It has been ten days since I started to feel ill. I don’t want to write about the flu because the feelings are awful. Plus, I am so sick and tired of this flu already, and I get grumpy. Put it this way, I wouldn’t wish this flu upon any of my worst enemies.
When you have a lot of free time with nothing to do other than groaning and moaning in bed with the fever and cough, you would have no choice but to do lot of thinking. I did it, anyway, in and out of sleep. In fact, for a few days, I was so drugged out that I had hallucinations. Now, I am able to walk around a bit and stay awake for a longer period of time. It is about time for me to kill some time here.
Anyway, these are my grumpy thoughts from the sick bed. Please bear with me.
What is the spirit of Christmas?
The Spirit of Helping
Every year I take on the organization of a Christmas food drive for our school community. This year, instead of donating all the food to the food bank or Salvation Army, we packed them for some of our school families first. I am pretty sure that most of the food went to help the needy every year. Do the people who are at the receiving end feel happy about the baskets they have received? I don’t know the answer. I usually choose to be the collector of food, instead of the packer and deliverer of the baskets. I don’t know if I can handle the delivering to people I know. I know I would definitely cry when I get to the food bank or talk to the people there. I think I would rather remain anonymous.
I am a ghost from the past. I love Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, and Charles Dickens. The characters in Dickens’ books all seemed to live in a dark and dingy time period, in need of a big scrub in the tub. I wish I could fly back in time to see the past though. That was a romantic thought. However, the presence is really the past for those children of presence in the future. Does that sentence make any sense to you at all? Well, bear with me; I am sick, you know. I just mumbled. Anyway, talking about children, some children could make me nosebleed.
The Spirit of Giving
My friend Jo is really depressed about Christmas because he does not have enough money to buy Christmas presents for his children. Jo has been separated from his wife for a few years. His wife left him with their kids and moved to another city. He loves his children, so you can imagine that it almost killed him when he first found out that his family left him. His wife, however, refuses to divorce him. In fact, she still constantly asks him if they could get back together. However, after three marriages and two divorces with the same woman, Jo is disheartened in getting back together with her. So, technically, they are still married, and it has been like this for years.
Jo has a good job. He has a decent income but he does not see much of his money. More than half of his income comes straight out of his pay cheque before he even sees it. A few months ago, he had a crisis with his children. One of his children asked for a car for her birthday/graduation present. What? A Car! Ok, I can see the need for the adult children to have a car. Plus, it is not that expensive to get a used car anyway. But, NO, NO! She wanted a NEW sports car for the birthday present since daddy works for a car company. They all demanded a new car for their graduation present because their eldest sister had a car for her university graduation years ago. Now the second child wanted the same present.
Jo was really stressed over it because years ago it was a different situation- the family was together. They were two high income earners (Jo’s wife is also a top executive) living together in the same household supporting the same number of children. The wife cleaned out the joint bank account and bought a new home when she moved out with the kids. Jo was left with the mortgage on the family home. His lone income could not afford to support the family and kept the old house going. He had to walk away from the house.
Now he has to pay most of his income to his wife and children who are living in a different city. The leftover income has to go pay for his small condo mortgage. (He was cheated by his good friend on the purchase of the condo, but that was another story.) He drives over to visit his children whenever he can on the weekend. It costs a lot of money to travel back and forth between two cities. With six kids, he has to make sure that he is “a good daddy” whenever he visits. Often time, poor Jo is left with nothing for himself to live on. When we go out, we would never ask Jo to pay for anything. This is a guy with pride and a father who wants to please his kids. But, do the kids really understand how much their father is going through, or at least, appreciate the difficulty of their father’s life? No, I don’t think so.
Anyway, when Jo was so stressed about the car, we told Jo that most of his children are at the university age, and they are working and making money already. It is about time to step forward to tell the daughter the truth that their good old daddy simply can not afford to buy her a new sports car. He might be able to pull it for the oldest one many years ago because the circumstances were different then. Now, he is living with less than half of his income. Most of his money goes to support them and pay for their tuitions. On top of that, he has to pay for his mortgage. This poor old guy will never see his retirement because he had to restart his life alone.
