Goodbye, Friend

Tonight, I bid farewell to a lifelong companion, a friend who has been with me since I was born, a friend who has silently shared each and every moment of my life up until this point. My friend’s name is Freddy, and he is a bear.

As I write this now, Freddy is laying inside a black garbage bag, inside a black garbage bin. In a few hours, the garbage truck will arrive and tip the garbage bin upside-down, depositing Freddy and a whole lot of other childhood objects on top of the rest of the neighborhood’s trash. He’ll probably be compacted at that point. It is a saddening thought, but it is necessary.

These past few months, as can be seen in the museum, I have spent a lot of time combing through all of my belongings. Boxes and boxes of things that I’ve collected over the decades, stuffed under the bed, stuffed into the closet, opened once every few years for nostalgia’s sake, taking up space. I never really understood that I had so many things. Yes, they are mostly contained in an 11-foot by 11-foot room, but it wasn’t until I went through them, trying to decide whether to keep them, that I truly felt their weight. The Transformers from before we moved to the US. Coloring pencils from primary school. Books that I used to read before bed, mesmerized by the images I imagined in my head. What do all these things have in common? They are the property of a child, around 10 years old (plus or minus a few years), and still innocent. His world is Sega games, dinosaur books, and going to school.

It sounds obvious and ridiculous to even have to say it, but I am no longer a child. If you look at the archive of greetings I’ve made here on this website, you’ll find that I stated I was a 30-something in 2010. Now, in 2017, I am almost a 40-something. A 40-something. A grown man, approaching middle age. When I ask myself why I’ve kept all those childhood things, I wonder if maybe I’m just a man in body, who has not grown up inside.

Time keeps moving forward, and sometimes we don’t realize that we are being left behind, stuck in the same place. It is that weight which I mentioned before. Carrying all those things gets heavy. We each get one life to live, and a lifetime of experiences awaits us if we’re willing to put down all those heavy things and move forward. Staying only in the past is wasting valuable time. In the end, it will be like we lived only half a life.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Freddy, and all the other companions that have accompanied me in my life’s journey thus far. I am sad to part with things that I have had for decades, but ultimately these companions are inanimate objects, and it is I who gave them life and voices. As JC pointed out, they’ve been me all along, and they will continue to be me. That is a comforting thought. Goodbye friends, and thank you.

When it’s gone…

Enjoy these times, Geordi.
You’re the chief engineer of a starship.
And it’s a time of your life that’ll never come again.
When it’s gone, it’s gone.

Continuing from the last HK update, I wanted to write a little bit more about my cousins and aunt. When I think of them, I see Scotty giving the bit of advice above to Geordi in the Star Trek the Next Generation episode, Relics. The context is different, but the way Scotty said “When it’s gone, it’s gone.” really resonates with me. My cousins and my aunt are gone, and I will never see them again. An entire family is gone. The permanence is difficult to accept.

My father died pretty early on in my life, but even so I have a lot of fond memories of him and I can talk about these memories with my family, and they understand. I can ask my sister if she remembers the time we did this or that, and she can nod in agreement and reminisce with me. With my cousins, I can no longer do that.

Space Megaforce
Space Megaforce

I was watching some game videos when I saw one of Space Megaforce for the Super Nintendo. My cousin NVG first introduced me to this game; it was one of the earlier SNES games we played together, and every time I play it I am reminded of him. Now, there is no longer a single person that I can mention Space Megaforce to who can understand and acknowledge that time of my life that will never come again.

In the show, Scotty boarded a shuttle at the end and flew off into space, never appearing in canonical Star Trek’s 24th century again, appearing only in non-canonical novels and the reboot. I suppose I can think of it that way for my family: my cousins, my aunt, my father, and my grandpa are all together in a shuttle somewhere, and although I’ll never see them in my “canonical” life again, I’ll be able to see them in my dreams and memories.

Watching Bloodsport for Ya

Bloodsport

You know how some rap songs reference pouring out liquor for dearly departed homies? Well, tonight I’ll be watching a little Bloodsport for my dearly departed cousin. My cousin and I used to be tight back in the day; he taught me a lot about growing up here. We used to play a lot of video games and watch a lot of movies together. One of these movies was Bloodsport. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that he was very enthusiastic about this movie. Nonstop action, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and even Bolo.

My cousin was also very enthusiastic about deals. He would have been happy to know that I nabbed this movie for five dollars, and on Blu-ray, too!

Saying Goodbye to Two Old Friends

I recently had to say goodbye to a couple of old friends. This post is dedicated to them.


I bought my first car in September of 2008. I’ll never forget the date, September 13, 2008, about a month before my birthday. Prior to this date, my mind was fixed in that I only spent money on the bare essentials, in that frugality was top priority. Having been a part-time college student living at home, this made sense. But I was no longer that student, and was working full-time and living on my own. I had to tell myself that it was OK to spend some money on something that would make me happy.

My First Car, 2009 Acura TSX
My first car.

The TSX made me happy, and then some. It became a hobby for me: learning about cars, how each subsystem of a car works, what I could do to squeeze out more performance, what I could do to keep it in top shape. I bought lightweight wheels to improve aesthetics as well as acceleration, bought high performance tires to improve grip, bought springs to lower the car’s center of gravity and improve handling. I learned about ways to keep the paint looking like it had just rolled off of the assembly line. I took pride in knowing more about my car than the average person, and keeping my car in better condition than the average person. When it came time to turn in the car at lease end, I decided to lease another and transfer the parts to it.

My Second Car, 2011 Acura TSX
My second car.

A year after leasing my second TSX, I am no longer working and I am planning to travel and move overseas. Keeping the car no longer makes sense. The reality of the situation weighs on my mind, and I am unable to sleep. I get out of bed and go down to the garage to take my car out for a drive, to spend some final quality time with it. I try to take in the things that I had taken for granted up until this point, things like the smell of the leather every time I step into the car, things like the growl of the engine when I hit VTEC, and things like the car just looking so damn good.

Going for a Drive
Going for a drive at 4 in the morning.

