A journey through my mind. Which is sometimes fabulous. Often not.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Closing doors

I’m blogging this lovely Sunday morning because after yesterday’s ordeal, I’m a mix of emotions: anger, frustration, futility, resentment, sadness. At least for once I’m not having an identity crisis.

Ah-Gong’s funeral was yesterday. I spent the day not thinking about it, Rick and I ran errands in the morning, and I took an hour and a half to get ready. Upon arriving at the funeral site with my sister and brother-in-law, I greeted my father and other relatives at the door of the chapel. I wasn’t nervous; rather, confident, because I was looking good and I guess had the intention of looking like the 27-year-old woman that I am to people I hadn’t seen in over 10 years. It was almost like a high school reunion where you show up looking like you’re accepting an award, and people look at you and marvel at how much you’ve changed since high school when you were a dumpy nerd with knobby knees. It didn’t work in my favor yesterday that I look very much like my mother.

The service was interesting. I’d somehow forgotten that, duh, the whole thing would be in Chinese, and surprisingly, I understood about 80% of it all. Go me. Although I wished I hadn’t understood that much. What was said wasn’t all that nice, a little self-indulgent on the ministers’ parts (of course, touting that this was God’s message and Ah-Gong was a saint), and very over-the-top preachery in a loud and dramatic way. I remembered why I never liked Chinese church, and especially why I stopped going to Chinese church in the first place. These people are pieces of work. I wondered if I was in a cult.

Grandma asked us to be in the receiving line after the service, and everything happened so fast and it’s not like we had rehearsed this, so off we went to stand there and shake people’s hands. Our father had told my sister that we could wait outside, but I didn’t know that was an option. We greeted about 100 people, about 10 of them I vaguely remember from my repressed childhood memories. 80 of the people were over 70 years old and gray-haired, and while they spoke my name, and I just smiled at them, I thought, Who the hell ARE you??

Going into this, I had intentions of being polite. I was going to be respectful and friendly because funerals aren’t really the time to be angry and slit-eyed and rehash old grudges. Too bad other people didn't come in with the same intentions. How na├»ve I was to think that by being open I could change perceptions. People, people that I didn’t even know or remember, thought it was in their Godly duty to take this opportunity to voice their opinions to my sister and me. There was even one of my dad’s cousins that I recognized who had been like an aunt and whom I had fond memories of, who now glared at me with disapproval and a jaw-clenched, puffy-cheeked frown (and of course, no greeting. What!? Do I owe you money or something?). We were told things like, “Let the past be the past,” and “You should have visited your grandfather more; he talked about you often, I expect to see you more at Grandma’s house from now on” and “He loved his sons very much; he loved his grandsons very much.” Period. Okay, then...

Three things boggle my mind:
1) Why are we the ones getting lectured and being told to forget the past? We are the products of divorce and all the adults involved (parents and grandparents) mishandled the situation, and continue to do so. We react to the lack of parenting and grandparenting involved. By that I mean lack of role models. If anyone should get a talking-to, it should be my father for his continuing indiscretions. My sister and I just look at each other and are confused when people approach us with this comment. Who’s not forgotten? We’ve gone on with OUR lives, get on with yours and OUT of OUR past!!! WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?! And it’s none of your business anyway what goes on between me and my father! They turned a possibly innocuous re-meeting very ugly with unnecessary words. (Coincidentally, this is how my grandfather behaved.)

2) If someone hits you, doesn’t apologize, you’re supposed to forgive him. If they continue to hurt you, still don’t apologize, don’t think they’ve done anything wrong, you are still supposed to “forgive and forget.” Hmm. Do I have “walk on me” written across my forehead? Or am I just worth less than the one who’s hurting me? Do we tell this to victims of domestic violence? Do we teach our children this concept? If a child is getting beat up on the playground, do we say to him, “oh, just let the bully hit you, you need to forgive him for being mean.” Or do we pull the bully aside, talk to him, make him apologize and try to get him to see that what he was doing is wrong? The reason I bring this up is because my father and my grandfather have hurt me very much with their words and actions. Although I am an adult now, our relationships have been frozen in time; being the CHILD in all of these relationships, I don’t believe that it’s right to blame us for anything that ADULTS do or don’t do, especially divorce. My father and grandfather hurt me, so I made my feelings very clear, and left the environment. They did not apologize, or change to accommodate me in their lives, so I did not go back. How is this wrong? Just because they’re my elders I’m supposed to take the abuse? Every time I try to reconcile, let down my walls so we can start anew, one of the men manages to f*ck it up with the same words and actions, and I’m left hurt again. Why is this MY fault? Yet, I left the funeral yesterday with a heavy load of outsider judgments on my shoulders. There’s nothing like feeling misunderstood for 10+ years. I felt mentally and physically impaired and frustrated.

