Memories - A Collection of Non-Fiction

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Zen, Jun 3, 2014.

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  1. Goodbye Uncle

    It's the summer of 1998, but it's cold and cloudy when the funeral service begins. Monks from the Buddhist temple have arrived to perform the service, wearing orange robes and carrying drums and cymbals to chase away your spirit. (I hated them for doing that by the way. I wished you stayed for a while). Everyone besides the monks are wearing white robes with hoods, the Asian color of mourning. I know, it looks like we're from the KKK. Bamboo mats have been placed on the driveway for us to pray and say our respects, but I am confused about this. I'm only seven after all.

    At my mother's and grandmother's request, I sit with your wife - my aunt - on the bamboo mat. Her back is hunched and the hood is over her head, just like mine is and we're both kneeling. As the monks say a prayer, I look over at her confused. Her lips are pulled as taunt as violin strings, tears are flowing slowly down her cheek. Balled up in her hand is a piece of tissue that she's been using to dab away her tears. I can't remember if she's been crying for days, or if she's finally decided to let her tears flow. Either way, I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness and I fall back onto my heels and stay silent.

    Later everyone leaves to go to the cemetery to bury you. I'm forced to stay home because I'm sick and my family doesn't want me to get worse. I can't remember if I'm relieved by this decision, or if I'm angry. I know I'm still confused. I think Wil got to go though, but I've never asked him how it went. Too scared to. Di Bach Suc says everyone turned their backs on you as your casket was lowered into ground.

    "Why did you do that?"

    "It's to let him know it's okay for him to go. He shouldn't be staying in the living world when he's dead. If we look at him as he's lowered in the ground, his spirit will stay here."

    At night everyone is home and the monks light up candles around the front yard to say good bye to you. It's funny how humans use light to say good bye, isn't it Uncle? I'm not even sure if you can understand me... Dad doesn't speak English that well and I'm wondering if yours is any better. If I could write in Chinese or Vietnamese, I'd probably do so. This helps though, writing out what I remember.

    The service continues well past my bedtime and I'm getting tired. Grandma notices though and tucks me into her bed. I'm sleeping on Grandpa's side when I dream about running along a chain link fence with a green tarp on the other side. I'm chasing you, sprinting as fast as my little legs will take me, but as I get close, you stop and step through the fence and you're gone.

    You died of cancer. I didn't know it was that until years later when I brought it up to Grandma. She said it was cancer, but never elaborated on what type. I'm assuming it had to be brain cancer, or perhaps lung cancer. You started losing a lot of weight. Your normally round face started turning gaunt and you had frequent nose bleeds. Grandma hated it when you stuck pieces of tissue up your nose to get the blood. Your right eye started closing up and I knew it was because of the sickness. And even though you were ill my family continued fighting with each other. I don't know why, and I wished it would stop. I think it was because of the piling medical bills, assimilating into a new country, having kids to provide, and watching one of their own dying. Maybe that's why they fought.

    Di Bach Suc says he saw you in your car the day of the funeral service. I still remember what it looked like, gray and sleek like a dolphin, and I know you loved that thing. You used to go up to the Sierra Nevadas to vacation and I remember seeing you tie chains to the tires. There's a picture of you in your snow gear and I think you knew how to ski judging by the ski equipment. Di Bach Suc told me things surrounding your death that my family wouldn't. He doesn't like talking about it either, but he's told me more about your passing than my immediate family would. He remembers seeing you in the hospital bed a day or two before you died. He said your eyes were glazed and when you looked at the family, they weren't sure if you actually saw them.

    A nurse outside said, "Why do they keep coming here? They know he's going to die soon and there's no hope for him."

    Someone who understands English tells everyone, and my entire family loses their shit.

    Di Bach Suc also said my family might not have chosen the full chemotherapy treatment, and opted to supplement it with Chinese medicine. I hate Chinese medicine. I'm sorry if you still think it's beneficial, but it's rooted on superstition and I can't help but wonder if you might still be here if my family trusted science based medicine.

    Your legacy still survives though in both me and your daughter. I sometimes forget I have your genes too, since you and Dad are twins. Marcella's grown into a beautiful woman and she looks a lot like you. Actually she looks a lot like the rest of the girls in the Ip family. She has glasses too just like me and Jackie. Can you believe that? I wish she had grown up with us instead of living in San Francisco. I make sure to talk to her on Facebook and she seems to be doing well in school. She cries about you though... She was one when you passed away and doesn't remember much. I wish I could give her my memories of you, maybe that would console her.

    I'll be better about seeing your graves during Tomb Sweeping Day. James - he's my fiancé - didn't want to go last year because it fell on his birthday, and that was also the day his step father died. Over the years it's grown more bearable for my family to see you, although sometimes Marcella and my aunt don't always come. I'll be sure to invite both of them to my wedding though, and I'll be able to see Marcella all grown up.

    ... I don't believe in Heaven. Or at least, I would like to but my practical side says it can't exist. Once you're gone, you're gone. But I can't stop holding onto to this hope that something has to exist when we pass. So I guess what I'm saying is I hope that wherever you are you're watching us and know that I miss you, I love you, and I really hope you're happy and not suffering anymore.
    • Love Love x 2
  2. I love it, it's got some awesome description and a solid feel of an inner monologue.

