Sunday, December 20, 2009

A "Joyous" Flu

The last part of our trip with Grandma Chu, my in-laws, and the twin babies was an extended stay in the Seattle area so that all the great-grandparents could bond with the babies. From Montana, we drove across Idaho and Washington and went straight to my mom’s family’s summer cabin on Camano Island in Puget Sound. All that side of the family was there. It was lots of fun. My in-laws really enjoyed being out on the woods and walking on the beach. My uncle and brother took Pa and Yuni clam digging on Grandpa Ryder’s beach at low low tide, and we had a feast of butter clams. Uncle Wally also taught Yuni the finer points of cribbage. He was fine with the addition in Chinese, but it was hard for him to do mental arithmetic and then call the numbers in English. But he is pretty competitive, as are my uncles and brother, so by the end of our time there, he was holding his own. What he lost at the cribbage board, he more than made up for at the badminton field. He also learned the joys of pitching horse shoes.

Pa Liu just could not get over the idea of a vacation home. He thoroughly enjoyed himself, but he was really having a hard time wrapping his mind around an acre of land devoted to nothing but family pleasure. My grandmother had flowers planted in a small garden near the cabin, but most of the land was just naturally wooded. There was the grassy driveway, and then a clearing for the cabin on the bluff above the beach. To one side of the cabin there was the volleyball/badminton/croquet field and the barbecue area. When Grandpa was in politics, he used to use have his Hawaiian secretary fly in the ingredients and hold genuine luaus complete with whole roast pig and poi that cooked underground in the sandy soil at the edge of the barbecue pit. We didn’t do anything that fancy just for family.

After several days at “The Island,” we all went back into Seattle to spend time with the Zimmerman relatives and get ready for Grammie Zimmerman’s 80th birthday party. Grammie had purchased fancy pink dresses for the girls. They looked kind of funny with their little bald heads, but they were one of the main attractions of the party. My experience of the party was very different from what my life used to be before children. I don’t remember much of what went on because I was always changing this one or feeding that one or getting a spare wipe from the diaper bag. I did manage to get into the family picture, but I’m not quite sure how that happened. I heard from all my relatives who could pay attention that the party was a huge success. I think I even managed to eat a piece of birthday cake.

One of the most interesting things to me, my mom, and my American grandmothers was how well Ma Liu and Grandma Chu could communicate without words. The doting grandmas and great-grandmas would whisk the babies off and play and laugh and get along famously, so that I could translate for Pa and Yuni and the men. Ma Liu and Grandma Chu were able to use body language to obtain water for formula, changing tables, towels, and pretty much anything else that the babies needed. They did not feel as much need for translation, and the Chinese “sisterhood” of the bedroom extended into the American family. When I had finished translating for the men, Ma would pull me aside and ask me to interpret several hours’ worth of stored up comments, if there was time. But they really communicated quite well without my services. By the end of our stay, Ma and Grandma Chu could both say “thank you” and “water.”

Our month of vacation soon ended. We took our seats in business class, and headed back to Taiwan. School was starting, and I had new classes to teach at the Gloria English School. I was also starting in my new position as Director of the Business School English conversation program at Chung Yuan University. I had been made English Secretary to the President of the University the previous semester. Pa and Yuni had a number of construction jobs, and the family business was flourishing. All the uncles were surprised at how well Grandma Chu had managed to adapt to life in America. She had learned to drink fresh skim milk. She had also learned how to use a knife and fork. And she could speak a couple of words of English. Her favorite picture from the trip was the one of her and Ma standing by the side of the road in Yellowstone with the flaming trees in the background and a helicopter flying in with a bucket of water. I think the entire town of Toufen eventually heard the story of her adventures in the forest fire and about what she had learned at the smoke jumper’s school.

And just as life was settling into a comfortable routine, I began throwing up every morning. I did not have a fever or any other symptoms, and at first I thought I had eaten something spoiled. But when I couldn’t keep food down for several days in a row, I went to the doctor because I was worried about passing germs to the babies. The doctor examined me, and then he laughed and gave me a cup. He told me to go into the bathroom and produce a specimen. When I emerged, the nurse was waiting with a little paper strip. After a few minutes, she and the doctor came into the examination room with big smiles on their faces, proclaiming: “You have joy!” I had a hard time believing the diagnosis, so I went to the ob-gyn. He confirmed that my “flu” was a joyous one. He was a bit less sanguine than the general practitioner had been because he knew that I had five month old twins. He suggested an abortion. That night I went home and discussed the diagnosis with the family. Ma, in particular, was quite distressed at the idea of killing a potential grandchild. Pa promised to call all the unmarried daughters home to help. Yuni wanted the child, but he said the decision was mine. I couldn’t bear the thought of killing my own child, either. So against the advice of the ob-gyn, we decided to go through with having the baby. It is a decision that I have never regretted. Fortunately, since it was not another set of twins, the morning sickness ended fairly quickly.


murat11 said...

Lovely stories, Teresa. Heady times, and then even more Joy. Joy they continue to bring you.

You free from the academic grind yet? Time to light that pink candle on the Advent wreath, the Mary candle, cuz at this time of year, light is light.

Teresa said...

Well, for the next two weeks, I'm a free as I'll be until the thesis is printed, bound, and defended. But I do have to keep reading this last kung fu novel. I got side-tracked a lot with last minute paper rewrites. Now I do have to earn some money... which means actually WORK. gasp

And I have been sleeping a lot!!

Happy Winter Solstice to you, too!

Barrie said...

Great, goosebump-producing post! I hope you're planning to have these posts made into a book.

Teresa said...

Hi Barrie, I have heard these blogs can be made into books, but I haven't looked into it yet. I hope that goose-bumps were a good thing.

Cloudia said...

This December,
That love weighs more than gold!

~Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon~

Aloha Teresa!!!

Teresa said...

Hi Cloudia,

Thanks for stopping by and adding your lovely thoughts.

Cloudia said...

Aloha, T

Comfort Spiral

Cloudia said...

A ripping yarn!

So glad that I found you, T

sanjeet said...

Great, goosebump-producing post! I hope you're planning to have these posts made into a book.
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