Stomach cramps, stress, and guidance

The kids didn’t go to school today. Normally I would send them because duh, I used to be a teacher and of course you go to school everyday, and also they missed so much in the past year and a half.

At the last minute, our older daughter changed her mind about bringing Daddy to the airport. She decided, YES, SHE WANTS TO DROP DADDY OFF but only because she realized that she wouldn’t be walking part of the way home with brother. She would have been picked up by car.

Yesterday I could barely stay awake. I think I turn narcoleptic to deal with stress which makes sense. Don’t want to deal with husband leaving again? Go to sleep! I am also narcoleptic between the hours of 2pm and 4 pm and also when the kids play with the WII. I’m tired now just thinking about it.

We were going to have a nice breakfast at IHOP this morning but both my husband and I had bad stomach cramps. I even told my husband that even though I’m trying not to stress about his departure, somehow my body is not letting me forget. “Think you can do away with anxiety so easily? Not on your life! How about some stomach acid with your Starbucks? Mwahahahahahahaha!”

The last time I had stomach cramps was five years ago. My father lived with us for a few months in Virginia, helping to watch the kids while I worked as a first grade teacher in Norfolk. There were only two kids at that time, M was four years old and Adia was barely one. I continued to bring M to Montessori preschool because he loved it so much but also because I didn’t want to overwhelm my dad with two kids. Well-behaved for the most part but still too much for anyone who’s first diaper he changed was his grandson’s!

I knew my father was becoming ill. I even begged and tried to force him to the ER but he didn’t want to go. He had a few days until his flight back to California. Every day I threatened to take him but every day he refused.

On his flight back he said he felt nauseous but pushed through. Less than a day later, my cousin, a nurse with Kaiser Hospital, forced him to go to the ER. He was having a heart attack.

Now do I feel guilty that I didn’t make him go to the hospital? Of course. No doubt about it. Do I feel like all of this could have been avoided?


He smoked all of his life, suffered from a heart attack when I was in high school (secretly of course; no one told me until I was much older), a second when I was in college along with a triple bypass surgery, and even Bell’s Palsy when my son was a year old. He took countless medications and endured dozens of medical tests. He was warned to quit eating sardines because it was giving him gout. He ate them anyway. He was told to quit eating red meat so eat made sure everything was cooked well-done.

And I wonder why I am so stubborn.

“Come quick!” warned my relatives in California so I left my job with permission from administration to see to my father.

My stomach ached and ached from that day forward in times of stress. My cramps got so bad I had to go to the ER. “Relax,” they said. “Here’s some medicine to relax your stomach.”

Ew. No, thank you.

I saw my dad a few days later to which he said, “Why are you here? Did you get fired?” Ahhh, so that’s where I get my sarcasm.

His condition worsened. He even suffered two heart attacks in the next week. There was a DNR (“Do Not Resucitate”) after the first because his body was too weak to handle more stress.

He was laid to rest less than a week later and I still have issues about death and dying. Issues about how my family and maybe others who share our culture treat their deceased. I’m not saying they are right or wrong. I’m saying that I would have liked to mourn in my own way.

Don’t make me look at my dead father if I don’t want to. My last images of him are full of life. My last images of him include him pushing my daughter around in her stroller across the street in the park and watching my son play on the slide. My last images of him include eating pho soup at a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant over on Virginia Beach Boulevard, telling my husband not to order the tripe because it wasn’t good for him. Meanwhile, guess who ordered the tripe.

These are the images that my children have. Boss me around if you will but over my dead body will you make my son or daughter kiss a corpse good-bye.

That is NOT my father.

These are the images that my children have. Hopefully they will never be forced to feel or act a certain way in spite of tradition. Maybe they’ll get the same stomach cramps as me. I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong. Tradition, culture, superstition, religion… all of those things are vitally important to my family but I am my own person and should be treated as such.

I know, I will probably get hate mail and dirty looks. Probably enough lectures and yellings to last a lifetime.

But seriously, in the grand scheme of things, when do I as a person, as a mother, daughter, wife, sister, adult, spiritually- and religiously- rich comfortably wealthy, I as ME, count? When do I have a say?

Maybe I will always be treated like the little girl that so many in my family still see me. All I know is that I will do everything I can to give voice to my children in these situations. They can’t be guided if you are dragging them.

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