Death Becomes Us

For a couple of hours, I didn’t exist. I was under anesthesia during breast biopsy surgery.  I was wheeled into an operating room and started counting.  Then I was no more.  No dream, no memory, no me.  Slowly I came back into being.   It was the most peaceful waking up I ever had.  I smiled.  If death is like this, it’s a blessing.  No dream, no memory, no me, total oblivion, that’s what I yearned for.  I looked for the peacefulness I experienced during the surgery.  I found Ambien provided the similar effect.  When I didn’t take the pill my nightmarish dreamscape came back with vengeance.  Eventually the nightmare started to seep in to my peaceful Ambien coma.  I stopped taking it.

Death was my parasite twin.  He was always with me so long as I remember.   I don’t know if a 5-year-old can have a concept of death. Nevertheless I remember myself telling my aunt that I was considering to “leave” but decided not to because if I left I wouldn’t be able to have my favorite cake anymore.

I’ve never been suicidal.  I was pretty careful about self-preservation.  Still there never was a day I didn’t think of death.  Suicide ideation, DSM V would say.  There is a code for that.  But where did it come from?  I wasn’t depressed when I was 5.

When my father was about my age now, he started have a cough.  His X-ray image showed a legion in the lung and he had a surgery.  Everybody including the doctors were sure that it was lung cancer.  My mom called me to come home to see him.  Everybody thought he was going to die soon.  After surgery, they found it was benign.  Still he had a lobe of left lung removed.   After he recovered, he showed me the long scar proudly multiple times.  We were not close but I visited him at the hospital.  My mother left for some errand and I was alone with him.  He suddenly said, “I thought I was a goner this time,” and he cried.  I didn’t say anything.   Neither of us were used to show vulnerability and neither of us knew how to deal with it.  That day I realized my father was afraid of death.  “So you are afraid of death and your daughter wants to die, Ha,” I thought.  It’s a joke, isn’t it?

He passed away at the ripe age of 86.  I started to understand where his fear came from.  My father was diagnosed to be diabetic when I was about 4 and my mother was pregnant with my brother.  It was early 1960s and a diabetic was not expected to live a long life.  After my father passed, I heard the family history from my aunt.  He lost his father, my grandfather, when he was very young.  My grandfather was diagnosed with diabetic when it was a death sentence.  He quitted his job as a police officer and stayed home doing nothing and lived another 7 years.  My father only knew his father as a sick man waiting to die.  Soon after, his older sister was diagnosed as diabetic.  She was married and had a kid.  When she became ill she came back to stay with her mother, my grandmother.  She soon died from complication when the kid was still young.   My father took care of his young nephew for a while as his little brother.

Now my father found himself diabetic.  He had a 4-year-old daughter and his wife was pregnant.  No wonder he was afraid of dying.  For the first time, I felt sorry for him.  I grew up watching him have an insulin injection every morning.  With every syringe he must have been fending off death.

My younger brother was diagnosed with diabetic when he was in 30s.  Last year I was diagnosed with diabetic.  We are both physically active and not obese.  I’m sure we inherited it from my father, and my father’s father.  Neither of us has kids to bequest the gene or fear of death.

I still occasionally have suicide ideation when I’m depressed.  But most of time I just enjoy my life.  Every day is a beautiful day to live.

Recommended Reading if you are interested in this kind of stuff.
It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle
by Mark Wolynn
Link: http://a.co/1lVnzy4

 

Yearbook

When I went home to attend my father’s funeral, I found my junior high yearbook.  I recognized faces of girls I haven’t seen for many decades.  One by one, they came back to life in my memory.  I knew those teenage girls.  They looked exactly as I remembered.   I turned pages looking for my photo.  I couldn’t find it.  I felt confused.  I was sure I was in the yearbook.  I started back from the first page.  Page after page, the faces of girls got clearer in my memory.  I still couldn’t find my face.

On the third try, I finally found my name under a photo.  She was a beautiful teenage girl.  I didn’t recognize her because I had been told I was an ugly, unattractive, miserable creature no boy would love and I believed the image the fucked-up mirror reflected.

Did I look ugly to you, Dad?  Or did I threaten you?  Did I look ugly to you, Mom?  Or did you also believe what Dad saw?

Anyway, it’s too late.  I lost my chance to live the life of a pretty girl.

Then I became a plain looking highschool girl.

When I remember my highschool years, I am cast as that unpopular girl with long hair hiding half of her face, Violet Parr in The Incredibles, believing that she is invisible.  My best friend is that popular girl who dates the football team captain.

I started having drinking problem while I was in highschool.

A couple of years ago, I had an opportunity to attend a highschool reunion.  One guy, who was neither the football team captain, nor an academic high achiever, told me that I had been his crush in highschool.  I was like, WTF.  “You were a beautiful and intelligent girl,” he said, “and I admired you.”  Shit, I didn’t know.  I knew he liked me, but I did’t believe anybody would like me.

So I lost my chance to live a life of popular girl in highschool.

When we are surrounded with distorted mirrors, we believe the distorted images they reflect.  I wonder what it would be like to have a mirror on the wall that always tells me I am the most beautiful girl in the world.  I guess that would also fuck me up in a different way.

I still can’t believe 100%, but I think I am freaking gorgeous as an old gal of certain age.  It took me almost half a century to feel unugly.

“You are a catch,” a male friend of mine recently informed me.   “Really?” I said.  “Yes, you really are a catch.”  I believed him.

Postcard

I found an old postcard.  I was clearing out “stuff” in an attic.

My father passed just a week ago after slowly disintegrating from Alzheimer’s for the last 10 years.  I heard the news and flew home for his funeral.

