Monthly Archives: November 2014

INTERVIEW WITH ASIM: Spending time with them together is like half in half in really bad coffee—-it makes it tolerable.”

On the other hand, really bad coffee by itself is insufferable.

How old are you?


Are both of your parents living?


What’s their marital status?

Married, about 48 years.

Do you have brothers of sisters?

2 sisters, both older.

How often do you see your parents?

Once a quarter, maybe.

What are some of the ways you spend time together?

I don’t spend much time with my mom, maybe 15 minutes sitting talking with her. I spend more time with my dad smoking cigars, going to the store. My mom had a car accident three years ago and is extremely obese. She broke her leg in three places, so now she really sits in a hopsital bed in the house or goes out to eat or to casinos. Once a year, she might try to drive down and see her grandkids. My dad drives. He’s kind of the primary caregiver.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy your father’s company?

Probably a nine.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy your mother’s company?

A one, and that’s being generous.

Does spending time with them together affect the dynamic of the visit?

Yeah, it makes my mom more tolerable when they are together. I was up there three months ago and I hung out with the two of them for about three hours, which is the most I’ve spent, but since they were together it was toned down. It’s like half and half in really bad coffee, it makes it tolerable.

What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them?

Learning about my dad’s history. My dad is foreign, so I basically was raised with zero emotion, except for anger. When he started being my mom’s primary caregiver, and retired for the 15th time, he got bored to death, so now he talks. He never talked, but now he’s full of thoughts and will talk forever. It’s interesting and fascinating to my kids. They’re like “What in the world?” As far as Mom, not really. I can’t think of anything. Just sad.

What about the negative?

They are very self-absorbed. They’ve only ever cared about themselves, always put themselves first. Even now, they constantly tell us they want to see the kids, but they make zero effort to do that. If they leave the house, they’ll drive 6 hours and stay at a casino for 2 weeks, but won’t drive an hour and half to see their grandkids. Recently, I told them we’d be in their town for a few days, and we worked it out for me to pick them up.  We got there and no one was home, the door was locked. They apparently decided to go out of town to a casino, and I’m trying to explain to kids why their grandparents weren’t there when they said they would be. It’s just selfish, I had to say. My mom’s a compulsive liar and is insane, mentally unstable. When she had her accident she was suspended upside down for an hour before the paramedics came, and we think that caused more brain damage than she already had. She’ll sit there and lie to your face. Most people let her go on, but I have a hard time with that. I call her on it, and she’s like, “Oh, you’re so funny . . .” but it’s stuff like, “I can’t believe you guys bought a boat and didn’t tell me!” She’s seen photos of it for three years, she knows, but we can’t take her on it because she’s bigger than the boat!  She likes to get attention, so she can be extremely inappropriate and obnoxious.

Honestly, which weighs more?

I like spending time with my dad. I realize they are older and don’t have as much time left on the earth, but I wouldn’t choose to spend that time with my mom. Yesterday, Thanksgiving, we saw them. I hugged them and said hi.  I sat at the same table with my mom for a few minutes, and then I left her there so she could do her thing with other people around.

What are one or two of the things that contributed to the health of your relationship as it stands now?

It’s interesting because my mom was verbally and physically abusive to all three of us growing up, and my dad was just a dictator. So in middle school, I decided to stop associating with my dad and wound up seeing a psychologist for a year or so. Once we worked through that, I was able to have a relationship with my dad.  But with mom, things were the same. She tended to be abusive until I was a sophomore in high school. One time, she tried to smack me in front of my friends, and I grabbed her hand and told her to never touch me again. She started crying, “Don’t hit me,” and I was like “What? I’m not going to hit you!” But, that ended that. After, it became kind of funny when she would act like she was going to hit me, I’d give her a look like, “Go ahead and try.”

What do you wish they had done differently?

Not sucked! (laughing) I mean, it’s hard to say. I do think my mom’s insane, for whatever reason. Since my dad’s foreign, I know he didn’t have a clue. In another country, the family dynamics are different, how to you raise kids is different, how kids depend on their parents is different. The culture he grew up in was very different, the things that are acceptable. He was in uncharted territory, so I cut him more slack. In middle school, it was literally, “I hate you,” but now we have a good relationship and we talk about stuff.

What do you most appreciate about their parenting?

I very much had to figure things out on my own. In high school if I had a big paper to write, I’d talk to them about it, but I had to figure it out. I think I appreciate that, because now I very much have that bent to figure things out.

How well do you relate to your siblings?

Pretty good, I think. My sister closest to me in age is very much like a middle schooler in the way she acts–she’s crude, she jokes around. My neice (her daughter) is her best friend. She bred a friend. She takes her to R-rated movies, etc.  Basically, all she wants to do is go hear music and drink beer. My oldest sister has three kids the same age as ours. She’s very interesting, a lot like I am, but moody. So we get along really well sometimes, but sometimes not well at all.

Do they share your same reflections?