It is 4 AM; the morning’s fog and mist adds to my contemplative mood. I drive my car around the beautiful city of San Francisco, knowing that soon I will not have the car, and that soon I will no longer be in this city where I grew up. I drive around the entire town, recalling images from yesteryear, from taking the MUNI to school every morning to eating out with my friends for the first time in Chinatown, intermixing those memories with the feelings I get when stomping on the accelerator pedal in first gear. At 4 in the morning, it is as if the streets are mine to do with as I please. I can even step out and take photos while the engine is still running. I take the photos not knowing that this would be the final night we spend together.

Entering Chinatown
Getting ready to enter Chinatown around 4 AM, while a rare vehicle passes through the intersection.
Golden Gate
A bit later on, the sun has come up but it is a foggy day.
Inside the Car
Enjoying my car for the last evening.

On the last day, I am nervous because I do not know how much the dealer will give me for my car. I sit in the lounge and try to watch the Olympics, I pace back and forth between the new cars on the showroom floor. Finally, my salesperson gives me the number, and I let out a sigh of relief. My efforts to keep the car in top condition have not been in vain. But when I turn around and take one last look at my beloved car, I find that I loved it more than I realized. I did not expect saying goodbye to be so difficult. This was the car that I drove every day to work, that I painstakingly maintained, that I raved to all my friends about, a part of my life, a part of my identity. Why would I not expect saying goodbye to be difficult?

Knowing that I was now carless, my salesperson offered me a ride to the BART station. As we pulled out of the dealer lot, I said goodbye to my car without regret, satisfied and comforted knowing that we had spent that last night together.

Goodbye, Old Friend
Goodbye, old friend.

It was an early July afternoon on a warm, sunny day. I was sitting on the porch of my in-laws’ house with Brutus, the family dog, a Boxer. I would throw the frisbee across the yard, he would chase after it, chew on it for a while, and then bring it back. After a few rounds, I’d draw some water from the tap into his bowl, and he’d lap it up thirstily. Then, he would push his head into my leg, lean his whole body on me and sit on my foot, shedding his dog hair all over my pants.

He did this every time I came to visit. It was very endearing, sort of like a child grabbing your hand and putting his in yours because he wants you to hold it. It was like he was telling me, “hey, good to see you again, let me show you that you’re part of my pack”.

On this day I was part of his pack for a long time. We watched many cars drive by, and many of the drivers would smile at us, probably thinking that Brutus was my dog. The fact is, I have never owned a dog, and probably never will. I cannot tolerate dog hair all over my clothes, my home, or my car. Normally, I don’t even play with Brutus for that long because I can’t wait to go wash my hands. On this day, for some reason, I wanted to spend more time and enjoy the afternoon with him.

It was two weeks before I visited my in-laws again. Normally, Brutus would perk up when he detected our approach and run over to greet us, but now he only barely glanced at us. When he finally did get up, we saw that he was severely emaciated, and drooling all over. We were told that he hadn’t eaten in over seven days. After taking him to the vet, x-rays revealed that he had a blockage of the esophagus which could have been something he swallowed, or cancer. We had to take him to a specialist to find out.

At the specialist’s office, we learned that we had few options. Because of the period of time that had elapsed, even if it was a foreign object in his esophagus the amount of inflammation would have made it difficult to remove surgically and, even if removed, scar tissue would form and once again create a blockage. The cancer prognosis was equally discouraging. It was a risky procedure for a healthy dog, let alone a severely emaciated one, and we could tell from the doctor’s expression that the outlook was not good. In the end, we knew what we had to do for our friend.

We spent a few final moments with Brutus. Ever since he got sick, he had been lethargic and could barely walk, but somehow he managed to walk over to me and push his head into my leg one last time. Did he know that the end was near? Was he giving us permission to end his life?

The doctor came back in with a catheter in Brutus’ hind leg. We laid him down on the doggy bed and petted him softly and gave the doctor our permission to proceed. He solemnly gave the first injection. Brutus let out a sigh. We kept petting him, trying to make him as comfortable as possible. The doctor slowly gave the second injection, and then the third. A few moments later, Brutus was gone.

I had never seen death like this before. It seemed to happen quickly; one moment Brutus was here, and the next he wasn’t. His body still felt warm, he still had the dog smell, and when I petted him it felt no different than before. We wrapped him up in a blanket and took him home, where we buried him in the same yard where we had played frisbee just a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I understand why dogs are referred to as man’s best friend. I was not his owner, yet Brutus still treated me like his best friend, even at the end. He was the closest thing I’ve had to owning a dog. True loyalty and true affection that is easy to see, with no pretense or ulterior motive embodied in a furry four-legged beast, I will never forget my good friend Brutus, and I will be forever grateful that I was able to spend that last warm, sunny afternoon with him. RIP Brutus.

Brutus
Brutus Maximus, 2006-2012

Necrology of My Father

I recently rediscovered a necrology (obituary) of my father written by Dr. D. E. Mungello of Baylor University and originally published in the Sino-Western Cultural Relations Journal, XIX (1997).

Reading it again, this time as an adult nearly twice as old as the teenager who read it before, I find that I gain deeper insight into the person who was my father. I feel like I can learn more about myself if I learn more about him. I was barely 18 when my father died, with many of those eighteen years being spent in conflict with him, as can be typical with teenagers and their fathers. I never really got to know my father as a man. Reading the necrology and other articles by and about him gives me a chance to get to know my father a little better. I never would have admit this back then, but I am very much like him, and today I am proud to say so.

Below is the necrology, posted with permission from Dr. Mungello.


NECROLOGY

Dr. John Dragon Young (楊意龍博士)
(1949-1996)

John Dragon Young was born on November 5th 1949 in Beijing. He came from a notable academic family whose members have included the English translators, Gladys Yang and Xianyi Yang. In the aftermath of the Communist Liberation, his family fled mainland China to Hong Kong where he received his primary and secondary schooling. He came to the United States for his post-secondary education and graduated magna cum laude from California State University at Hayward. His graduate work in History was done at the University of California at Davis and completed in 1976. His dissertation was directed by Professor Kwang-ching Liu (劉廣京教授) and was later revised and published as Confucianism and Christianity: the First Encounter (1983).

