Monday, March 20, 2006

Final night at home

Everyone seems to have fallen ill in the last couple of days, and everyone at home seems so tired. Dad’s been getting sore feet, which may be related to his (worsening?) illness, while mum’s come down with the flu, and been having strange stomach trouble. I woke up with a slight sore throat that has left my throat dry and rough the whole day.

I’d like to think it may have something to do with me leaving. Then again, the weather has been very strange lately too. First it reached almost summer levels of heat and humidity yesterday, and today wind started to blow as if a typhoon is arriving. I wonder what the weather will bring tomorrow.

Perhaps it’s the pre-departure blues or symptoms? In less than 24hrs I’ll not be here anymore, but most likely on the plane, flying higher and higher, flying further and further away from Taiwan. In the past, the day I’m about to leave it almost always seemed to rain. I naively imagine that the skies were shedding tears. Then, the moment I take off the skies seem to clear up again, so I can watch the dazzling lights beneath my feet through my oval plane window (window seat a ‘must’ for me on such long-haul flights).

We’ve not done anything together ever since I got back from my farewell trip. Again, I half expected that perhaps we’d be able to use this weekend for ‘family outings’ and ‘get togethers’. Instead, cold war continues. Dad does his reading, his smoking and sleeping, and spends most of the time in his room. Mum and I have been spending more time together, doing some last minute shopping and looking around. Though at times I feel guilty, or at least uncomfortable that dad is not with us. But dad chooses and chose to live life separate from everyone else. There’s nothing much I can do, or anyone can do, unless you want to be accused of trying to interfere in his life.

The only time when we’re together, and not talking, is when we sit together for dinner. Usually silence is the company for each of us, even though we are sitting at the same table and could easily reach out to one another. But somehow the atmosphere is so awkward and so tense nobody really bothers to start a conversation. When someone does talk, it’s usually a comment which ends within a sentence or two. I don’t think I’m bothered, as I just continue eating slowly and mindfully as I’ve learnt to do. I’m always the last to finish. But I could see that neither mum or dad is happy being at the same table. So sometimes I really wonder what the point of eating together really is. Perhaps we only eat together because I cooked that meal, and perhaps because I’m still here.

But by this time tomorrow, I’ll no longer be here. And they can both go on living their separate lives and stop this charade of sitting and eating at the same table. And they can continue living lives together, but not trying to get in one another’s ways. And they can feel tense, uncomfortable and unnatural whenever the other is around, and they can continue to perhaps hope deep down that the other would somehow just leave for good. Could I change any of that? Would I be able to see any of that?

I’ve learned something living at home this time. Home could be the place you don’t really want to be at. It could be all a fabricated myth of a place of shelter and comfort, of warmth and affection. More and more, I feel the distance I must travel each time to be at home. Bridging people, bridging damaged and distraught relationships is tough. They are right to say that you can choose your friends, but not your family. And I think I’ve stopped trying to change anything, but instead come to accept things as they come and go. That way, I live with more ease and less remorse at what I could have done but could not do.

And so as I’m about to leave home, I could only leave with my suitcase and the wish that mum and dad could have wisdom and clarity to see through their petty little feuds and hatreds. Before I’d leave little notes, long letters and symbolic gifts at home to greet them—each carefully thought out and planned in order to remind them the importance of mutual tolerance and understanding, of respect and love for one another. But this time I’ve done nothing. I think I’ve done enough already.

Sometimes you need to be selfish, especially me, someone who often places the happiness and wellbeing of others ahead of my own. And in leaving this time, I’d like to think I’m putting me first. I have my own life to lead, I have my own future to look forward to, and I have my ambitions and education to pursue. I can no longer stand to be around a place and people who seem to depress and blunt my youth. I simply cannot go on thinking and believing that without me everything stops. Life goes on, as it always does. Whether it goes on happily and peacefully, or in misery and uncertainty depends on a change of mindset and the attitude toward it.

Here I go.
Here I come.

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