Sunday, January 09, 2005

Stays Together

click here for the REAL family dinner

I don’t remember the last time I bawled my eyes out while in the process of eating dinner. Consuming food and crying is a very odd, incongruous feeling, sorta like going on a date and paying for it.

Brian and I were watching a re-run of an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition we had recorded on TiVo while we were having dinner last night, which is the time we usually catch up on TV.

When I was growing up, one of my dad’s rules was that when we were having a meal, we could not watch TV. I guess my dad thought that with no distractions, we would all be chattering away, talking about our day, what we did at school, having a gay ole time.

Maybe this would be the case if my dad was not the type who would take an innocent remark and blow it out of proportion. He could take a discussion on why you hate broccoli and turn into a lecture on how this would ruin your life, make you homeless and eat out of garbage cans. I can’t imagine what would happen if we talked about sex or drugs.

Because of this, dinner was mostly a silent affair interrupted only by the sound of clacking of silverware on plates, the occasional squeak of the lazy susan and the shuffling of feet as we excused ourselves from the dinner table.

Nobody lingered at the dinner table. We ate quickly, efficiently and then escaped as fast as we could, back into our rooms, back into our own partitioned lives.

I still eat my food today as if I only had five minutes left before the fuse runs out and the bomb detonates.

Maybe this was what my dad wanted all along. Maybe he wanted us to be silent so he can imagine us to be the perfect family: respectful, well-behaved, happy.

After I moved out and lived on my own, I ate dinner in front of the TV every night.

Despite my gruff, tough exterior, inside, I am a mass of soft, wet tissues ready to cry at any hint of cinematic tragedy, no matter how cheesy or clichéd.

I found myself tearing up when Hilary Duff’s father died in a freak earthquake and had to bus tables at her wicked stepmother’s diner in the movie A Cinderella Story. So you can imagine what a mess I was watching the scene in Steel Magnolias where Sally Field, after burying her beloved daughter in the cemetery, was hysterical with grief asking why her daughter had to die: Shaaalby! why did my Shaaaalby have to be taken before her time? Boo hoo hoo... I had to rewind the scene a few more times so I could cry some more.

The episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition we were watching was a re-run of the Vardan Family, a family of four, with two deaf parents and two young teens. Fourteen year-old son Stefan, the ‘normal’ one, is basically the family’s conduit to the hearing world. Stefan wrote to the show to ask them to help build a safer home for his younger brother, Lance, 12, who is both blind and autistic.

Normally, in this show, when a room is presented to a family member, they jump up and down and scream and cry. I may tear up a bit, but that’s it. The family is getting a brand new house, new furniture, possibly scholarships—it’s like winning the lotto. So while I am glad for their good fortune, I’d rather save my tears for somebody else more deserving, someone whose life is really going to change, like maybe someone who’s getting a boob job.

But in this episode, the deaf parents could only wordlessly sign their gratitude, a furious flurry of fingers, or trying to form a simulacrum of words which sounded like someone swallowing each word or the Wookiee language, depending on whether you were a nerd or not.

When the EM team presented Lance's room, the father speechlessly tried to describe the room to blind Lance by signing into his son's hand. Then, shedding tears that would have swept away a small village, he thanked the EM team as he held his son, who was rocking back and forth in his arms, “hhenk yoo, hhenk yoo ho muhh...”

That was when I really lost it. I sobbed uncontrollably as I ate my grilled chicken, marinated in a mesquite barbecue sauce. I looked over at Brian, who was wiping his wet face with his t-shirt, a piece of spinach stuck in his front teeth.

I thought of my own stoic father and I wondered, if a family that eats and cries together is a family that stays together...

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buy the book here"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon is a book about an autistic kid that I really enjoyed. Check it out.

Crying While Eating
Virtual Makeover Solutions
Memorable quotes from Steel Magnolias
Learn to communicate with the hearing impaired: a basic dictionary of ASL

Love Wookiees? The Star Wars Ultimate Guide
John Kerry & George Bush in a Galactic Star Wars debate
Trailer for Star Wars III: Rise of the Empire done entirely in Lego
Star War tattoos, including our favorite Wookiee, Chewbacca

Win your own TiVo here!

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