Dr. Young returned to Hong Kong in 1977 where over the next decade he held a number of academic positions. These included employment as a Research Officer of the Centre of Asian Studies at the University of Hong Kong and as a teacher in the Extra Mural Department of the University of Hong Kong. He cofounded the Modern Chinese History Society of Hong Kong and served as its first president. He wrote the foreword that appears in the first issue of the Modern Chinese History Society of Hong Kong Bulletin 香港中國近代史學會會刊. After serving as an active Head of the Department of History, Hong Kong Baptist College, he resigned over what he regarded as a matter of principle. This event was a watershed in his life and he would never again obtain a full time academic position in History.

For the next five years, Dr. Young was involved in the political life of Hong Kong. His academic involvement moved in this direction when he became a professor in the Graduate School of Journalism at Chu Hai College, although he also served as the Director of the Historical Research Centre of Chu Hai College. His commitment to Hong Kong was more than what one would expect toward a place that provided him merely refuge. He had a genuine concern for the people of Hong Kong and would increasingly come to believe that Hong Kong’s unique identity could play an important role in mediating between mainland China and the United States. As part of his effort to raise the people’s consciousness of legal institutions in Hong Kong, he successfully ran for a seat in the Shatin (New Territories) 新界沙田 District Council in 1988.

Excited by the implications for democracy by the Tiananmen student demonstrations, he travelled to Beijing in May 1989 to attend the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement. His intense disappointment over the outcome of events of June 4th would lead him to turn his energies toward Hong Kong. Increasingly, Dr. Young was involved in media debate over political events there. His public criticism of the forced repatriation of Vietnamese refugees led to an extended dialogue with Governor David Wilson over Hong Kong affairs. However, in 1991, his political life suffered a reverse when he was defeated in his independent candidacy in the first Legislative Council elections in 1991.

In 1992 Dr. Young returned to California. He became an advisor on Asian affairs to the San Francisco Mayor’s Office and obtained American Citizenship. He became an editorial consultant with the «大華間雜誌» (Chinese Journal) (San Francisco). After drifting away from his earlier interest in cross-cultural studies, he wrote a series of articles on Hong Kong’s impending absorption by the People’s Republic of China. He published these in such publications as «星島日報» (Sing Tao Daily) (San Francisco) and Asian Week. In addition, he wrote book reviews on China for the leading English-daily in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post.

Unlike many Chinese academics who established residency and citizenship in the United States, he moved back and forth between the cultures of the United States (mainly the Chinese subculture of San Francisco) and Hong Kong where he had a base at the Centre of Asian Studies of the University of Hong Kong as an Honorary Research Fellow. There was a price to be paid for moving back and forth between these two cultures without being anchored in either. His understanding of American culture was deep and sophisticated, but he appeared much more Americanized than he actually was. The academic job market in the United States continued to be tight and a position there eluded him. Dr. Young’s eventual move back to Hong Kong was probably decided by his securing employment as a member of the Department of Translation of the Chinese University of Hong Kong 香港中文大學翻譯系. In this final academic position, he was involved in teaching the translation of legal terminology from English to Chinese and from Chinese to English.

During the last years of his life, Dr. Young returned to his early interest in the early modern history of Chinese cross-cultural contacts. Sun Yat-sen held a particular fascination for him, perhaps because of the parallels in their lives divided between Hong Kong and Overseas Chinese areas. He wrote reviews for this journal and collaborated with this writer on translating a passage from Yang Guangxian’s 楊光先 Budeyi «不得已» (I cannot do otherwise) (1665) as part of a Sino-Western section for a new edition of Sources of Chinese Tradition edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary. He was one of the organizers of the conference “Christianity in China: Foundations for Dialogue” held at the University of Hong Kong in May of 1992 and he coedited the papers for publication. He was an enthusiastic participant in the International Symposium on the Significance of the Chinese Rites Controversy in Sino-Western History which took place in San Francisco in October of 1992 and in the International Symposium on the History of Christianity in China which took place in Hong Kong in early October of 1996. He looked forward to further involvement in cross-cultural studies.

Dr. Young was self-effacing and personable. On his visit to Texas in the spring of 1995 he enthralled Baylor students with his description of secret societies in contemporary Hong Kong. He experienced a great deal of frustration in his life which made him, at times, critical. He had strong feelings about the issues for which he cared most, including lingering imperialist attitudes toward the Chinese and the future of democracy in Hong Kong. In an article on the meaning of Chinese patriotism, he wrote that whereas in Western democracies, criticism of one’s government “is considered a right, or even a duty,” this is not the case in China where traditionally government officials have acted as “parents” of ordinary Chinese. He believed that the dilemma of Chinese patriotism would continue beyond 1997 “unless efforts were made to inform the average Chinese person that loyalty to China is not necessarily equal to total obedience of its government” (Asian Week, February 18th 1994, p. 2 & 19).

There is reason to believe that Dr. Young might have played a significant intellectual role in Hong Kong after its absorption by the mainland. Unfortunately, his life ended on a note of bizarre tragedy when he was struck by a lorry in the Central district of Hong Kong Island and in a spectacular fall, landed on his head, suffering a brain injury. After three weeks in the hospital, he died on November 5th 1996, which with sad irony, was his 47th birthday.

He is survived by his parents in Vancouver, by a sister in Hong Kong, by a son and daughter in San Francisco and by a daughter in Hong Kong.

In retrospect, Dr. John Dragon Young was a man whose life from birth until death was characterized by struggle. Many of these struggles were inflicted on him by the historic upheavals of 20th-century China. Others were merely personal. But some of his struggles were for the most noble of ends. He will be missed by those of us who valued him as a bridge between East and West, as a colleague and as a friend.

