11 January 2013

Letter No. 11

Earlier this week, I made this emo (does anyone still use that word) tweet, "why are all the people i love getting old?"

The night before, I'd had a disturbing dream about my family, and it only made me feel even more torn up about living my life here while they are over there.

I thought I'd finished feeling that way, because it was clear from earlier visits that they had their own lives, could take care of themselves, and, despite their ages, were pretty active and happy.

The next thing I'm going to write sounds so stupid and obvious, but I'm going to write it anyway. Nine months later, when I went home for Christmas, they all seemed older.

While in some families, the adult children have taken over the cooking, delivery and other bits of Christmas prep that grown-ups do while the kids play, oblivious to just how much work goes into Christmas, in my family, my parents — Mom, in particular — still take care of everything. And just because the kids are older doesn't mean it's getting any easier, because my parents are older, too.

It freaks me out.

In response to my tweet, Dom Cimafranca said, "because you are too." But that's not how I feel at all.

I feel like my life is just beginning. Around the corner are all these things I'm going to do — work, study, travel, settle — and I finally feel old-young enough and clear-headed enough to fully enjoy them at my own pace. Then, the fatigue in my mom's eyes tells me to hurry up, because she, Dad, and Lola won't always be there to enjoy those things with me. All the crasian-mother-inspired digs about my cold ovaries felt like only half-jokes; "I want grandchildren because I'm getting old" suddenly sounds like a valid request, because they really are getting old.

Maybe I'm not supposed to say this next thing, because it's so gruesome, but the reality of my parents' inevitable death dawned on me at Christmas. I saw myself in the future, standing over my own child and telling them to get off the holoscreen to deliver this cake to the neighbors, and then receiving a phone call I could never be ready for. It once seemed so distant an event — come on, Dad regularly bikes x many kilometers, and Lola just took an international trip abroad by herself at 88 — but the reality of their ages, as much as Mom might protest, can no longer be ignored.

"Don't worry about us," my mom would say. "Just live your life; enjoy yourself. We will all be fine..."

... basta you should give me apo before you turn 30."

Chinese class is starting again tomorrow, and my attempts to cram-review this past week make me uneasy. I don't feel ready. I read fine and listen okay, but my speaking skills could use a lot of work, as evidenced by last night's pitiful exchanges with Cris's friend Ken. Writing and then reading aloud a dialogue is all right, but I still can't say more than three or four words when asked a quick question, and my confidence is shit.

We ran into some of Cris's Chinese friends on the street one day, and when I told them what level I was about to enter, one of them said, "Oh, so we should speak Chinese to you, because you should be able to understand." I probably gave her the scarediest fake smile she'd ever seen.

To make matters worse, I was placed in a class on a different campus. I've got this grade-school-level fear of being the only new kid there, plus this performance anxiety from knowing that most of Cris's Chinese colleagues will be there — and he won't be.

Oh, well. Why bother learning Chinese if I don't actually use it, right?

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