The last time I saw him, about 9 months ago, he didn’t recognize me.  He haven’t recognized me for a long time.  I spent much more time talking with him once I became a nice stranger to him.  When he knew me, we didn’t talk to each other.   He talked at me.  I talked to myself.  We didn’t communicate.

I didn’t know him.  He didn’t know me.

My mother seemed to be relieved.  “I’ll burn all the photos of him,” she said.  After his funeral, she immediately started to clearing out “stuff.”  She has been clearing out “stuff” since my father moved to a nursing home 4 years ago.  My father hoarded.

I was helping her.  And I found the postcard along with yellowed newspaper clippings.  It was from my parents to my grandmother on their honeymoon.  It was from them before I ever be conceived or maybe on the day I was conceived.

They were somebody I didn’t know.   I smelled happiness from the message on the postcard.  It was an ordinary message.  “We are having a good time.  We bought something for you and sent it by mail…”  What did they buy?  Who chose the postcard?    Why is it here?  The old house my grandmother used to live in was demolished decades ago.  Did my father saved it when my grandmother died?    What happened to this newlywed couple?

I never saw them happy together.  I don’t know them.

I showed my mother the old newspaper clippings I found.  One of them had a group photo of nurses. I recognized my mother among the young nurses.  She said, “That’s me,” and she threw them in a trash bin.

I didn’t show her the postcard and I brought it back to my place with me.

The irony?  I also fond photos I sent to my parents long time ago, while I was married.  I looked young, beautiful and happy with the guy I was married to.   Who is this woman?  I don’t know her either.

 

 

 

Nightmare that didn’t happen

This is a nightmare that didn’t happen.  I was about 11, sleeping in my room.  The door suddenly opened and my father came in.  He was yelling something and he threw things, talking to himself.  I hid under the comforter.  I heard him walk around in my room, talking to himself, throwing stuff.  Then he left.

I waited.  I waited for my mother.  I waited for my mother to come to check on me, comfort me.   Minutes passed.  Nobody came.  I fell asleep crying.

I woke up in the morning.  I found my stuffed animals were on the floor.  One of them, a stuffed kitty my friend gave me, was almost decapitated.  I didn’t understand.

I quietly went down the stairs, expecting my mom at least to explain what happened.

Nothing happened.

Nobody mentioned anything.  Mom was cooking breakfast.  My father was reading the newspaper or whatever.  Nothing happened.  I ate my breakfast and went back to my room.

That was the nightmare that didn’t happen.

But I remember that I sewed my stuffed kitty’s head back by myself, crying, saying to myself again and again, “My friend gave it to me.”

Decades and years of therapy later I confronted my father and asked what it was about.

He didn’t remember.

My mom came to me to tell that she had no idea and asked, “Your father didn’t hit you, did he?”

“No, he didn’t,” I said.

It doesn’t matter.  It was not my father’s unpredictable rage that marked me.  It was the absence of my mother.  I learned that nobody would come for me.   I didn’t want to be the scared little girl, so I became my father.  “You have a temper just like your father,” my mother used to say.

Now I have many friends who are fathers.  When I saw their daughter perfectly safe with their father, not hiding from them, not tensing up at the sight of them, remaining soft and smiling, I wonder how they do.  It is a dream that didn’t happen to me.

Mindfulness of Being Human

“Yeah, my dad was a werewolf and my mom was a python and we spent Saturdays performing musicals based on the writings of Pol Pot, but I’d like the chance to coach my kid’s Little League team.”

This sentence cracked me up in 2005.  It was well before Twilight Saga.  It was the year of Batman Begins; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; The Chronicles of Narnia.  The writer, Amy Sohn, was way ahead the curve.   The article is about dating and child-bearing.  You can read the entire article here:  http://nymag.com/nymetro/nightlife/sex/columns/mating/14917/

Since Twilight, the parentage of werewolf and vampire coupling seems to be common and perceived rather romantic than damaging.  It was the Mother Python that got me, though.

Yeah, my dad was a werewolf and my mom was a python.

If your father was a werewolf and your mother was a python and you were brought up by them, you have to remember that you could be a werewolf and/or a python. We might pass for a human if we are careful, but we have to be always aware of the possibility of turning.

What is the most difficult part of having a werewolf father was the turning part.  He was not Mr.Rogers, but appeared to be an ordinary guy during the day when with villagers.  And he turned suddenly without warning.  What we could do was to hold our breath and remain hidden till he turned back.

What is the most difficult part of having a python mother was her lethal hug.  She force-fed her children because she was always hungry for love and In the name of love, she squeezed her children’s will out till we stop moving.

So the children learned to survive.  I followed the path to be a werewolf.  When my dad turned, I turned.  Before he would turn, I turned.   At the slightest sign of threat, imagined or real, I turned.  My mom used to tell me that I was exactly my father’s child.  She covertly encouraged me to turn because I was the one with fangs and claws, while she claimed my younger brother as her own.  After I left the nest, I realized I turned to python when I was not a werewolf.  Python part was more difficult to control.

When we grow up in a family of creatures from horror movies, the world we live in is dangerous and we learn to survive in the dangerous world.  I didn’t understand people who wanted to have a family because it would make them happy.  I believed that a family is a training camp to teach children how to survive in the more dangerous world.  (Neither I or my brother has kids.)

It took me decades of therapy and deep psychology work to unlearn the old way, to learn the world is not dangerous, and to relax because the person you have a relationship with won’t suddenly turn and attack you.  Being human is a never-ending process for us, the children of werewolves and pythons.  I know I can go back to the old way at any moment and most of the time I manage to choose not to.  I’m still learning how to be human.

I don’t blame my parents for being a werewolf and a python.  That’s how they were and they did their best.  I am responsible for whom I chose to be.  As Sarah Conner in T2 realized, even a machine can learn to care.