    It definitely send my brain on a spin too, I lost a family member a while ago to brain cancer and I had a existential crisis, almost like how you summed up life after death at the end there.

    All and all, it's a solid piece. It tells exactly enough to display a deep story from start to end. Thanks for sharing that :)
    • Thank Thank x 1
  3. [First draft, barely got to edit this thing. I wanted to get it written out before the moment escaped me.
    I’d like feedback on pacing, whether some things can be cut out, or added in. I’d also like to know if the format of a short story works for this… Message. I’m not sure what I’m aiming for, so some direction with that would be much appreciated. If you believe a poem or other format would work, let me know. Unless the grammar is glaringly obvious—I will be editing this again later—I’d like to avoid critiques on this.]

    I've always found it amusing that Neighborhood Watch Signs were always placed in cul de sacs, like those were the only places that provided some amount of supervision over the neighborhood. To be honest I've never lived in these areas so I wouldn't know the experience. However I can tell you that living in the second story bedroom offers some intriguing tidbits into the lives of my neighbors, whether I want to eavesdrop or not. And let me tell you, most of the time I'd rather not hear what is going on.

    I guess that I live in a middle-middle class neighborhood. Each of the houses are spaced ten feet apart from each other, with slight variations between houses. It doesn't take careful inspection to find the differences: a grate on that decorative window, a tiered pipe over another, cobblestone on the sides of that house instead of wooden paneling. Every other house has two stories, but all look like they've been made from cookie cutters and painted with different colors.

    What my neighborhood lacks in appearances is made up in what is contained in each house.

    I've lived at my current address for close to nine years, excluding the six months that I spent living with my fiance in Texas. Nine years is about as old as my house and my neighborhood boasts a diverse populace. The two neighbors to the left of my house are Mexican, farther down the street there's an African American and Middle Eastern family. (The African American family just recently moved in, lovely and rambunctious folks.) Across from me is Danielle's family-- I know her personally since she and I went to high school together, even graduated in the same year. Next to her house is a family of Indians, also recently moved in about two years ago. And on the other side of Danielle's house is a family of both Asian and white Americans. They are an intriguing bunch to me; I feel like my ethnocentric family could learn a lot about co-existing from them.

    When my family and I first moved in here, the house was freshly made. You could still smell the paint and raw wood paneling. It was so fresh in fact that a family friend who was helping us move in stepped on a nail lying in the grass, whereby it punctured through his shoe and into his foot. (He had to get a tetanus shot and he's been hurt every time he tries to help my family with construction work. Only at our house though, never with his job).
    Everyone else in the neighborhood was moving in as well. Every few weeks a new family would bring their U-Hauls and get acquainted with their new homes. My memories of the first few years of living in Sacramento are rife with grief and depression; moving to a new place with no friends always sucks. I never did get to know my neighbors.

    Cue the arrival of the recession in 2008. It didn't matter who my neighbors were, many of them were disappearing. Every block would have at least two houses up for sale because the owners couldn't afford their new, cookie cutter home. I wondered if my family was going to be snatched up by the maws of a collapsing economy. Fortunately, we got to keep our home, but we did come close to selling the house.

    It was around this time that I was shaken from my reverie of studying to notice what was happening in my neighborhood. Through a friend of mine at school, I found out that Danielle's parents were getting a divorce. I began to notice her parents shouting, her father leaving in the late hours of the night, and soon my grandfather was being approached by Danielle and her sister for a ride to school. It never occurred to me how much that divorce hurt Danielle and her sister until I experienced it with my parents.

    When I returned from Texas I found my neighborhood changed. From a relatively peaceful atmosphere I noticed more fights, more arguments, and even heard a gun fired behind my house. One of the sons of the Middle Eastern family down the street often got into shouting fits with his father on the street. One afternoon as my cousin and I were petting a wandering cat, the son and father were at it again. I quickly ushered my cousin inside in fear that she would be hurt. I stayed outside, in case I needed to call the police.

    More incidents of families fighting. More sounds of car doors being slammed, and tires skidding down the street. The breaking point was the armed burglary behind my house. They shot the victim to get access to his drugs; last I checked the guy was still alive.

    I admit, I would be ignorant of these events if my family used the air conditioning or heating from time to time. Having my window constantly opened when I’m home gives me easy—and sometimes unwanted access to the events on the street. It is thanks to this open window that led to me calling 911 for the first time on a couple of kids ganging up on one victim.
    Tonight though… Tonight I heard someone being kicked out their home. The argument was both in Spanish and English, but the point was clear enough. The matron of the family was done putting up with him, and he had to be out of the house by tomorrow. Of course, my PTSD kicked in, and I huddled up in the corner of my bed, scared that this guy will go on a rampage.

    I feel like that’s what my neighborhood is like now, going on a rampage. Of course there are moments when all is quiet, but once night falls, the neighborhood theater begins. I can’t help but wonder if my neighborhood will fall into disarray or if the fights and clashes of today will be forgotten tomorrow.
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