Monday, August 16, 2010

On Parenthood & Moving Out - Part 1 (For Vince)

It’s a Saturday, August 14, 11:10 AM. This is the earliest I’ve ever seen my brother on a weekend.

Pulling into my garage, the champagne colored Toyota Highlander is packed to the brim. I open the passenger door, and relieve my mother of the mountain of stuff from her lap: plastic bags of frozen tomato sauce, book shelves, school supplies.

My brother steps out of the car. Standing almost a head taller then me, he smiles and leans over for a hug. Athletic and sporting a Bruce Lee do with goatee, the kid looks effortlessly cool. You can tell on his face and in his being, his energy is nothing short of pure excitement and glee.

My mother looks around in the garage. She immediately spots the wedding present she gave us, hidden behind brown boxes, a re-gifted, kitschy, 70s embroidered tea towel, framed behind glass. In the center is a victorian couple with the traditional wedding gifts around the border with...1st year, paper, 10th year, tin...

“So you have no room in your house to hang it up?” She says in a way that shows her disapproval.

I see her look around my garage, not so much searching for other hidden gifts, but perhaps, so she can temporarily escape realization, glancing away from us to wipe tears from her eyes.

On my brother’s big day, I give him the ultimate gift. I spare him the 3 hour car ride with mom. At 21, he’s finally moving out of the parental nest. He’s learning to fly. Solo. Destination. Chico.

“Mommy, you’ll ride with me,” I tell her.

“Why, I want to stay with Vinh.”

“Mommy, I haven’t spoken with you in 2 months. Come on, you can fill me in on all the news,” I say pleadingly.

My brother whispers to me, “She’s scared of riding the car with you, that you’ll fall asleep. Just don’t tell her that you’re sleepy.”

I can’t help but laugh out loud. My brother’s comedic humor is always spot on.

I grab her purse and throw it in my car.

“Noooo. Why do I have to go with you? I haven’t spoken to Vinh. I want to talk to him, I want to go with him. What’s wrong, I want to ride with my son.” She climbs into the SUV and closes the door, puts on her Jacky O sunglasses and crosses her arms.

I look at my brother and hand him the keys to the Audi.

“Ok, do YOU want to drive my car?”

We swap keys. He gives me his and I climb into the SUV, adjusting the seat and mirror.

“What, what’s going on? I don’t want to ride with you! I want to ride with my son!”

“Mom, you have 2 choices, you can either ride with me in the Toyota OR with me in my car, up to you. Come on mommy, we don’t have all day. Just give the boy a break. It’s a long drive, we need to go.”

I avoid her eyes and start to negotiate with God.

Finally, she yells out OK, throwing her arms above her 4’11 frame.

During the drive, she reminds me every now and then that she doesn’t want to be with me. That she wants my brother. And that we should turn on some music in case I get sleepy.

The experience is... slow torture.

Her words are hard to take in but I don’t take it personally. I know she’s going through a tough one. Today’s a big day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about parenthood lately. I don’t know why. Maybe because I haven’t made the plunge yet but with increasing age, the topic knocks a little more sternly. It’s also one of those topics that I pull out every now and then to assess my own life.

As I look at my mom, I start getting pains in my stomach. I wonder if there’s a hidden secret behind parenthood -- my biggest fear -- that it's just one big psychological mess a la the movie, Groundhog Day where one's neuroses is relived everyday and if one hasn’t figured it out like Bill Murray, the kids eventually do, and they will move on into their own lives either burdened or liberated.

And, if we believe that we exchange energy with everyone, including our children, wouldn't it be possible to unintentionally exchange say, our unresolved baggage with them? All those white lies, unresolved problems, expectations, resentment, obsessions, depression, failures, doubts -- given out for free, donated en masse. Is there any hope? If one’s intentions are pure and focused on Truth and Love, won’t things fall into place and work out?

Grateful for my own experience, helping raise my brother when he was born, I know all too well that parenthood is not a cake walk even with family support and continuity.

Sometimes, I wonder why we get ourselves seduced into the hardest, darkest, most miraculous thing, often willingly?

And then, I see my brother driving in the car ahead of me.


He’s stepping forth into the world. Only 2 months ago, he faced his own acomodador (an event in our lives that is responsible for us failing to progress). And he accepted it and is walking toward the path of his own personal legend. His life is not like mine although we have the same parents. Given all the insecurities, given all my parents “special” gifts and the weight of expectations, guilt passed down from generations, he steps forth and does his own thing. He’s developing his own passion, building his own character, his own trust and respect with others. My little brother, my partner in crime when I used to work at my parent's Ice Cream Company in the summers; who used to ride shot gun in my ’85 Celebrity Chevy, eating Cluck U chicken wings, the barbecue sauce all over his lips, blissed-out, sleeping on the window. And now, the one who makes me laugh anytime of day. The one who is my ally at Thanksgiving. The one I go to for running advice. The one who looks like a greek statue. An assist coach, a confidante to others, an athlete, a mentor, an introspective soul, a kind person.

He has so many good things going for him than against him.

We arrive at his new apartment and I help him unload his loft bed, the 50lb bag of rice, a rice cooker, a box of mangoes, packs of chinese sausages - the asian essentials. We have lunch at a diner (he puts away chicken soup, a steak and fried chicken stripes, mashed potatoes, a slice of banana cream pie) and he takes us around the Chico campus. I’m proud of my brother and hug him many times before we leave him. He labors over the driving directions back home to San Francisco.

That night for the first time, I get a text:

8:44PM: “Did you guys make it back yet?”

Time flies. Precisely, 21 years and some change, 256 months, 92,160 days, 2,211,840 hours, 132,710,400 minutes. Time and memory, captured like photographs, sometimes blurry, fractified. The weight of time moves with lightness of feet like my brother’s, gliding over the track lanes.

Marianne Williamson imparted these pearls of wisdom. These words are for you, Vince. I love you bro:

“We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you NOT to be?? You are a child of God. Your playing small does NOT serve the world. There is no-thing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the Glory of God that is within us, ALL of us. And as we let our Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our Presence automatically liberates others.”

By Mai Brehaut

Part 2: Out of Gas (Read the second part of the piece here)

Vince crossing the finish line

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