what do you do when a distant cousin contacts you?

My family and I are a simple power of three. We have family around the world and sometimes we travel to see them. Mostly it’s just us.

My parents are old school; they contact their relatives by phone or WhatsApp. For them it makes sense to be in touch; they’ve grown up with them before they moved here. But I’ve never met so many of them. Shy, self-conscious and uncomfortable, I make sure I’m not around when the calls are made. I have to answer the same questions: what grade are you in? I graduated! When are you coming to visit? Um…*awkward laugh, look at my mom for help*

With the access of Facebook searches, I’ve had cousins add me. I cross check with my parents to make sure they’re really my cousins before I accept their request. It’s how I see posts from my cousins from different countries. Yet, I can’t find my voice to establish a direct communication line with them. Just as a genealogy paper, we just appear to be family on the web.

But how can blood lines make up family? My parents and I are the nuclear family. They are a constant in my life. I have friends who are more constant in my life than my cousins. Blood does not negate family; they have to earn that title.

And that’s not easy. My parents are loners too. They are mistrustful of people’s intentions regardless of relation. Having seen their fair share of their parents’ gullible mistakes, when they do host dinners, they make sure the night is filled with cards, board games, movies and lots of food to keep everyone occupied from asking for handouts or weeping their woes to get my parents’ sympathy. Having witnessed this growing up, it takes me a long time to open up to people. I didn’t fully open up to my best friend Chit for two years! And I already called her my best friend.

Now as a pending message awaits in my Facebook inbox from a cousin, I contemplate how to address, “how you doing?” I predict the conversation to be short without details. But if I don’t give us a chance to warm up to each other, I won’t be giving her a chance to earn being family. Here’s to trying.

 

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dear tomorrow

when i was a little girl, my dad and i would get into fights. i don’t even recall why anymore; my grades and outspoken attitude would disappoint him then. twelve, i wanted to talk about what i liked than be talked at for what i needed to succeed in my future. i swallowed the words instead and my dad never pried those words out. we wouldn’t talk for days. that’s when i would wait for a family function because i knew in front of family we would act like everything was okay and let go of what was eating us. i would be happy to have my dad back to joke with.

but just as easily an argument about who i wanted to be versus who he wanted me to be would render us silent for weeks. those stretches have grown longer since i’ve gone to college and graduated. i don’t know how to connect to him and he doesn’t know either.

today was a rare day i want to remember. he drove me to wegmans because i needed mixed frozen vegetables to make chicken potpie for my potluck at work tomorrow. we talked a little bit about how my work was going. mostly we hit it off talking about tv shows because we have the same taste: love and family and happy endings are simply a must. when he saw me making anchor charts for my class while playing Once Upon a Time on my work laptop, he suggested i do my work outside in the living room so i could watch the show on our large smartTV. i know he just wanted to enjoy my presence. and it did feel good to be watching a show with him that made him tear up just like me. as i shuffled around the kitchen cooking, even though it is my mother’s primary domain, i asked my dad for advice and he helped.

today we felt like father and daughter. but we didn’t get personal. that never works. when i talk about my love for writing, he only expects me to churn out a book like a machine. when i talk of my love, he is repulsed that i would date instead of being married already because despite being family, our cultures are different. when he prays to god, i pray to Love. when i bring prep work home and complain about not enough time, he uses that as an excuse to be upset when i go out to hang out with friends.

but underneath it all, he’s still my dad who only wants the best for me. i want to believe that. even if we can’t be more than tv buddies. our views may be different, but i know i inherited upholding my beliefs firmly and passionately from him.

our road is rocky. but today was nice. i want to remember today.

