Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life Just Isn't Fair

I haven't had the best childhood. Even a few of my friends admit it. 'Deprived' of video games and toys I've wanted, food that looked satiating, and places I've wanted to visit, I've always told my parents that my life was not fair. But now I'm trying to bring to both their and my relatives' attention about how someone else's life just is not fair. My grandma's. I went to visit her this past Monday the 18th at her government-subsidized apartment in Lower Manhattan.

She told me of how much she appreciated my visiting of her and said that I was like her own son. The reason was that she had helped bring me up ever since I was born. Here was her story, translated from a recording taken about a minute into this "confession" or sorts, with certain parts omitted:

She first lived in my oldest aunt's home when she first came to the US. Then, when my dad came to live with my mom when I was being born, she moved in with them. They all then moved into a house that my uncle was renting in Brooklyn. I was born shortly after. After my birth, my mom stopped working to take care of me. My parents later bought my current home in Queens and moved there. She then said that she had helped take care of me ever since I was born until I was a adolescent. [Omitted]

She then gave some words of advice. When I grow up and get married, I should take care of my parents with the same love and care they gave me. I should also love and care for my wife, and try and get along with her (something she has not exactly experienced with her husband.)

My grandma then talked, with intermittent sobs, about how her current life is not exactly her dream life when she "retired." She has to live all the way in Manhattan projects since any rent in Queens, closer to my mom's side of the family and myself, is too expensive. "Any government monies or subsidies she receives is not even enough to pay for rent there." The worst part is that she has no friends in Manhattan to chat with. This is exemplified by certain situations such as when she has a drug prescription and has questions about the english on it, but no one to help her get answers for. She has to wait for her weekly encounter with my uncle who stops by or travel all the way to Queens to visit my aunt to translate it into fluent Chinese.

She cannot even keep up with today's rapidly changing world since she cannot get any television reception in her apartment without a cable subscription, and the radio's is not that great either. She instead has to wait for the newspapers by intermittent delivery of read newspapers by my other uncle or her occasional trip to Chinatown.[Omitted] If it is a good day, then she can make that long trip; if it is raining or is too frigid or she has an occasional pain such as arthritis, then she cannot.

She would much rather live in Flushing, where she may see her descendants every now and then when we go grocery shopping there. [Inaudible] Not only would she see more friends there, but would have a better life as well. She complained of how the closest grocery store near her current home is very small, has very few items to sell, and is expensive. The next closest supermarket, a Pathmark, is big but is too far for her to carry groceries back. The same goes for Chinatown, with the exception that the stores are spread out.

[Long pause]

Some more words of advice: put effort into your education.

[Some Q&A about a chart of her blood pressure measurements]


I then told her that I could visit her anytime since she was close by to my college and that she had shown me how to get to her house. She said that it was fast by bus (although buses were not that frequent), but walking at a leisurely pace would take about half an hour.

She then talked about how she could not wash her clothing without her weekly encounter with my uncle since she did not know how to operate the washing machine. She would bring larger items, such as a bedspread, to the local laundromat. The problem was, as she later pointed out to me in a visit, was that she did not know how to operate the machines. (I later drew a diagram of the controls and explained its operation to her.)

In the final moments of this conversation, she brought it back to a happier note and with the same love and consideration she has always had:
   "Would you like to eat some oranges?"

A final thought: Ever since she moved out of our home several years ago, I have always asked her to come back and live with us so that she would not have to continue to endure her suffering. But she has always been reluctant; citing that my parents disapproved of having her around as I got older and was the reason for her moving out, my uncle not letting her live in his (less) crowded home, and no space elsewhere. I break down internally every time I hear her sorrows and feel useless in my attempts to convince her and my relatives to find a better place for her to live. To this day, I still hold a grudge against my parents and my relatives because of this.

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