The Golden Girls of Fontana

Okay, so I live with my mom, my sister, and my ex-sister-in-law.  My mother is an 81-year old diabetic who is also legally blind. My younger sister is the one who wears the pants in this household. It is her house, by the way. My ex-sister-in-law  has been living with my sister for more than 20 years. We love her dearly but it's a standing joke in the family that staying with us is her way of making my brother pay. I joined this menagerie ten years ago.

Twelve years ago, I was a multi-millionaire business entrepreneur  who found herself buried in accounts payables and accounts receivables, with a cheating life-partner who got her ward pregnant, and with a father dying of cancer. I sent a giant SOS to my family in the US. The good thing about being Asian is that we really are a close-knit family and we take each one's problems as our very own. Everybody  came to my rescue. All my brothers and sisters were already in the US.  Most of them I helped financially, in the beginning. My big brother came and tied up the loose ends in my business with his time and money. After saying goodbye at my father's grave, I set to make a new life for myself, starting from scratch, in a foreign land.

It was payback time for my younger siblings and they did not disappoint me.  Each one offered me a roof over my head and whenever I saw them, they would slip me some cash, each one hiding the fact from the other. During my first year I had no lack of material things.  I had a home, a car,  pocket money, and credit cards (courtesy of my siblings). I lacked for nothing. But these did not save me from my  lifestyle change trauma, nor from the culture shock.

I found myself losing credibility as the once opinion leader of the clan. They told me that I couldn't do this... or that... That this was the way things were done in the US...I felt constrained and restricted in my actions. I even had to wear bra everyday (can you imagine that, and me coming from Asia!). The barrage of well-meaning advice took its toll on me and  I found myself bereft of identity,  inept and useless. I was constantly minding my p's and q's and probably  dotting my i's and crossing my t's too (just in case).  Despite the love, care, and attention I received, I felt alone, out of depth, and quite miserable.  I longed to be back in my old world where I had a maid for the first floor,  who also did the laundry, a maid for my second floor who was the cook, and a choice of chauffeur. Here, I had to learn how to use the washing machine and the dishwasher. And because I was doing a round-robin in staying with my siblings, I had to deal with different kinds of these blasted machines. On top of that, I flunked my driver's test twice and to think that I had been driving since age 16. Whew! So this was the US of A !

Being well-read does not make up for the actual experience of things. My intelligence was considered inappropriate for life in these United States. I had to learn to go back to the basics.

Mind you, I'm a well-traveled individual and every August, I used to shop at either Hongkong or Bangkok when the price would drop as the stores ready themselves for the winter season. I was at the Kremlin at minus 20 degrees, under a blizzard, and saw some American students in my hotel sell their torn jeans for unmentionably high prices. I've gone to Singapore to negotiate the exclusive distributorship of an inventor's product.  I have wined and dined at the Moulin Rouge and tramped Champs- Elysee and the Latin Quarter in Paris. I've been at bullfights in Madrid and tossed my coins at the Fountain of Trevi. I have climbed the Vatican steps and marvelled at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I have shed tears at the ruins of the Collosseum, remembering the many lives lost there.  I rode atop an elephant on my way to Mt. Abu in India and spent many hours pondering what kind of man would build such a testament of his love as I sat, eyes transfixed, gazing, at the Taj Mahal. I have also been to West Germany just to open a dollar account.

I consider those first two years of my life in the US as my wilderness years. But for the grace of God, in the form of my youngest brother, I would not have survived the emotional and mental onslaught I had experienced. It was in San Antonio, Texas that I began to heal and to rediscover the hidden strength in me.  Anyway, that was the past.  I am still here. I now live in California, and I clean my room, and the house; I do the laundry and wash the dishes; and daily I traverse the web-like freeways with chutzpah. Oh, and I also cook dinner but thank God, the family members don't really want me to do it often. My life lesson is that everything passes and that it's a waste of time to take life too seriously.

So when someone asks me how I am, I always say... well, I'm kinda one of the Golden Girls... I live with my mom, my sister, and my sister-in-law. Oooops, I mean, my ex-sister-in-law. The only drawback with this answer is that they would ask, "so which one is Blanche?" Go figure.





when you lift a finger. . . you move a star. . .


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