3) There are some people who don’t believe in divorce and take it to the extreme where the products of a failed marriage are somehow associated with it. So to some people, I guess my sister and I are bastard children who shouldn’t deserve to live, despite that for the first 14 years of my life I was an accepted individual human being who was allowed to play with their kids. Okay, then. Nice to have known you. I'll just go die quietly in the corner. (of course, the man who acted this way turns out to be a well-respected pastor)

So this is what’s REALLY going on: my sister and I stopped speaking to our father over 10 years ago. Why? Not because we “sided with our mother and she turned us against him” but rather because my father chose (and CONTINUES TO CHOOSE) very inappropriate relationships with my mother’s female cousins. These women have literally torn my mother’s family apart, as if the already shameful and unheard of divorce between our parents wasn’t enough. Their presence at the funeral was inappropriate and, ironically, therefore expected. One of the women approached us and tried to make small talk, telling me how pretty I’ve grown (and I wanted to say, “I wish I could say the same about you,” but didn’t) and asking if I still worked at the Getty (to which I responded with a curt “yes” and looked away, disinterested). And she knew my sister had a baby. How on earth would she, my mother’s cast-off first cousin, have known any of this information? I certainly know no one on my mother’s side said anything. It became quite clear that it was my father who is still keeping in contact with them. And obviously on a pretty regular basis, being that my sister had her baby no more than 5 weeks ago. She insisted on revealing that she knew personal information about us, and I wanted to scream in her face, “STEP OFF, BITCH!”

Although we had stopped speaking to our father 10+ years ago, we continued to visit our grandparents for a while after. By that time things were very ugly and my grandfather found out that we, two girls both under 20 years of age, were forsaking his beloved almost-50-year-old son who could do no wrong. So on two separate visits (with a 6-month falling-out period) our grandfather to our faces cursed our mother, saying that she squandered all the money he’d given us over the past decades, that she was a selfish woman, and the divorce was all her fault. We were so angry that we couldn’t even fight back with evidence of my father’s laziness as a husband responsible for maintaining a running household, immaturity as a guiding father figure, multiple infidelities brought into our home (my sister’s room, to be exact), and as a spineless son who was ordered to remarry to save face. In any case, stop using us as pawns in your twisted game! So we stopped visiting them as well, which was unfair to my grandmother (she enabled the behavior but we can’t really blame her for that).

After all the snippets of opinions we were hearing yesterday compounded with the fact that these women actually showed up at the funeral (and one bawled uncontrollably in my father’s arms like his mistress while my stepmom looked on, passively), we saw my father introduce them to old family friends – so my sister and I hightailed it out of there in contempt.

After doing so, I wondered if it was a bad decision. No doubt everyone noticed that we’d left early in a huff without saying goodbye, and thought, “There they go again, still acting out even at the funeral, those are [my mom’s name]’s daughters, how shameful, such poorly raised girls...” And while I can easily say, ‘well f*ck you all, you don’t know half the sh*t that’s going on!’ I also wonder if we just gave them more fuel to add to their already massive fire of misperceptions. What were we supposed to do? Acquiesce to the inappropriate behavior and witness it like we agree and are OK with it? I suppose none of it really matters; there was no changing their minds about us one way or another. We've been tagged for years already.

The offender gets away with it because he’s all smiles and act like nothing’s immoral about anything he does. He’s just an easy-going guy who’s friendly and charming. So when we react by putting on an ugly face and acting bitchy, we turn out to be the villains (aka [my mom’s name]’s daughters), and my father comes out looking like the poor, innocent victim of hot-tempered, ill-mannered, and sacrilegious children raised by the hellish ex-wife. (to which I say, hey, at least SOMEONE raised us...)

This morning, I turned on the TV and Joel Osteen was on. Osteen says that when God causes problems and commotions in our lives and closes doors, we shouldn’t be bitter and think, Oh, just another thing to happen to me... God closes doors whether or not we like it or are ready for it, changing the old and creating the new, and we shouldn’t keep trying to go back to how things used to be. We should look toward this new path and while we can think [fondly] of the old, now it’s time to create new memories and new traditions. Now I’m not an expert in theology by any means, and I admit I haven’t read the Bible all the way through, and I know Joel Osteen is a controversial preacher (or “motivational speaker”), but I like that his messages can be applied to my life and I can use positive ways to go forth. (Whether or not this is blasphemous is not for me to say; I make use of any tools I can get my hands on and try to be my best self.) So perhaps instead of laying in a fetal position in bed all day feeling like a sack of sh*t and wondering why I can’t have the warm and fuzzy relationship I had with my father in my younger years, I should keep this door closed and move forward without the man I thought I wanted to share my new life with. I’m even considering dis-inviting him to my wedding if he can’t comply to my now one-and-only rule: if I were to start sharing my life with him, he must immediately stop disclosing details of MY life and MY information with THEM. (And sadly, as easy and painless as that sounds, I don’t see him giving that up for me.) If that’s the case, I can stop asking “why” and “can’t he just” and “what if”. And especially stop hoping that my dad will start to take us seriously, really HEAR what my sister and I are saying, and choose us instead of his “friends” – perhaps this is a door that is definitely closed, and although I’m saddened by the prospect, it may be for the best for me and my future family.