D. E. M.

Grandpa’s Eulogy

Grandpa Young, 1910-2009
Grandpa Young, 1910-2009

The following eulogy was written on April 2, 2009, for my grandfather who had passed away in March.

I’d like to begin this eulogy with 4 words:

“Be Active, Not Passive.”

This is the advice that I’ll always remember from my grandfather. Throughout the past few years he has given me a lot of free advice, but whenever I think of him I always think of this piece first. I clearly recall the sound of his voice telling me, “楊天平, 我跟你說啊, 要主動, 不要被動. Be active, not passive.” I’ve never really thought about why these particular words made such an impact on me, until now.

The first reason is my Grandpa’s confidence. I’ve never met anyone as confident as my Grandpa. If you look at photographs of him from the time of his youth up to his time as an old man, you always see a man who is sure of himself, a man with strong convictions. When he told you his stories, his confidence commanded you to listen. For my grandpa, confidence was a natural quality; neither taught nor learned, just something he always had. He was the best and most qualified person to bestow the “be active, not passive” credo upon me.

The second reason “be active, not passive,” made an impact on me is my Grandpa’s life. Here was a person who had lived nine, nearly ten decades giving me free advice on how to live my life. It was like the Colonel handing down the secret recipe to his descendants. Anyone can give free advice, just as anyone can give out fried chicken recipes. But the recipe would be worthless if the chicken tasted like crap. And the same goes for life advice. My Grandpa lived a great life. He lived through the end of dynastic rule in China. He lived through two world wars. He had a family, a career, a wife who stayed at his side until the end. He had grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He lived to see the human race advance from horses and buggies and the phonograph to Mazda MPVs and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound systems. He had a great life, and I would do so well to accomplish even half of what he accomplished. I am grateful and humbled that he taught me one of the guiding principles of his life: “be active, not passive.”

The last reason is that when you really think about it, the words “be active, not passive” make a lot of sense. Generally, good things in life don’t just fall into your lap. When Grandpa was a banker, he actively sought and completed the work of his less capable and less hardworking associates, thereby earning the respect of his superiors. If he had waited for his superiors to notice the other employees’ ineptness and give him the extra work, rather than taking the initiative and taking it upon himself, he would have earned little respect, if any. In other words, Grandpa was “active, not passive” and it paid off handsomely for him.

Sometimes we listen to words that make sense to us, like in a song, a speech, or advice from a grandparent, and we don’t really know why. But if you “be active, not passive,” and really think about it, you’ll eventually figure out why. That’s what I learned from my Grandpa.

Life, Existence

I was looking at a photograph earlier this evening and started thinking about existence. The photograph was taken in the summer of 2008, in or near Sai Kung Country Park in Hong Kong. Among those in the photo were my aunt, my wife, and myself.

My aunt passed away earlier this year. Her body, and perhaps her consciousness, no longer exist, but in my memory and imagination I can see her face, I can hear her speaking to me, and I can feel her touch. Does this mean that she still exists? I suppose that depends on how we define existence.

If I wanted to, I could completely recreate my aunt in my mind. But would it still be her? Or would it just be what I think she should be? Would she be considered existing?

When I am with my wife and we are happy together, I sometimes ask the question “why do we have to die and be apart someday?” It just seems like a cruel joke to bring people together, make them love each other, care for each other, and then break them apart at the end. People say that we should treasure the people around us, and the moments that they share with us. I wonder how much of a difference that makes, because it doesn’t make saying goodbye, or the prospect of saying goodbye, any easier. In the end, we all die.

I can still feel the warmth of the sun on that hot and humid summer day in the park. I see the giant ants crawling along the sidewalk. I feel my impatience at being out in the heat and not in the air conditioned saloon of my uncle’s van. Maybe that’s all existence is, just a collection of brain cells that can replay a memory over and over again. When the last memory of something fades, then that something stops existing, and it is as if it never existed. Not a very funny joke at all.

Dad

This story is presented as written at the time, with giant paragraphs. An edited version may be presented in the future.

October 27th, 1996

I am writing this so that I have a note as to what happens during this time period. Maybe later I will write a formal story or essay or whatever, but right now I just want to take notes. If you don’t know what’s going on, then let me tell you. My father was seriously injured in an automobile accident (I still am unclear as to how it happened) and now he is in a hospital, barely clinging to life. I suppose I’ll go about this in a chronological order. It was Thursday morning, about 7 am when the phone of my dorm room rang and awakened me. I didn’t want to pick up the phone, so I just stayed in bed. The answering machine picked up the phone, and I listened to the message being left. My mother said that it was an emergency, that my father got into an accident. I got up immediately and called my mother. She explained to me what happened. “He was hit and thrown 30 feet”. I felt so pissed that I punched the wall as hard as I could. Actually I’m trying to remember exactly what happened after that. I remember getting pissed off at whoever had done this to my dad. The severity of what happened didn’t sink in as much as it’s in now, but still I was shocked. I just talked to my mom about it and she told me he was in a hospital, that my aunt had called and let her know about the whole thing. I was so out of it that when my mom said bye to my sister (who was leaving for school) I thought that it was me who was being told bye and so I hung up the phone and crawled back into bed. I tried going back to sleep, but the thought of my innocent father being thrown thirty feet by a truck’s rear-view mirror wouldn’t let me. After what seemed like an eternity, however, fatigue finally took over and I fell back to sleep. When I woke up at 9, I tried not to imagine things too much, and knowing that I should get to school, went and took a shower. Half way through the shower, my mom calls and my roommate yells into the shower letting me know that she called. I finished my shower as quickly as I could, and then got out and called her back. She told me we’d be returning to Hong Kong on that night (Thursday, October 24th, 1996) and that I had to return to San Francisco to obtain my passport. I talked with my roommate and told him the situation and left my Phantom tickets with him. He offered me his bag which I thought was hella cool. So I packed some things with me, made sure everything would be cool while I was gone, wrote some people from class about what happened, and then left my room. I walked to the BART station with my big, heavy bag and backpack, and then took the BART to Montgomery Station.

