before Christmas comes, he would ditch his family and go to the Philippines. He would rather spend his whole life there. Unfortunately, his pensions are tied to Canada and he can’t be in the Philippines for the whole year. Why he would rather be there, who knows? Maybe because the Canadian dollar can go farther there? Maybe he’s got a girlfriend? Who knows? I know it’s not family. My grandmother died last year, his close cousins have their own lives or have prematurely passed away, and my dad’s siblings can’t stand him.

And what does he do when he’s with my sisters in Canada and the US? He nags at them for the way they are parenting. I understand being helpful, but it’s also another to be giving unneeded advice especially when we were mostly raised by nannies. If anything, my most significant memory of him when I was a child was his habit of embarrassing us in front of relatives for his own amusement. These days, he tries to create drama and elicit sympathy from people, trying to make himself seem like a selfless martyr when it comes to his children. When in reality, most of what he’s done is take, take, and take.

After a long while, for my own health, I haven’t called him. Then I hear from one of my sisters that he’s complaining that I haven’t contacted him in a while, totally forgetting that phone lines go both ways. So I called him last Friday and what do I get? I get more of him trying to sound like he’s suffering. Oh, boohoo! I’m flying to California soon!

Then I get the dumb questions and dumb comments:

So are you still living in the same place?” Huh, I moved almost four year ago! In fact, my lease is almost up and now I’m super stressed with the ridiculous housing inflation crisis in Seoul.

That’s the same everywhere, son!” No, it isn’t! What’s happening in Korea is unprecedented! Seoul is effectively becoming similar to Hong Kong or New York when it comes to housing. But of course he wouldn’t know that since he doesn’t read much about anything except news in the Philippines. Also, most newly-married couples get some money from the man’s side of the family in order to buy a house. Now, I don’t really subscribe to this tradition, but my father didn’t really offer me much help in my wedding. Heck, he didn’t help much in my education either. As I just mentioned, he sold our old house in Canada and has gone through that money all to himself. My wife married a foreigner who is significantly hobbled financially from the start compared to other married couples here despite of how much money I make now.

Well, why don’t you move back here?” This comment pissed me off the most. What the heck am I gonna do in Canada? What’s my wife gonna do there? This is a dumb question from someone who doesn’t really care about reality, someone who doesn’t really care about my situation. If I move to Canada, is he gonna help me? No, he won’t. If anything, I probably have to help him instead!

And what angered me most about that is the total lack of self-awareness. We’ve been trying to get him to settle down and get his own apartment in Winnipeg already. This way, he’s not wasting money travelling to the Philippines and risk losing his pension. And as for why he’s not staying in Canada, who knows? Now that my poor grandmother has passed away, he has no excuses to stay in the Philippines. He can’t say, “I have to take care of your grandmother” anymore. So why not stay in Canada forever? He’s definitely got more reasons to permanently move to Canada than I do. He’s got grandkids in North America. He can make new friends in Canada or the United States, too.

When he asks how I’m doing, I always tell him I’m busy with work, I’m always hustling for extra work, and that I’m both grateful to be working and fearful that I could lose my job at any point. He goes, “well, keep up the good work. You gotta do what you gotta do.” Yes, you gotta do what you gotta do, except when you retire at 53 and choose not to do anything at all. Because really, that was his style of parenting in a nutshell. “You should do this, inspite of me not doing it at all.” Work hard! Study hard! Don’t drink too much! Ugh! The hypocrisy is unbearable.

These days, he’s another elephant in a room occupied by a herd of elephants that I would rather not talk about with my wife. I’m sure it’s the same way with my siblings as well. How does he not see this? How does he not see that in this country, I am alone and I can’t even count on my father, my only parent alive, to be there for me?

This is rather ugly and it’s truly unbecoming to be airing out all of my dirty laundry on the Internet like this. Luckily, not many people visit this Website. No one else would probably hear about this other than my therapist. So yeah, if my therapist ever reads this, just tell me you read my site, and it would save us a few minutes.

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Merry Christmas, All.

Fire Bug

Last year, I wrote that Christmases can be a barometer to how you’re doing in life. If you’re having a particularly crappy Christmas, if you can’t make the supposedly happiest day of the year more joyful than average, then perhaps it’s saying something about the state of how you’re doing. Maybe it’s an inelegant thing to say, but the way a person’s life is can be totally independent to the person. No matter what any self-help guru might tell you, a person’s state of affairs is often outside of their control. But sometimes, if you’re an especially shitty person who really should be in some sort of medication and you feel particularly shitty during the holiday, maybe it’s all your fault to begin with. After all, how hard is it to be happy for just one day?

