Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Where are you?

Growing up, I had a dysfunctional family. Who doesn't, right? Still, I feel I was deprived of the sense of "family" during my childhood more than my friends were. My parents divorced when I was just entering the first grade. My older half-brother, who was 20+ years my senior, moved out of my house after an altercation with our dad when I was just four or five years old, and I wouldn't see him for at least another decade. I only met my mom's side of the family once, as they all live in Korea; to this day, I don't know who all of my uncles, aunts, and cousins are in Korea. My dad forbade me from ever seeing his side of the family, and I never dared question why he hated them so much. I just obeyed.

Still, mama knew me better than I knew myself, and knew that I would one day crave for a sense of family, if I wasn't already. She went behind my dad's back to get me to start seeing his side of the family. The matriarch of the family, aunt Jannie, who I rarely ever saw. The eldest male in the family, uncle June, who potty-trained me and sympathized with me about my dad and "his ways." The youngest male in the family, my "little dad," who owned a popular restaurant in one of the biggest Asian marts in northern Virginia. The youngest female in the family, Kathy, who sadly gets dubbed as "the crazy one" and the drama queen of the family.

Aunt Jannie passed away from brain tumors in 2004. It was at her funeral that I was re-united with my own brother, and the first time I hung out with all of my cousins as a "grown-up" and not just as a child. We played poker, they let me have some beers, and my brother won me some seed money for college in poker. I would start seeing the family more regularly--and not just during the 4th of July and New Years--for the next few years. Then, I went off to college and spoke to nobody but my mom. I never heard from my brother, I heard from my dad maybe once or twice a year, and I was once again only reunited with my cousins during the 4th of July and New Years.

I graduated college after four years of learning just how selfish/selfless I am, how much I want to belong somewhere, how much I crave love & affection from friends and family, and how I can drive myself into madness with thoughts of loneliness and remorse. Shit happened during those four years. I lost quite a few friends, I gained many more, I learned secrets about still others that had been my friends this entire time that I was oblivious to. I was ostracized, I was celebrated, I was hated, my character was questioned (by both others and myself), and I was still loyal (to others, but not to myself). I lost myself, but found myself in the way I care for the people in my life. I lost myself again when I realized I care too much for the other people in my life and not enough for myself. I pushed myself. I took things for granted, and appreciated them when I lost them and promised myself I would learn more about gratitude as I entered the real world.

Graduation day, mom told me about you. And I realized just how mortal we all are.

Certain things stopped being important. I don't care if that boy loves me or not anymore. I don't care what that girl is saying about me to her sorority. I don't care if plans are cancelled, because I have somewhere more important to be anyway. I don't care if I have to spend a ton of money on gas to drive 90 miles to Maryland and back just to catch a feeble dozen crabs. I don't care if I got three useless degrees from university, because your degree was useless, too, and you still did very well in life. I don't care if much of our time together was spent in silence, watching television and drinking beer. I don't care that you never asked for anything in return, because I still wish I could have done more.

Where are you? Why are you gone? How did this happen to you? You were the best one out of all of us. Can you come back, somehow?

You were the protective, funny, street smart, cool-but-dumb, don't-fuck-with-my-family older brother that I had always wanted. Of all of us, why did you have to go? Why wasn't it me? It could have been any of us. The illness clearly runs in our family. Why was it you? Where are you? Can you hear me?

After you left us, I started working in food service. I know you would have given me so much shit for that: "Why is your life going ass backwards? You're going from working in government to serving food? Can you at least hook me up? What's good there?" And then upon learning that we had no seafood or barbecue dishes, you would have scoffed and walked out. Your dad passed away two months later, following you to the afterlife, a father going after his son. Is there an afterlife? Where are you? Can you hear me?

I then picked up a job in retail. You would have still given me shit for delving further into the service industry, but then begrudgingly would have told me you respect my work ethic and that "you gotta do what you gotta do to get by." I was working 60-70 hours a week dealing with other people so I wouldn't have to deal with myself and my grief. My dad didn't show up to either your nor your dad's funerals, by the way.

I got a job with the government around a month ago. Sub-contractor, actually. You would have given me shit for that, too. "You suck so much that you can't even work for a contractor for the government, but you work for a contractor for a contractor for the government? What's wrong with you?" You were such an asshole. You had a way of making fun of me for absolutely everything, and I loved you for it. Any time I fucked up in life in the past few years, I would tell you, and you would just laugh. You would help me realize that mistakes are just funny stories you can tell to people in the future (and to your cousin with cancer that will make you sheepishly realize that things could be worse). You helped me see the humor in life. You would sometimes tell me about your own similar fuck-ups--which actually ended up being worse than mine--which made me feel better. There was one fuck-up of mine where you didn't even want to know details, because you knew I was so ashamed, and it was no poking-fun matter. But you helped me out anyway, shoving a wad of cash in my hand and telling me not to worry about it. And I knew you knew what it was. But neither of us spoke about it out loud, and that's when I really started to get who you were as a person.

You were the one that really helped me feel like I finally had a family. You brought us together. You always talked shit at poker nights while smoking your cigars, wearing those stupid sunglasses, bragging about how you've got a huge dong. I knocked you down a peg, when you referred to your manhood as a "Jimmy Dean bratwurst," by replying: "I think you mean Vienna Sausage." Weirdly enough, I think this is when you started to respect me--when 15-year old me made an unexpected dick diss.

I have more time to myself now. I've quit my retail job. I only work about 60 hours a week now, but 40 of those hours are a desk job where I honestly have nothing to do, and so I am left alone with my thoughts--the thoughts I refused to acknowledge about your absence, about uncle's absence, about dad's self-alienation from the family, about the evanescence of life. And I've been fucking up a lot lately with friends and my mom and finances and job stuff and friends and ambition.

I need you to laugh at me again. Where the fuck are you?

No comments:

Post a Comment