October 28th, 1996

Alright, let me continue what the story. So after getting off at Montgomery Station, I walk to the San Francisco Passport Office and wait for my mom and sister to arrive. I grabbed a couple of applications and filled out my own, and then they arrived about ten minutes later. We went inside the office and explained the situation to the security guard on duty, and he directed us to call a number, the passport office administration. So I called and explained the situation to them and the woman on the other end of the line instructed me to obtain a flight itinerary to prove my situation in order to rush a passport. We headed out towards Chinatown on the bus, and went to the Delights Travel place where my mom had ordered the tickets. The man there was a former student of my father’s, and he was extremely helpful. We got hooked up with the tickets on that day without having to have a passport which was what we were supposed to do at first. He also helped us take passport pictures, but they didn’t turn out well, which was why we ended up going to Samy Studio in Chinatown to take them. I just knew that i was hella grateful for the man at the travel agency. After we took pictures, we headed to Walgreens and bought gum and chap stick, and then we walked down to Geary street to pick up the tickets. Well before grabbing the tickets we stopped by b of a so that my mom could transfer funds, and then we went and got the tickets. We went back to the passport office and realized that we were two numbers past. We were 322 and the number they were calling was already 324. So we asked the woman at the counter if we could go (actually my mom told her that we went to the bathroom) and the woman was cool and let us get our passport. We did the administrative stuff, and then paid, and then were told that we should be back at three to line up and get our passport. Instead of waiting, we decided to go to McDonalds to grab some food. We had McNuggets and my sister had a Filet o Fish meal. We stayed there until about 2:45 and then headed back to the passport office and we finally got our passports. After we got our passports we went home, and packed and did other stuff to prepare for the flight to Hong Kong. We got ready and my cousin came and picked us up to take us to the airport. Before we left I had two cup o soups. When we got to the airport we checked in and then finally we got on the plane and left for Hong Kong. The flight was pretty good. The seats were comfortable and the stewardess was pretty. When we got back to Hong Kong, our cousin and uncle greeted us and picked as up. We drove back to my aunt’s house and dropped off our luggage, and then we headed straight for the hospital in a taxi. It was the worse, the feeling of uncertainty. At first, I didn’t feel so bad because my mind had not imagined it to be too serious. But when I walked into the hospital room, I smelled a smell that I didn’t like, and I put on one of those robes that they make you wear and walked in. When I saw my dad, I was so shocked. He didn’t even look like my dad. His body was still the same, but his head was all puffy and swollen. He looked all fat and it hella scared me. He looked like some fat guy in a movie, not my father. The top of his head was wrapped in bandages, and tubes went in and came out of his body, some filled with red stuff that I assumed was blood. He also had an artificial respirator tube leading out of his mouth; undoubtedly helping him breathe. I was told that he wasn’t breathing on his own, that it was the machine who was helping him. They said that a lorry mirror had hit him in the front of his head and threw him 10 meters, or about 30 feet. Just imagining how this could have happened makes me feel so sad, afraid, and pissed off all at the same time. I think about how I always used to feel bad for him as he walked on the streets, and I imagine just how all of a sudden he’d be thrown by a damn truck. Shit. It just pisses me off. When he arrived at the hospital, he was still conscious, and knew his name, number, and everything. But then they told me that he started to go crazy, that they had to restrain him in bed. He looked like he was in a lot of pain, people said. He was yelling and shouting out incomprehensible sounds. I wish I could have seen him like that. Maybe then he’d recognize me and stop, and something would happen. I thought that perhaps he was struggling because he knew he had two great children in me and my sister, and that he had to let them know that he loved us, or that he just needed to talk to us. If that was true, he didn’t have that chance because they approved him to have surgery. The doctors said that he had to have his blood clot removed from his brain cavity, because it was causing dangerous pressure on his brain. Besides that, the fronts of both sides of his brain were severely damaged. The first operation was pretty successful, and they were able to remove the bad blood. But then the doctors said that my dad had an abnormal biochemistry, that his clotting mechanism in his blood didn’t function at 100%. So they had to go through a second operation, one in which he wasn’t expected to survive. The problem was that his blood didn’t clot, which meant that it didn’t stop at they were performing the surgery. They said it was fortunate that he was able to make it out of the operating room. When we saw him, it was after the second operation. The swelling in his face scared me a lot. Everytime I thought about it, I felt like I didn’t want to go see him anymore. But after we waited for the doctors to tell us what happened, we came home and didn’t return to the hospital until the next day. (we arrived on Saturday, yesterday was Sunday, and today is monday). When I saw him the next day, he looked so much better. I felt a lot better, too. He actually looked like my dad. Oh ya, the first day I saw him, I wanted to give him a hug, but there were so many instruments and pipes, that I couldn’t. I just held his hand and talked to him, and told him that I loved him. It’s so strange because normally we rarely tell our father that we love him. Even for my mom, it’s rare. It’s just that in our family, it’s more understood than anything else. But I said it anyways. We left the hospital (just me and my mom, my sister didn’t want to go) and we went to the mall to hang around for awhile. Then we went dim sum with my aunt and then dinner at my grandmas. We came home with my uncle who drove us, and then that leads us to today. In the morning me and my mom went to the immigration office to get a new id card for me, and after that was done, we came back and prepared to go to the hospital again. The thing was my aunt Julia called and told us that they were moving him to a different floor, and that we should get down there immediately. So we went down there, and now I saw him again. This time he looked better still, but the doctors said that the way he looked didn’t reflect what was going on inside his body. Things were still just as bad. We hung around in a tiny room for awhile, and soon they closed the door and said we couldn’t go in for awhile. So we just sat in the room and then my mom and my sister went to go eat with me, and then we came back. We talked about all the traditional stuff about death and everything, but I feel like I don’t want to go through with it. It’s so pointless. Waiting is pointless. I didn’t want to wait so we all came back here. I know my dad wouldn’t want me to wait, so why should I? I knew he wouldn’t want to go through all the trouble with funerals and burials and all that. Yet, they say that I should do it, that’s it’s my responsibility. I really want to go home and go on with my life, but I think I will do this anyway. Perhaps right now I don’t understand, but maybe sometime in the future I will and I don’t want to risk regretting what I didn’t do at the time. Well, that’s it for now, but there is a lot more that needs to be said. I will write more later.