My opinion still hasn’t changed. If anything, I think I’ve grown to not be fond of Christmas. I’m not saying that my life if miserable or that I’m more depressed this year than I was last year, but I’ve truly given up on trying to make a good day out of the holiday. I think the best Christmases I’ve had all belong in the past, Christmases when I’ve gotten laid or Christmases which I spent with my proper family. Heck, the last “real” Christmas I spent was about five years ago in Halloween in Winnipeg when we decided to have an early Christmas with my sisters and their kids. But now everyone’s gotten older and life has just gotten in the way too often. Even if I managed to get everyone back together in one room to spend the holiday, I’m sure my nephews and nieces would be too busy rolling their eyes or burying their faces on their phones.

Christmas to me has now become like a Sunday. The best part of Christmas is the day after, when it’s another full year before you get to be subjected to it again. Merry Christmas, everyone! Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.

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On Korean Funerals and Being an Outsider

Morton Salt Girl

My wife’s grandmother passed away last Monday. It was a very sad occasion but not unexpected. She hasn’t been living well for two years now. But I guess that’s the hallmark of a good long life, to die and have people remark “Well, we were expecting it. She was old and at least now she’s at peace,” instead of “What!? How did she die?”

The funeral was very traditional, even by Korean standards. My wife and even my co-workers say they just don’t bury people that way anymore. It felt both like a privilege and me intruding (I’ll explain this more later). I knew I was watching something that’s no longer done and probably would no longer be done in the future. And it was also extraordinary that I was pushed to participating into many aspects of it, even carrying the casket and lowering the body. It’s a bit morbid, but I was reluctantly grateful for it.

Several things marred the experience for me though. One was the almost mandatory inclusion of heavy drinking. I understand drinking in a funeral, but at some point it turns less into a funeral and more into just a regular drinking session with Koreans, complete with the ugliness of hierarchies in such occasions. I was particularly annoyed at one of my wife’s relatives “testing” me and my brother-in-laws to see if we were fit to either be part of the family or be married to our wives. We’ve all been married to our wives for years, and the man was basically a stranger to me. He won’t be there when our marriages run into a trouble whatsoever, but yet he gets to lord over everyone in the table. Why? Korean culture. Perhaps it was all coming from a good place, but it felt quite obnoxious at some point. And no it wasn’t happening because I was a foreigner. My brothers-in-law had to tolerate some abuse too. But it does nothing but alienate people or make them feel like they don’t belong in the table. I said so that night myself. Being in that table, while it makes me feel like I’m family for whatever that is worth, it makes me feel small and that I have to constantly prove to others that I belong.

Being a foreigner, I tend to be a target for people who are not quite used to seeing foreigners. This is why I’m sometimes not particularly excited to be in the countryside. One drunk grave digger who probably never saw a foreigner before in his life started yelling incoherently at me and was bragging that he can speak seven languages. And yet he does not understand a word of English. I suppose he’s a genius with languages who just happens to dig graves as a hobby. And I was the idiot who had to tolerate his nonsense and not punch him out. I was warned not the engage him, which was smart, but then again, why was I the target of his abuse in the first place?

Again, I can’t help but feel it’s because I’m the other. I’m a foreigner. As welcoming as many of my Korean relatives can be, it can sometimes only take a few handful of events before I start feeling like the “other,” like I’m the dancing bear. Perhaps I’m being too sensitive, but I don’t really complain about it in real life. I just keep things bottled up inside and write about it here where no one would read it. But it’s that feeling of being an “other” that makes me feel like I’m intruding in the funeral in the first place. Last Wednesday, we buried a wonderful woman who had a great life and whose selflessness has touched the lives of so many people in her family. There must be other people worthier than me, someone who actually feels comfortable to be there and fits in, to be part of the group that lays her body to her final resting place.

On a rather sweet note, I remember one time, back when my wife’s grandmother was healthier, we we’re all spending Korean thanksgiving together. For a brief moment, it was just me, her, and my older brother-in-law in the living. I think at some point, she started feeling bad for me, wondering why I wasn’t spending Korean thanksgiving with my parents. She asked why I don’t take my wife to my family and have her help my mom with thanksgiving preparations (as is the tradition in Korea). I told her that my mom passed away and my family was not in the country.

My brother-in-law was more direct, “He’s a foreigner. He’s not Korean.”

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On Kids

Rat King

It’s hard enough trying to make one person happy. Try making two people happy. Or how about three? If you are good at making people happy, then by all means, go ahead, have kids. If you’re having enough trouble trying to make one person happy, then don’t do it. Kids won’t strengthen your relationship with your significant other. If anything, a child would add more responsibility and could potentially make you feel more trapped in an already claustrophobic relationship.

Take a friend of mine for example. I’ve known him since high school. I’ve never heard anyone ever speak an ill word about him. He’s always been very friendly, knows almost everyone, and is always ready with a joke or two, trying to make people smile. He was good that way. It was easy to be friends with him, and he’s one of the few people from my childhood I still occasionally keep in touch with. Anyway, it is no surprise to me to learn that he now has a second child… a second child with a woman who has a child of her own as well, making it three children under his care.

