Lunch at home is never a grand issue.
With it comes my daily bread, and daily dose of pessimism.
As I sit and eat, my grandma would be lying on the couch in the living area, just next to the dining table. Without fail, my grandma has to worry about dinner. She worries to herself about what she should cook, as if it were a very important occasion; truth being we have never complained about the same food she’s prepared for us all our lives. She would ask me questions I can never answer – where my brother went (he was never in the habit of updating us on his whereabouts), when my father would be returning from his trip (he travels so much, I’ve given up keeping track), why my mother works so hard (it makes her feel fulfilled), what she should cook for dinner (i would like to reply, a five course western meal with a good ribeye).
have i lost weight? i’ve lost weight haven’t i? i don’t know why i’ve become like that…
some are unanswerable, some rhetorical, others i can’t field due to my lack of prowess in hokkien to be able to debate on the intricacies of life.
she continues to worry about the many relatives we have that have diabetes. or that dad has semi-retired and is still spending money on that TV. or that my brother has graduated but is still not finding a job.
then she laments about the greatest irony in her life, that she should be happy with the situation she’s in – she has a good house over her head, successful kids, and grandkids that are degree holders; but still finds herself miserable.
she calls over to our helper about five to ten times every half-an-hour, (I’m not even exaggerating) asking if the water’s boiled, or the meat’s thawed, or the microwave oven has been cleaned. then worries about what would happen when she goes back to indonesia (she’s a good helper, very patient and diligent but just got married), and if our next helper would be as nice as her. but today she was complaining that she was taking advantage of the fact that she tasked her to go to a nearby supermarket to buy some crabs (?), she was taking forever, and in the end came back without any… because they were sold out.
There’s a pool in our neighbour’s house which is right next to our dining area. Kids will be playing in the pool at lunchtime. Overhearing their conversations makes me wonder if it really is playing. It makes me realize that children are innately selfish, proud and attention seeking. They’re probably around 6. They’re loud, boisterous, and try to one-up each other in the silliest make-believe games. A boy sang a single line from Bieber’s “never say never”, non-stop – I could only bear half an hour of it before I left the table. In a game where they each could (I guess) morph into creatures, a girl mentioned that she could turn into anything. I think this claim was ignored. She repeated it about two or three more times, asserting the fact. The cynic in me wondered who would care. It makes me think back on my childhood – when we could do whatever we wanted, express ourselves in whatever way we wanted, and get away with it all. I can’t decide if it’s a good or a bad thing.
So over porridge I sit in silence, sometimes uttering sounds of acknowledgement to my grandma who sometimes seeks affirmation in certain conclusions she arrives a upon musing on a cream sofa. I am helpless in helping her find positivity; I am helpless in seeking some peace from the neighbours’ kids. I sit in between those who have so much more to live out in their lives, and one that has lived hers. As much as I try to I don’t understand any of them. I’ve lost understanding of how a 6yr old can be so unabashedly self seeking, and how a 77yr old can be so pessimistic. I know i’ve gone through being a kid myself, and many years down the road i might just go through what my grandma’s experiencing now. But what am I right now? Who am I, who do I aspire to be, what path should I take?
and then life goes on.
wake up and live, says bob marley.