Sunday, January 06, 2008

It's Just Family

I have a troubled family, I kid you not. It had always been dysfunctional. I grew up in the lowest social-economic group during my younger years, but even as today, while we may have moved past from the hand-to-mouth existence we used to live in, but in terms of mindset, I think we may not have moved very far from that tiny, closed mentality inherent of my poverty-stricken past.

I knew the vacation was going to be running amock when it had a bad start. On the first night my family arrived, everybody was fighting on the smallest of things, such as issues with misplaced towels and such. Like little kids, everybody seem intent on bickering on these trivial things, between my mom, brother and sister-in-law. And after living physically away for so many years already, it was quite a bit of a shock having to re-acclimatise myself to such a dystopian familial feuding.

But the worst has yet to come, triggered from just an incident when mom had taken some extra bathroom paper towels from a public restroom, to which sis-in-law had perceived such action as being cheap, not understanding the background behind my mother's actions from her past. With that, and subsequent series of further miscommunication and confusion, who could have expected that it could blow into something of unimaginable proportions?

That finally erupted into a fight one night during supper in Vegas, after we returned from a performance one night. What should have been an uneventful meal, ended up being a series of arguments between both of them, with the night ending in tears for my sis-in-law, my brother hollering in frustration, and my mother fuming and returning to her room in the middle of the meal.

There wasn't much I could do at that moment. I was just in absolute shock of what had just transpired.

Even as we were nicely dressed that evening, it wasn't difficult picking out the unsophistication behind the facade of our fine attires, that this is a family who didn't know how to communicate, or one that has any social graces. I would be understating myself if I were to say that it was only just embarrassing, when everybody in the fully packed restaurant looked on while the spectacle was happening.

Only I remained on the table, and later joined by my brother after he returned from placating sister-in-law who went away crying. We had a sobering conversation on what was the best course of action to take, but the conversation somehow ended up going sideways: my brother ending our conversation with a speculation that whatever had happened, must be caused by the terrible burials plot that our ancestors have had!

Yes, my family is just that superstitious, but I didn't feel the need to exacerbate the situation in pointing out that the problem doesn't lie with the dead, but with the living. The hard truth is still that, we are the causes of our own actions. But after witnessing a 'Mike Tyson' moment for the night, a 'Round Two' is the last thing I would want to initiate!

Later that night, I went back, pulled my mother aside and chided her. Yes, a son chiding his mother! Nicely, of course. She did not understand that by yielding to her own emotional whims and causing a ruckus, there is no benefit to be gained from her actions, but only made things difficult for everybody: my brother sandwiched between her and sis-in-law, upsetting me, wasted my effort for planning this trip, the money paid for the entire vacation, and the only vacation time I had for the entire year.

Yet still, it was unimaginable to think that the only other thing she had in mind was wanting me to change her flight so that she can return home immediately. I was fuming mad, having flushed $6500 of my money down the drain, just because they couldn't keep their petty little mindsets out of the way, but even so, I had decided to keep my composure, and put what I was going to preach for the next 5 hours to practice, and that was: 'words have consequences'.

In choosing my words badly, getting mad and yelling at her, I would have only succeeded in upsetting her further and caused the cancellation of all the other shows and trips that I've already paid for, the money that I'll not be able to recover. So what ended up happening, was a counselling session lasting till 4am in the morning, explaining to her that even that she had been slighted and mistaken, her outbursts do not result in anything meaningful, especially after the fact that I had already made sis-in-law apologise. There isn't any reason for her to be fuming any more. But even after that whole night of 'peace talks', the point just didn't seem to register inside her head. She was like North Korea gone wild.

This is the second year I've instituted a annual vacation for mom already, and twice the vacations had ended up with fights like these. It wasn't surprising that I got pretty tired of all these firefighting, while she kept defending her actions and harping on her illogical arguments repeatedly. The night ended with me telling her that there wasn't any point in hearing her out anymore, and she should examine her own actions and see for herself if she has accomplished anything besides making everybody miserable, including herself.

While I had disavowed superstitions a long time ago, preferring reason to religion as a means of mediation, it is just impossible to reason when emotions are running high. Understanding my family, I decided that using religion would be most the most effective way in dealing with the situation, even if it felt like hitting below the belt. Subsequently, I told mother that what she had done was not good karma, and one day she may beget the fruits she's sowed.

That probably did the trick, and for the remaining of the vacation, things went on largely without any more major hitches, barring the initial awkwardness. Gradually the awkwardness subsided the next few days and everybody went back to talking terms again. By the end of the vacation, everybody have had a good time, and mom was particularly thankful for the wonderful trip I had for her. It was as if that incident had never happened at all!

For good or bad, and whatever troubles my family may have, in the end, they are still family. As people say, you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family. In all honesty, they are not bad people, it is just that they can be incredibly tough to deal with at times.

But unfortunately for me, even with the threat I've made to mother that she should not be expecting any more vacations in the future, she seemed to have promptly forgotten all about it at the end of it all, and is now looking forward that I take her to Taiwan for the next vacation!

Little does she know, I do plan to make good of my threat, well, at least for this year. As you all already know, there is such thing called 'karma', isn't there?

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