My first thought was that the whole situation is quite the undertaking, especially in this economy. Who can afford to raise three children? Not only that. People these days are now more focused on themselves after years of doctors, experts, and the media extolling the benefits of introspection and self-love. I believe we are not as selfless as out parents and our grandparents’ generations. Who has time to care for children? When can a person fit child-rearing between work, hobbies, exercise, social life, Netflix, social media, self-improvement, self-fulfillment, etc.? I focused more about his time, his own personal needs. I forgot to think about his partner’s needs, his children’s needs. And maybe all the other things I focus more on when thinking about his situation is truly secondary to everything else. It makes me feel small to think that way, like I’m a proper selfish dirt bag.

This is why I admire that friend, and all of my sisters for that matter. They have more of themselves to give that just making their spouse happy just wouldn’t be enough. Not only are they better with managing time and money that I could ever be. They are much more generous and better in dealing with other people and making them happy than I am. As I said, it’s very difficult for me to keep one person happy. I’m not that smart, or perhaps I’m just built with so many failings and weaknesses. I can’t imagine being good enough, responsible enough, to bring a child into this world, much less two or three. I’m just not that big of a person.

 

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Mommy Issues

Octopus

In Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Nazi scientists were curious about parental bonds, especially regarding identical twins. (SPOILER!) Young identical twins of opposite genders are kept by the scientists with their mother. Occasionally, the boy would dress like a girl and the twins would be nearly impossible to tell apart. On what was probably the last stage of the experiment, the mother was forced to choose one of the twins. She was to give up one of them to a fate unknown to her. At the time, the boy was dressed like his sister, and both children desperately clung to their mother, not wanting to be taken away. Crossdressing however did not save him, and the mother, after struggling for so long, finally let go of her son.

The boy grew up to be the main antagonist of the story, fueled by the mystery of that fateful day. What was the meaning of that day? Did his mother truly let him go or did his mother mean to let go of his sister instead? And if his mother said she meant to keep him with her, could that really be believed? This is the genius of Naoki Urasawa. He has a gift of exploring people’s most common insecurities.

It’s the life raft question. What if you were the one left in the ocean?

I have three sisters. I grew up, knowing that my mother loved us all but not equally. I knew this even at a very young age. And even after she passed away, I was reminded that she loved me less compared to one of my sisters. It makes me bitter sometimes knowing this, but it didn’t turn me into a monster the same way Naoki Urasawa’s character did. I am confident, that like all mothers, she would sacrifice herself to save her children. But just like the story, given the choice, I’ll probably be let go to the hands of Nazi scientists.

Writing this now, I look back at how this truth, albeit common, might have affected me as a person. It might have affected my confidence growing up, doubting why I wasn’t as beloved as my sibling. But that lack of confidence could also have been fueled by a father who was never really the most encouraging person in my life growing up. I was told I threw a ball like a girl before I was even taught how to throw. Perhaps it affected how I see women in my life. Growing up with sisters have been a great influence in making me more sympathetic to feminist concerns, but perhaps my childhood has given me mother issues that affects not only how I relate to women. I don’t know. I’m just throwing this out there. It’s a bit late for Mother’s Day, but I remember feeling three things on Sunday. One is gratitude and longing for a mother who passed away. Two is regret for not being there for her during the last years of her life. Three is bitterness… selfish, idiotic bitterness.

The thing is this is not the only time I’ve had the mixed feeling of being second best (if that). I remember dating a girl once knowing that she liked another guy long before she even took notice of me. Now this is true for most relationships in the world, but I felt like she could drop me anytime this other guy showed any affection towards her. I was grateful for the attention she was giving me, but I was also insecure. At worst, there was even a hint of bitter victory, like “Ha! Finally, you like me now, after ignoring me for so long, you bitch!” And all the time she was with me, I kept wondering if she’d rather be with that other guy instead. It was very confusing.

Now as for my mother. All of the love and kindness she has given me, a dumb part of me would sometimes feel that it all pales to the love she has for my sibling. Enjoy the scraps. Your sister is getting the full meal. And just like with that girl, would my mother really have spent all that time with me? Wouldn’t she rather be with my sister instead?

Now, I realize how juvenile that all sounds. It’s juvenile, petty, and competitive. It probably doesn’t reflect her true feelings, but sometimes my mind goes there. It just does. In many ways, I should be grateful for having such a wonderful mother raise me. After all, there are many others who don’t have the luxury to complain about their parents. Or worse, having parents who mistreat them. I just wish sometimes that I merely suspected my mother having favorites, instead of having it proven to me several times in my life.

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Mommet Dearest

Octopus

My grandmother on my mother’s side is currently in a nursing home in Hawaii. She hasn’t been well for years, and we received a bit of a scare over the weekend. Last I heard, she’s recovering and is under observation. A relief, but for a couple of hours there I wish I was swept with strange emotions, but honestly, I really didn’t know what to feel.

