⭐ the not-so-tough love of immigrant parents
Because I am still on my father's insurance plan, I had to tell my parents I wanted to go to therapy recently. Immigrant parents are allergic to admissions of weakness or strong emotion, so they responded in their own idiosyncratic way: by asking me if I wanted a drink to forget my sorrows and joking about what it is that people even do in therapy. You can talk to me about your problems instead, my mom laughed.
This might strike outside viewers as a particularly callous response to a cry for help, but I've learned that perhaps my parents are simply incapable or unwilling to express sympathy in the ways most people are accustomed to. Instead, I'll find my mother looking up therapists when she's at work or cooking my favorite dishes typically reserved for special occasions. She won't ever hug me or tell me she's sorry for my loss, but I'd be remiss to overlook all these other signs of affection.
I'm grateful my parents live at home with me during a difficult period like this, because I think I would feel far more isolated and lonely if I lived alone in a city where I had no friends. Even if I don't feel comfortable disclosing the intimate details of the grief I feel inside with them, I never go more than a few hours without getting a reminder of their love and consideration. 吃饭了, my mom yells at me. Come eat—dinner's ready. As I bound down the stairs, I think just how fortunate I am to have someone, anyone, who cares about me this deeply.
Here are some of the ways my mom shows me she cares:
She texts me that she's made juice for me downstairs and (later) that dinner's ready.
My mom sends me photos of random things she think I'll like from the supermarket and ask me if I want them. I smile a little bit when I think of her snapping photographs in the Costco aisles and waiting for me to respond before putting things into the shopping cart. (Of course, she almost always manages to find what I want, because moms just know.)
My mom made me mango sago recently (something she's never done before), with real mangoes and fresh mint leaves gathered from our own yard (it tastes even better than it looks):
And she'll cook up my favorite when I'm sad: 葱油饼, or scallion pancakes, made from scratch and pan-fried. Flaky, crispy, and to die for.