We told Jo that he could not pretend that he is still the big fat daddy he used to be. Jo finally pulled his strength and told his daughters that he could not afford to buy her a car. Well, it didn’t go so well with the family. The daughter had a fit and claimed that he didn’t love her at all, and he was nothing but a sperm donor to her mother. It almost killed Jo when she said that. It somehow also made him realize that these children were no longer the sweet innocent children he used to live with. These are spoiled rotten children who always demand more just like what their mother would do. (The wife asked him to wire the basement because she wanted to save some money on the renovation cost. Guess what? He did! He drove there every weekend to finish the wiring because “it would be a nice entertainment room for the kids”, he said. Duh!)
Christmas is coming. I just found out last night that Jo is stressing over Christmas presents. He plans to spend 100 dollars each on his kids, but each child wants expensive presents like the laptop or a digital camera. There is no way that Jo can afford to meet their wish list. (Heck, I can’t afford to buy myself or any of my family members an expensive laptop.)
We loaned him money for so many times to help him out in the past. Jo is a nice guy but everyone knows he simply can’t afford to pay any of it back. Instead of offering to loan him money, I was trying to see what we could do to help him out. I have received tons of presents throughout the year. We were looking through some of them to see if Jo could use some “brand name” items and re-gift them to his children without them knowing. Some children will never understand how hard their parents have tried in order to make them happy. Those ungrateful little and big monster kids! ^%&^&*^***(& (I need my puffer.)
The Spirit of Appreciation
I remember my parents used to stress over money in August because it was the school registration time for four of us. It was not easy to raise four children in those days. They had to borrow money from family and tightened the household to make it work. Without scholarships for low income students as well as working part time jobs outside the school, my siblings and I wouldn’t be able to be who we are today. This is the reason why I love to help others whenever I can. I especially like to help those young people who are working to put themselves through school (not those people who make money for fancy luxuries).
We learned to appreciate what little we had in the family and how hard my parents struggled to put us through school. When I see how lucky some children are, such as Jo’s children, I often wonder if parents nowadays are just trying to buy their children love.
A couple of years ago, a young friend of mine told me that his wife went to different workshops for parenting. She wanted to be prepared for their little girl who was just born at the time. They believed in the 人本,“child-centered approach”. Now, I don’t know what that meant because my Chinese does not seem to catch up with a lot of the new terminology/phrases in Taiwan. Basically, they wanted to have different approaches to educate their little girl.
My friend, their mother and mother-in-law, was a little hurt by that because she was the main caregiver to the new born granddaughter. She asked me if there was anything wrong with her education approaches. She had raised three grown children including the father of the baby, and they all seemed to turn out all right. Anyway, my young friend told me that they didn't want to let their baby fall behind at the starting point, which sounded like a slogan to me at the time when he said it. They wanted the best for their baby girl, so they got all these alphabet posters, Chinese posters, graphic charts and math drill charts for the toddler. “We don’t want her to fall behind at the starting point,” he said it more than once to me when I was sitting in their living room staring at all the charts. (My mother was illiterate, so I guess my siblings and I were doomed at the starting point. What a load of nonsense! Hahahaha… .)
The young couple wanted to try out all the theories from the experts. Now, their parents are afraid to say anything in case of overstepping. I often have to reassure them that they should listen to their parents’ advice sometimes. I noticed that some young people seem to dismiss whatever their parents had experienced and want something completely different for the sake of being different. Now, I am not an expert on child rearing and I certainly don’t want to become an eye sore in that family. I only open my mouth when people ask for advice. (Most of the time, I keep my mouth shut and write about my complaints here. Hahaha…. .)
Honestly, I just don’t understand why people want to read all these fancy theories and books and talk like they know every single step of the education process, but the only thing they do not have for their child is the time, some quality time, which is the most important thing of all for a family! (Gosh, I just feel like giving my mom a big squeeze right now. I miss her so much!) Maybe, it is about time for people to go back to the basics to focus on their family time, quality “interactive” family time. Don’t pay others to be the parents. Don’t use TV/computer as the sitters. Don’t rob your child’s childhood and substitute it with expensive material life. Nothing can replace the time missed for the family.
I miss those good old summer days when my grandparents and family sitting on the long bench in the front porch under the dimmed streetlights, fanning the mosquitoes, frying the leeches, and chatting with all the passerby neighbors. I am an old school, a ghost from the past. Right now, a hot pot dinner with family suddenly sounds so good!
The above comments are pure personal reflections out of the sick bay on the west wing. The author/patient had experienced severe hallucinations during the process of her writing; however, all information appeared to be accurate at the time of posting.