March 3, 1997

It has been four months and I am finally adding to this recount. I don’t exactly remember what happened after I wrote my journal, just that we did eventually leave Hong Kong. Looking at the calendar, I think we left about six days after my last entry. I didn’t want to keep any further entries because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to handle it anymore. I am finally able to talk about what happened. It was after that day that I felt like I wanted to run away and not face the situation anymore. My friend Mark wrote me an e-mail message saying that because my father was a such a great man, I should not give up on him. I had only told Mark that my father was a professor, but he interpreted it in a way that shed a new hope on me. I felt at that moment that my dad would indeed survive. My aunts were really pissing me off… to this day, I still hold a grudge. So let me recall what happened that week… I know I got my id card, which I wrote up there somewhere, but I also went to the computer mall to buy CDs for my computer. My mom bought some CDs for Alan and Stanley, and some stuff for my sister too. After we got out of that mall, we noticed a little cart and a man selling counterfeit music CDs and we bought a few. Then we went to eat at a cheap restaurant. It was good, even though it was cheap. After that, I think we went to the supermarket (Wellcome) to buy some groceries for my aunt, and some candies and stuff for me to bring back to the US. I bought some cola candies for myself and my cousin, and also a box of instant noodle bowls for my dorm. That took my mind off of my father’s situation. We continued to visit my dad, and one time we had a conference with the doctors. I think that happened the day after we arrived, except that I didn’t mention it above. I think logically I knew things were really bad because we were actually flying back to Hong Kong. That is a big deal. But what clinched my fears was the fact that the doctors advised us to prepare ourselves. It’s like something from a movie, you just never expect it to happen to you or your family. I want to say that the doctor was cool about it… he was nice. But there was this other doctor that kinda pissed me off. He seemed so indifferent about it, as if it was another day of work. He knew nothing about his patient, but perhaps if he did, he’d have a little more respect. Fuck him. Fuck him and others like him. Anyways, during that week, we also took the time to visit my dad’s school, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He had a job there and we wanted to find out about what would happen with the insurance and pay and benefits and all that other stuff. We took the train up to University, took the shuttle, and went to talk with the manager/whatever he was. Then we went back to the station and took a taxi to my dad’s place. No one knew that I had a key to my dad’s house except my mom and her family. I never told my stupid aunts. The taxi drivers pissed me off too… one guy told us to take a green taxi, and the green taxi said take the red one. I knew that we were supposed to take the red one, but the red driver was lazy. I explained to him the address, and we went to my dad’s house. I won’t forget for a long time, maybe forever what I saw at my dad’s place. When I opened the gate, a sense of anticipation filled me. I finally got to the front door and I opened it. Inside the house, things were neatly kept. It looked like he was preparing to leave for somewhere for awhile (that’s another story). In the kitchen, I remember opening the fridge and looking at what’s inside. I saw some food that I wanted to take, because I did not want to waste it, but then I decided not to. It seemed that my dad had stocked up because he knew that my grandma was going to Hong Kong. I usually feel bad when I waste food, so I felt even worse when I left the food and had left it under the circumstances. In the living room, his slippers were still there, placed together. He was wearing them before he left the house… as always. His cup of tea or coffee was on the little table by the sofa, still stained. He must have taken a drink before he left. Everything looked the same as it did when I stayed there during the summer, but the feeling was different. I felt like things were going to waste. I noticed his papers on the dinner table, his mail, his toys. I played with those toys while I was there. My sister watered the plants for him… I still feel horrible for yelling at my sister. She watered the plants and water spilled onto his documents. It was the frustration I felt… I just blew up. I noticed on the other table a watch, a NIKE watch with a red wristband… when he was in the US I told him that mine had broken, so he must have bought a new one for me… it was an exact copy. I felt even worse. Slowly I walked into the corridor leading to his room… I checked out the two side rooms, but I don’t remember seeing anything in there… I think there were clothes hanging from the shower. I walked into my dad’s room… he had just done laundry, for his clothes were scattered on his bed. On the chair of his writing desk, I noticed the green shorts that I used to wear when I had stayed during the summer. My dad’s shorts that he let me borrow. He still wore them. Then I noticed something that almost made me cry. The two cans of shaving cream that we had bought together at a Target store on our way back from our trip to Reno. I still remember how we got the cans cheap, because the man couldn’t find the bar code and so he gave them to us for 99 cents or something. That was something that made my dad happy because he always wanted to save money. I also saw a picture of my sister, my dad, and I from the time we were at Lantau Island. That made me really sad. I looked in his closets and saw his suits. I wanted to take them, but I decided not to. I noticed his fax machine… there was a long roll of fax paper coming out… he had many faxes awaiting to be read. Then I remembered that he kept the metal plaque of his doctorate degree in his tv shelf. I decided to take that. I wanted to remind myself of what a smart man my father was. I remember asking him why he didn’t put it up. I guess he was just modest. I thought it was dope, to have a phd at such a young age. When I got back to my dorm, I put up the plaque in my room to remind myself to work hard. As I type this, I look up at it and see my dad’s name, John Dragon Young. It’s just dope. After we left my dad’s house, we went back to the train station to take the train to my grandma’s for dinner. There, either