Yeah. It was funny, when I was in college, I just wanted to leave home, so I moved here where my sister lives. In college, I was the one saying that she should put up with mom since she probably only had a few years to live, and my sister was where I am now. But, it’s switched. Now, she says mom’s crazy, nuts, but doesn’t have much longer to live. But I don’t think there is much more history to be made (for me) with my mom.

Can you share an example of a defining moment with your parents?

I can remember school stuff, if there was a PTA meeting, I would try to hide that stuff from my parents. My dad would never want to go, and I knew my mom would want to go. She’d want to be the loudest person in the room, making an ass of herself. I remember if I was in a store and I drew attention to myself, she’d be loud about how I’d embarrassed her. It was ironic, she was a huge woman, a huge personality. I remember she found out about something at shcool and made me go. All my friends all the teachers were looking at me, looking at her like, “You’re the worst.” I wish my dad had held her accountable. I think, “Why do you just let her sit there and lie?” And he says, “The manipulation I would endure after is hell. I’m just letting her get along until she dies.”  Like, he’s her constant caregiver and the only power she has to get what she wants is to literally crap herself when she doesn’t get her way.  He has to clean it up, so it’s not worth it.

Has anything happened in the recent years to change your relationship?

My mom’s accident. One, it caused more brain damage, two she’s totally helpless now and just sits there. One thing it’s done for my dad, now that he’s sitting there, he talks forever. Used to be, our conversations were four minutes long. He was robotic, he’s a mechanical engineer. The talking part of him was fulfilled at work.  Now, I spend an hour trying to get off the phone because he doesn’t have anyone to talk to. Now, there is no work, but he can’t sit there and have a conversation with my mom.

As an aside, yesterday on Thanksgiving, out of the blue, she said “I just want you to know I told everyone that if I didn’t hear from them by Thankgiving what they wanted for Christmas, they weren’t getting anything.  I haven’t heard from you!” Nobody cares! I said, “I don’t want anything from you. I don’t need you to buy me stuff.” Growing up, I was maniuplated by gifts and toys after she verbally abused me.

Coins from Heaven

As I stood in the eternal ASA line in Atlanta last week, I heard a distinct ker-ching! ker-ching! Five or six folks turned their heads to see two freshly fallen quarters wobbling on the floor.  Fifty cents!  That’s a whole Coca-Cola!  Then I remembered that it was no longer 1983–I’d need significantly more coins from Heaven to score a can of my childhood elixir of life.  No matter, fifty cents is fifty cents!  My fellow travelers and I looked at each other, chuckling that this money seemed to have fallen from the ceiling above.  Then the line started moving again. Seeing no one claim the coins, I inclined to retrieve them and then stopped short.  Why isn’t anyone diving for this money?  The line is moving, no one is reaching for it . . . and then it dawned on me: we are above this now.   Two unclaimed quarters were too inconvenient, negligible, and perhaps too embarrassing to pick up from the airport floor.  I felt it myself, and it disturbed me.  It wasn’t much money, and it would have been insufficient to buy a coffee-flavored elixir of life for this now grown-up, but it could be enough to feed someone in a disadvantaged region.  Does that sound familiar? Feed a child for just fifty cents a day . . . ?  My son gets paid fifty cents to pick up trash in the yard, something that keeps him occupied for a blessed 15 minutes.  At the very least, two quarters would buy me an hour of metered parking in this town.

As I moved on, this small event brought to mind two mantras.  First my mom always said, “Pennies turn into dimes, dimes turn into dollars.”  She taught me to stretch my resources, to create for myself when I can, and to wait for things.  Second, especially as our debt snowball accelerates: “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”  It’s true. I’ve been practicing it for 20 years.  In five years, we’ve paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and one (of several) reason is because I say NO often.  But, walking away from that half-dollar shining on the airport floor, I wanted to say YES and grab it.  I trust that someone wiser than I did.

Taking Charge

2014 is coming to a close, but I’ve been too distracted for interviews or posts.  I started an exercise regimen and lost 10 pounds.  I gained back six over time, but I am stronger and have muscle definition that I’ve never seen before.  I can now hike 10 miles, run a bit, and do push-ups.  I’m saving my paddle boarding enthusiasm for 2015, but I can hardly wait to try that first yoga pose on the river!  We continue to educate our kids, navigate a relationship with a family member living on our property, plan some exciting trips abroad, and now operate an Airbnb rental. This new development has been so rewarding and fun. Further, we’ve gained momentum on our Ramsey-eque debt snowball, making space and freedom for other ideas.

Earlier this year, I had prayed that God would take some things off my plate, responsibilities that I didn’t want anymore, duties that felt too peripheral, too disintegrated to truly be worthy of continued financial, emotional, and mental energy.  I think His word to me was, “It’s time for you to take charge.  I want you to learn to learn to persevere in the face of what I have given you to do and steward it well.”  This has forced me to solve problems more creatively, something that is so good for my mind.  And in order to take charge well, I had to enlist help with some responsibilities and rearrange other ones.   So, bring on 2015!  A year for me to stretch more creatively into that calling of perseverance and stewardship!

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