another overnight jersey retreat

i had some stomach and fever issues this week, which made work a living hell and the routine of waking up each morning a truly nightmarish experience. but it all passed and i went in on friday with a good amount of energy. after work, i decided to go home (as in, where my parents and grandma live) to new jersey to spend the night there. so here i am, sitting in my dad’s study room and just casually posting an entry because there’s not much else this house really affords besides sleeping, eating, pooping on clean toilet, and Korean dramas.

well, of course, then there are the people. my dad picked me up from metropark and in his usual upbeat mood, asked me how i was doing, how i felt while being sick, and what i had been up to. i told him about a writing piece i had read on the train ride home – an account by science fiction writer Ian Watson on his time spent with Stanley Kubrick as they collaborated on the story that would eventually become A.I. – the movie Spielberg would finish because Kubrick died. i told my dad how crazy, paranoid, and straight up funny Kubrick was – the way he wore the same exact outfit (same color, same bagginess of trousers) every single day (the author figured out that Kubrick owned multiples of things he liked, like same pants, jackets, shirts, and even golden retrievers – he had four) or the way he refused to fly in airplanes although he had a pilot’s license. And I love the advice Kubrick gives to Watson when Watson sets out to write the entire story in ninety pages: “Put some vaginal jelly on the words.” My dad listened intently although I omitted the vaginal jelly part.

At home, I was welcomed to the sight of samgyupssal and gool (oyster) kimchi. I ate heartily after a week of eating little scraps for my meals. After dinner, my parents and grandma sat around me and we talked. And this was where a perfect homecoming was ruined — okay read on only if you like the smell of word vomit —

and I can’t really say it was preventable or if I was particularly at fault. I asked my mom if she had seen my Vermont page with the pics, since I knew she’d like to see scenic pictures. She told me confidently, “Oh, I haven’t had time in the past few weeks.” To which I was surprisingly amused and let out a little laugh. It wasn’t meant to be dismissive or disrespectful – it was more like a curious laugh to see what kept her so busy. But I should have known better since my mom is a sensitive person. She asked me – I wrote you an email the other day about a project I was working on; how come you never wrote back to ask about it? “Well Mom, you told me you’d tell me in detail when I came home,” I said, which was true. “Oh.” But then my mom was still feeling disrespected and by this point I could see that she had no desire to elaborate on what she had been working on. She mumbled some things about how different people had different lifestyles, so reading someone’s website wasn’t something she did on a regular basis. I don’t know why, but I ended up going on the defensive and telling her that I found it hard to believe anyone could be “so busy” as to not browse some websites or read this and that for a few minutes in a day. Anyhow, I could see that all feelings of warmth and cheer had evaporated, and all I could hear was my dad desperately trying to explain my mom’s efforts to translate a book on East Asian philosophy into Korean. my mom soon got up from the table, washed the dishes, and disappeared.

my dad and i continued to talk about other things – books we had read recently, a reiteration (on his part) of why East Asian philosophy was relevant, and my defense of American history and the history of race in America as relevant and important topics. my dad did tell me some interesting things about japanese history and how Korean aristocrats were the ones who held power when they went over to Japan before becoming nationalistic (or empire-driven) Japanese themselves. my grandma tried to interfere in our conversation a few times by mentioning some blind Korean guy who became successful. she’s apparently been reading his biography as of late. while i usually would have gotten pissed really quick and yelled at her, i was a lot less annoyed because i hadn’t seen her much in the past half year. i just smiled and nodded but told her i had some important things to talk to my dad about. she stuck around and tried to listen in, but retired when too many english words were being thrown around. i enjoyed the long conversation with my dad, but in the back of my head, i felt bad that my mom was upset. but i was also annoyed that she would be upset at such a minor comment.

but in the end, i realized – we’re a family of stubborn, prideful chiefs. we each have a self-righteous view and if we ever partake in group discussions as a family, every person will believe he or she is right and everyone else is wrong. we don’t really like to keep quiet. it’s what brings us grief at times and joy at times – but best of all, it’s what keeps us, at least to me, interesting. okay, let’s stop before the schmaltzy stuff kicks into full gear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.