I yelled or my mom yelled at my sister. Throughout the entire ordeal, she had not shed a single tear. I knew that it was tearing her little 16 year old self apart, but I also knew that she was one of those people who won’t show their sorrow. She hadn’t cried. With the yelling at the train station and the yelling I did to her earlier, she could no longer take it. She burst into tears and my mom gave her I hug and started crying too. I gave them both a hug, and there we were, the three of us, embracing as the train rolled by. It was totally like a scene from a movie. My mom said that she would never forget that moment. I know I haven’t forgotten it yet, and I don’t think I ever will, either. After that things got worst with my dad. Even though he looked better, and there wasn’t swelling, the doctors still insisted that his outside look had nothing to do with his inside condition. At this point I really wanted to return to the US, because I had midterms coming and I had not studied anything in Hong Kong. There was a time when I went to the hospital to say goodbye to my father, because I did not want to see him in that condition again. Do you remember how I said that I would stay so that I wouldn’t regret something later on? Right now I feel it. I feel some regret. I went to his bedside and talked to him. I told him about the Discman that my friends had gotten me for my birthday. I knew he liked getting expensive things for free, so I mentioned that. But he just lay there, his machine inhaling and exhaling for him. I said goodbye to him, thinking it was forever. I didn’t like the smell in the hospital. I could also smell my dad’s rotting blood/fluid which no nurse cared to clean because he spewed it sporadically. I couldn’t stand it anymore. After that I made my decision to return to the US. At this point, I stopped going to see my father. But the day before I left, or actually the day I did leave, I don’t quite remember, I went back, even though I said I wouldn’t. This time, I held his hand. It was warm. Like I said, his body was in good shape, but his brain was wrecked. I said goodbye to him now, forever. It is this moment that I regret now. At this very moment, I feel like maybe I should have been there until the final moment. But back then, I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. We flew back to San Francisco, and I went back to school the day after, a Monday. I went back to SF on Tuesday to vote, and after I voted, my mom told me that he had died. They took away his machines. I had already expected the worst and made myself feel better, but that barrier I built crumbled again. I did not cry. To this day, I still don’t cry. I think about what happened everytime I’m in the shower. I don’t know why, but I do. In my room, there is a picture of just me and my dad. We took it at the rest area on our way back from Reno. He actually had a big smile on his face. He was beginning to smile when he took pictures, something he didn’t really do before. I felt he was finally starting to enjoy life. I was accepting him as my father, developing a better relationship. And on one fateful day, it all comes crashing down. I looked at that picture tonight, which is why I’m writing this now. I look at my own ID card, and I see him in me. Or I see me in him. I don’t know. I really miss my father. How can that be? I was so used to his being away. Why am I not used to it now? I don’t know. I do know that I had always thought we could be friends, playing chess, or talking. I dreamt about how in the movies, a son and his father, two grown men, debate and play chess, like in Independence Day when David and his father play chess. I have an Asian American studies class where I need to do an interview… my dad would have been the perfect subject. There is also a lot of scandal surrounding my father’s death and life. I will not go into that anymore. That will be saved in my head. Maybe I will write it down one day. Another reason why I am writing this is because I read about Carlos Bulosan’s life. His life was way worse than mine, but I felt like I could relate to his pain somehow. It was the paternal bond that really took me. I am still afraid to turn on the tape of our Reno trip in April. I regret not bringing my camcorder to Hong Kong during the 1996 summer, because that’s when my father and I really got along. I will only have memories in my head, not on tape. I am afraid that I will cry if I watch the tape. I want to cry alone, by myself. I don’t want anyone to comfort me, I just want to cry and let it all out. As I write this, I don’t feel a damn thing close to crying. I wish he wasn’t dead. It’s still unbelievable to me sometimes. His greatest achievement, his greatest asset, his brain, his education and his studies, his books, all gone in a matter of seconds. Why was his best part struck? The topic of waste comes to mind again. It is such a waste. What did he go to all those years of school for? He lost it all. His brain cells weren’t there anymore. I am sort of glad that he enjoyed himself near the end. I felt like he was happier than he ever had been. His kids actually talked to him, shared jokes. But he always had this thing… he left without mentioning it before. Or maybe it was me. I still didn’t pay attention sometimes. That explains why there aren’t many pictures of him and I in Hong Kong. He wanted to take pictures, but I always refused. On the day he left, he called me to say bye. I said bye, but it was early morning and I was impatient. I recall telling my roommate David later that day that I felt bad for not saying bye to my dad. The last time I ever spoke to my dad was on my birthday. He called me while I was at the computer or something… and I did not bother to stay longer and chat. What a piece of shit I am. If only I had known… but these things you can never know. That’s why you always have to cherish your moments, and treat everybody with love. And yet, even though I’ve gone through this and have experienced a lesson, I sometimes forget the lesson. Why is it hard to express love? Am I afraid to be hurt? Will I be embarrassed? I don’t even kiss my mom, not even on the cheek. It’s this thing I have. Maybe that is not important, but sometimes I get impatient with my mom. But especially my sister. We are not on very good terms. Why can’t I be more tolerant? Perhaps I have been. I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about that right now. I’ve typed a lot. It’s time to go back to writing my Odyssey paper. Or maybe get some sleep. It’s 3:29 am right now. I’ll end it here, for now.

