Make an Effort

Whenever I visited my mom in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the weekends, I just wanted to spend time with her, my sisters, and my sisters’ kids. I had no desire to drag my kids out to see friends and extended family. I came to realize that I had not seen friends and some family members for ages. This week, I made an effort to change that.

I had a friend from middle to high school. His big family treated me well. Back in the day, I used to hang out at his house along with other friends. His mom fed us Vietnamese home cooking. We played cards (Tiếng Lên) for a dollar or two. If we lost our money, which I often did because I am sucked at gambling, we simple watched Chinese TV series until the wee hours. His parents, brothers, and sisters were such lovely people. I felt like part of the big family. When I went to college, we lost touch. A few years later when I lived in New York, I came back and drove by their house one day, but they had moved. My heart sank. Years had gone by and it never occurred to me to ask around. This week as we gathered at my sister’s house, I found out that my cousin’s husband has been working at my friend’s sister nail salon all this time. I asked him for the salon address and walked right in. To my surprise, the sisters still remembered me after all these years. They invited me over to their house on New Year’s Eve and I dragged my boys and my sister with me. Their mom still remembered my name. She told me that her husband had passed away two months ago. I gave her a hug and my condolences. I went upstairs and chatted with my friend’s older brother. We reminisced about the good old times. He and I were into Ngọc Lan, Don Hồ, and hip-hop. He lent me so many CDs to dubbed into tapes. Like me, he has four boys, but they are much older. He told me that his brother (my friend) has moved to Erie, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, he already went back after Christmas. One of his sisters and I had crushes on each other, but we were too damn shy to take things further. We weren’t meant to be, but we’re still cool. She’s more like my little sister. I was glad to get a chance to see them again after almost twenty years.

My aunt passed away in 2012 and I am ashamed to admit that I have not visited my white uncle-in-law and my two cousins since. When I drove back to their house on New Year’s Day, I almost forgot where they live. I went to his neighbor’s house by mistake. I gave him my uncle’s last name and he didn’t know anyone in the area with that name. It is common in America’s neighborhood that people don’t know each other. When I finally knocked on the right house, my uncle came out and he recognized me. My two cousins were also home. Back then we weren’t so close because my English was limited. I do remember my uncle drove me to the dentist several times in his Mercedes all the way in Harrisburg to fix my damn braces. Yes, I had braces. As we were talking, he started praising Trump. I didn’t want to engage in politics because I didn’t have any drinks yet. I changed the subject to my aunt. He showed me her photo the day she became a U.S. citizen. She was so young and beautiful. He mentioned that he has not seen his wife’s part of the family much after she passed. I felt bad, but promised myself I will make an effort to see them again when I am in town.

One of my cousins planned a little “get together” for the younger generation. I am glad that my kids got together with their cousins. They ate pizza, wings, and egg rolls. They watched a kung fu movie and played video games. Their age is quite a range, but they can still hanging out. I had the opportunity to bond with my cousin who I haven’t seen for years over beers. We used to live next door in my aunt’s apartments. My mom used to babysit his first kid when he was one or two years old. Now he’s twenty-five. Damn, time flies. Watching the kids playing together made me realize that I should make an effort to have them hanging out more.

Of course, I spent many hours together with my mom and my sisters. They helped me taking care of my three kids. Because Vương didn’t feel well, my wife stayed home with him. My mom and sisters spoiled them with food and I spoiled them with iPad time. I felt guilty, but giving them screen time freed me up to talk to my mom. I had to entertain her to get her to cool down. She was outraged over Christmas with my sisters. They said something she didn’t like. My mom is very stubborn. She has to have her way only. I reminded my sisters over and over again. She has her way for eighty years. She will not change. We just have to do whatever we can to accommodate her. Of course, it is easier for me to do because I don’t live with her. I just have to put up with her for a few days and leave. My poor sister has to live with her. I understand the difficulty, but we are her kids. We need to make her happy. Otherwise we will regret it when she will no longer with us. She is getting weaker and weaker. She had a hard time walking. I am thankful every day that she is still with us. I do my best to not piss her off. Her happiness is my priority.

It has been quite an emotional rollercoaster for me with all the booze and the bonding. I am back home now trying to relax and recharge over the weekend before heading back to work on Monday. My two-week off had just flown by. George Mason has been generous to its employees. Not many companies or institutions give their employees two weeks off to spend with family and friends over the winter holidays. I definitely need to make an effort to reach out to the people in my life and to show them my appreciation. I didn’t realize how much they meant to me until I see them again. I am terrible at socializing, but I always keep the people who had played a significant in my past in my heart. I will never forget them. I just don’t reach out to them and that will have to change in 2020 and forward.