 

vow

bound by a contract
her faith compels her to keep it intact.
he and she were arranged to meet
she complied because of society
already thirty, what would people think
she worried about her parents’ image
so she said yes to not give them stress
never factoring her own happiness.
same religion but different culture
she was his for his bidding and no one else’s
he forbade her going to her mother’s house
isolated with the strangers she married into
she prevailed in concealing her tears
in secret phone calls home so they not worry
and after they were long gone she still remained
to not tarnish their memory, their last wish
she have a cornucopia of security and stability

pity

the man of the house
at twice my age plus sixteen
he dabbles in stock investments
in the expanse of his early retirement
but mostly i see him news scrolling.
when middle-aged and struggling
he said life’s a rigged game
he gave up then, settled on the couch
with his excuse to raise me
my mother the sole breadwinner
the newly appointed matriarch
rightfully so, she dealt with patients
came home cooked and cleaned and
criticized him with her newfound voice
that he loathed – he raised me to be
financially independent but decreed
i not move out until i marry.
an antiquated being
he kept me close i burned him too
even his spit could not subdue my fire.
insular he rigged his own fate
alone and waiting
the man of the house.

home run

it’s our weekend so we go to the batting cages
i try not to think about next weekend
dad’s supposed to take me to six flags
but right now we’re here, the batting cages
it’s our time but the last session ballers hover
dad’s polite reminding then asking
they’re kids my age but they have each other
when they feign listening i have my dad’s back
he rattles the cage  warning jumping in
average height but his ego looms
verbal thrashing at the tip of his tongue
the boys hurry along and then
it’s just me and dad at the batting cages

the big sick

Image result for the big sick

The Big Sick is raw, humorous, and bittersweet in capturing the frustration of an identity affected by polar cultures. Born first generation or moved to America at an impressionable age, fitting in is the solution to mental stability while appeasing to parents who moved countries for a better life is the solution for emotional stability. But compromising has to have a limit, right?

I recommend this movie to all adults who are in or have flirted with interracial relationships. Old folk with their conservative opinions will not like this movie. But that’s exactly why they have to watch it. Choosing to dismiss facts or feelings because it does not personally align with their beliefs simply hinders learning.

Growing up, I loved the term American melting pot. I felt as though it connected me to all the citizens of the states, a motley crew that made up the soul of the country because of the freedom we had to be whoever we wanted. But the inbred upturned noses silent in public are virulently verbose in the confines of their home in degrading anything – anyone – different. I hear it, the (un)intentional racist joke and I cringe.

The actors in the film gave a stellar performance, the dialogue rich in realism and awkwardness that moves it way past just a movie about cross-culture lovers. Rather it’s the struggle within that affects relationships around the main character Kumail. In this story, grappling between the choice between love and family, Kumail hides behind the expected choice further stowing away his own pride. In a turn of events of dire circumstance, he finds himself in a face-off with his parents who badger him for his selfishness to drop the ball on all that they wanted – nay, expected – of him. He fires back, “why did you bring me to America at all? How can you think it wouldn’t affect me?” (paraphrased of course).

That’s the line that floored me. There were so many poignant and comically relatable scenes, but it’s the words that I have asked and wondered myself up there on screen – I felt exposed. Vulnerable. And when those feelings are dismissed, that’s selfish of those choosers.

Want to laugh? Want romance? Want to tear up with empathy? This movie has it all. The Urdu and the nods to Pakistani garb, food and views is an added bonus of insight to another vibrant culture.
Bottomline: if you have ever met someone who lacked the comprehension of love is love and thwarted your relationship from advancing by insinuating the loss of your family in the pursuit of love, you need to watch this movie. It will reinforce the belief within – you are the one capable of making the right choice for yourself.

The Power of Three

PowerofThree

When we argue, our curses are open blisters on tongues

livid we spout, hearts shriveling up a little more.

It’s easy to turn against with expectations,

but my parents and I are direct blood

not like cousins and uncles and aunts –

relatives visit, friends come and go,

we are a tied knot unable to relax.

Sometimes they forget I am not their baby anymore

then I pretend they’re my haggard prisoners –

they scorn my decisions and I plot my escape.

Rarely we sit down together for dinner but when we do,

I see their self-worry if they raised me right

and I have to shoulder the confidence for all three of us

as I walk the high beam of consequences –

I can – I will land on my feet to stride home proudly.