May 10, 1998

Well, who would’ve known that it’d take me this long to add to this journal? It’s just that I haven’t felt this overwhelmed with sadness and emotion in a long time. Even until now, I had had second thoughts about continuing this journal, but I saw what you might consider to be “signs”. I saw a single drop fall from my water flask, just like a tear falling, as if it were reminding me to do something. Then, as I was re-reading my journal from above, I heard the DJ on the radio say “Hong Kong” right when I was looking at the words “Hong Kong” in my journal. It’s a strange thing… but what really got me worked up and unable to sleep tonight was a movie I just watched. We always watch movies that bring out feelings, don’t we? This movie was about a single father trying to raise his family, and it made me think about my mom trying to raise my sister and I. The son didn’t know how to act and got into all these bad things, like crime and triad stuff, and people around him starting dying everywhere. Unfortunately, this kid still doesn’t get it and he tries to get revenge. His father is there, and the father does so many things for the son that it made me sick to see the son still not listen to his father. In the end, the father grabbed the gun from his son and shot the bad guy, with cops watching and all so that the son wouldn’t have to go to jail. When his son asked his father, “Why father, why did you do it?” the father replied, “No matter how bad you are, you are still my son.” Those words ring really loud in my head, because I know that both of my parents feel the same way. Lately I’ve been really missing home and I wish that I could just stop everything and go home to be with my family. It seems all of a sudden I understand what it means to be alive, that I understand what the meaning of life is. To me, being with my family is all that counts. All these other things around me are there, but in the end my family will always be there. My mom’s been telling me about how she feels sick and all that, and of course I am worried and concerned. Next year my sister is going off to college, and my mom will be alone. I know how bad it is to be alone. Here, I have only myself to turn to when I need someone from my family. Even though when I go home I fight with my sister sometimes, I still miss that. Just being near someone you know cares makes a big difference. The people in this apartment are my friends, but I can’t, I don’t feel the comfort that I feel when I am with family. There was some other stuff that I wanted to write, but I don’t remember. Let me scroll back up and check… Right, my mom says that she’ll have to be alone some day, so she should get used to it now. I don’t know why my mom has so much pride, but I don’t think she really feels that she can be alone. How can a mother let go of her children whom she raised with all of herself? The answer is she can’t. During these times my mortality has really been talking to me. Before, I knew that people had to go away some day, but now I’ve experienced it, and I can almost feel it. I think about the future and the past at the same time, and I think to myself that I don’t want to die. I don’t want my family to die. I imagine how I am going to be when I am 80 years old and in my death bed, about to die… it’s something that I can comprehend, and yet at the same time I don’t want to comprehend it. It’s like my sociology professor said, we’re not afraid of dying, but we’re afraid of leaving everything behind. I’ve also thought that maybe by the time I’m 80 I would’ve experienced so many things that I’ll be ready to go… but at the same time I would have acquired so many things that I wouldn’t want to let go. When I say “things”, I don’t mean tangible property or objects, but friendships, relationships, family. But back to the things I wanted to talk about, I finally had the nerve to turn on the tape of me and my dad and our trip to Reno. When I watched it, I didn’t cry, but instead I wanted to smile because I saw him and I saw us and I saw how happy we were. I still haven’t shed a tear, but I feel like I am really close to doing so. It was this past week where something happened that triggered all these emotions inside of me. The thing was, I’ve been living here for almost an entire school year, and so far it hasn’t been the greatest thing, and so I wanted to talk to one of my roommates about it, since he was the main reason why things weren’t so great. So I just took everything that bothered me out and put it on the table and offered to try and make things better. We got into some arguments about some things, and then he falsely accused me of being confrontational – and yet he was the one who was raising his voice and cussing. But I don’t want to get into that. The thing was, or is, I get the feeling that he doesn’t see me on the same level as he is. Rather, I am so small that he has to speak to me like a child… and everything that I say sounds like garbage to him. I don’t know what makes him assume that, but I try not to let it bother me. The point is, after my little skirmish with my stupid roommate, I felt really emotional, like my hands were shaking and I was breathing heavily and my heart was pounding. I compounded the situation by listening to Sammi Cheng’s Can’t Let Go on my way to class… and it was then that I felt like I wanted to cry. I imagined that I’d call my mom over the phone and tell her that I miss her, and that I also miss my dad, and then I’d be crying over the phone and everyone at VLSB would be watching me. But that never happened. I didn’t have the guts to do it, but I called home anyway and nobody answered. It was that kind of day too, with clouds and rain falling hard. I still remember everything so clearly. I read my original journal at times and I can see everything as vividly and clearly as if it were yesterday. I thought about the times when my mom was in Hong Kong for a year and my dad was here to take care of my sister and I and what we had to go through. Talking about it brings all the emotions back out. I learned that on the day of the accident, my father was indeed conscious and was also screaming in pain. Like I said before, when I found out about that I wished that I could have been there, perhaps to help soothe his pain. The other night I was so stressed out that I recorded my own voice – I just wanted to talk and let everything out. When I played it back, I thought that I sounded like my dad a bit. If I tried hard it seemed like he was speaking. I had no idea that someone like my dad could have such a huge effect on me – doesn’t that sound strange? It’s just that it wasn’t really the greatest father/son relationship ever, but like the father in the movie said, no matter how bad he is, he is still my father. And the thing was, he wasn’t that bad anyways. At least he tried to make things up… I thought about what it’d be like to be in his shoes, and it makes me really sad. Seeing your two kids not talking to you because you made a mistake, being stuck between a rock and a hard place, not knowing what to do, and at the same time seeing things get worse as a result of your own stupidity. I don’t know if my sadness is warranted, because like my mom says, I am a very soft-hearted person. I feel bad about everything. I sometimes feel like that maybe I am different from everyone else because I am like that. I don’t know how I can think that, because it may seem arrogant, but sometimes I just do. I feel like that I am one in a million in terms of the ways that I think. Often it just seems like that nobody understands me, understands where I’m coming from, what I’m trying to say. Remember how I said I thought about dying… well I want to write and write and leave behind my words – because I was reading some books from school, listening to classical music – two things whose creators are long dead. The only thing people remember those dead people is through their creations. So I want to make a difference and leave behind my writings. My father was a very smart and educated man and he left behind some writings as well. Unfortunately I haven’t read any of them. I’ve read a few excerpts, but that’s all. I found his pocket thesaurus that he had when he first came to the United States, and it once again made me imagine what it’d be like to be in those shoes, coming to the United States for the very first time and being young. It must have been really exciting. I never asked him about those things, and now it’s too late. I can only ask my mom and his friends. Another thing is, being a student myself, I see professors lecturing up on that stage, and I try to picture my father doing the same thing. It would be really special to be a student in my own father’s class. He was a professor too, and sitting there listening to him and taking notes would’ve been bad-ass. And then after class we could go home and discuss the day’s topics. That’s something I would have really cherished. But that’s not going to happen, and I can only imagine such a thing happening. I don’t know if think about what happened everyday, or even if I think of him everyday, but I do know that it’s always happening. It probably is everyday, but I don’t want to say just in case it isn’t. But anyways, it seems like that I’ve gone on forever… and my head is getting heavy coz I’m sleepy. It’s 2:38am, and I started at 2:00 am just for the record. Good night.