I love my grandmother dearly, but I haven’t really been the best grandson to her. The last time I saw her was over eight years ago, that was when my mother died. Even then, a part of me resented her presence at the hospital. I was thinking, “I realize you’re weak and all, but my mother is dying. Can we focus all of the attention on her?” My heart and my mind wasn’t in the right place. And I’m not sure if it recovered after that. She lived in Hawaii, far from me, so I barely thought about her. The years after my mom’s passing, our family’s gone through so much without my grandmother, that I can honestly say I only remember her in passing.

Which makes the weekend strange. I felt somewhat like a bastard, like someone who missed the train (or someone who will soon miss it), and will forever be much less because he missed it. Even though I was upset, I felt like I should be more upset than I was. And the thing is, I don’t know what I was upset about. Was I upset about her, or more about me and how I’ve behaved? Or maybe I was just upset at the passage of time. Eight years…. What happened in eight years? What the hell?!

My best memories of my grandmother, we called her Mommet, was growing up and visiting her house every Sunday after church. I used to hang out with her and my great grandmother. I would help my great grandmother sew by putting thread through needles. The house back then had this great garden with different fruit trees. Mommet’s garden even had sugar apples. My sisters and I would recall her trying to feed us lucuma (chesa or dien taw)and none of us liking it. Weirdly, it was the place where I first saw my first salamander. It was also the place where I first stepped on dog shit. When I was a bit older, I remember discovering the Beatles at my grandmother’s house, when I saw my mom’s old records.

The series of Virgin Mary sculptures I made were inspired by my Mommet’s bedroom. It had a shrine of Catholic saints. I thought it was very pretty, and I made my series of sculptures inspired by the colors as well as the stories behind each and every character on that shrine.

Mommet used to be a bigger part of our lives, until finally she wasn’t, until she was in Hawaii and I barely saw her. I suppose it was better for her. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii? It’s just a shame that in the process, I ended up losing a strong relationship with my grandmother. I’m relieved to know that she’s still with us, although it would seem that I’m writing an entry as some sort of eulogy. I’m not. I’m just ranting. I guess if anything, this is more of a eulogy for the dead part of me that wasn’t reacting properly over the weekend… or perhaps it is a precursor to how I’ll be devastated when the inevitable finally comes.

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Flowers Phone Alcohol… baba booey baba booey

flowers_tentacles_pitchers

I kinda missed out on the whole beer home-brewing thing. I feel like living in a small apartment, I’m not really equipped for it. Also, I’ll probably end up drinking a whole lot of bad beer. There’s already enough bad beer I could buy locally. I don’t need to make them myself. The same goes with wine. I don’t drink enough wine to start making my own. And though I know enough to know what bad wine tastes like, I don’t know about making my own bad wine.

I make an exception with Korean makkeoli however. Makkeoli is a traditional Korean alcoholic drink made from rice. It’s often referred to as rice wine, but it’s not really wine. It has its own unique taste and is quite easy to drink. The downside is that some brands of makkeoli leave drinkers quite gassy. Now, I don’t drink makkeoli often, but it is something that I enjoy with my father-in-law (a better alternative to soju).

I’m planning to try making makkeoli this month with my mother-in-law. She still knows how to make makkeoli, although the last time she made a batch was decades ago. Her daughters are taught how to make kimchee, and I often help out in their annual kimchee making tradition. But I noticed that none of her daughters were taught how to make makkeoli. My wife’s not interested, and I doubt if her niece or nephew would even bother learning about it. It’s just not very high on their traditions compared to kimchee. Alas, their family recipe (I assume there is one) is about to die off.

So I’m going to learn how to make makkeoli. My in-laws have a lot of space so it’s perfect for brewing. Also, this gives me another activity whenever we visit. Hopefully, I’ll end up with something worth drinking.

My phone is dying on me. I’ve had my phone for four years now. I’m not really too keen on upgrading since I only use my phone for calls, podcasts, Howard Stern, texting, Twitter, and the occasional net surfing. I don’t really need something too high end, and honestly, nothing out there has really been that exciting, in my opinion. I’ve had an iPhone all of these years, and I’m really considering switching to Android just for the sake of divorcing myself from iTunes. I like the phone, but I’m really not a big fan of the software.

That’s an understatement. I hate iTunes. I hate how it limits what the customer can do with their products.

The new iPhone is a tad too big. I’ve heard too many horror stories regarding Samsung phones. Also, their latest designs are kinda lame and gimmicky, in my opinion. The Sony phones are kinds intriguing, especially since I own quite a few Sony products that I can integrate into a whole ecosystem. But I’m just not sure yet. Anyway, we’ll see until my phone finally dies.

 

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