After that detour into the history and concepts of Chinese medicine, I want to come back to my narration of our family’s story. As I noted in my first post on Chinese medicine, we moved to California in the mid-1990s. At that time, I could not find a nearby practitioner of Chinese medicine who was able to help me. I went to a friend who is a Western medicine doctor, and he wanted to do exploratory surgery, which our insurance refused to cover without two second opinions, that we would have had to pay for ourselves. We did not have the money, and so upon the recommendation of a friend, I began using homeopathy. My homeopath was quite skilled, and I began to recover my health.
Our relatives in Taiwan had been extremely worried about me, especially when our Western doctor friend mentioned a possible diagnosis of cancer. As I regained my health, the relatives in Taiwan felt it was a total miracle. Pa had developed an eye problem where he could not keep his eyelids open without holding them up with his fingers. He was unable to find a cure through Chinese medicine. He had also gone to one of the big hospitals in Taipei where the doctors gave him Botox injections to keep his eyes open. Then he was unable to completely close his eyes when he wanted to sleep. And so, the Western doctors in Taiwan had prescribed very addictive sleeping pills for him. He was extremely uncomfortable from the side effects of both medications. Since I had had such good results with homeopathy, he and Ma came to visit us so that we could take him to see the homeopath.
My homeopath lived in the Bay Area and only came to southern California on school vacations. Pa and Ma came in the middle of the school year. Yuni was incredibly busy with a large construction project, and so I rallied my southern California friends to help Pa. I have a friend who is a family doctor. She looked at Pa’s medications and said that he should not be on them any longer because the sleeping pills were highly addictive. After Pa was weaned from his sleeping pills, he felt much better, but his eyelids were still a problem. I took him to see another friend, who is an eye doctor, but all she could offer was perhaps better skill at Botox treatments. Pa was not interested in those. That night, when Yuni got home for dinner, Ma and Pa broke out their best guilt-tripping skills to get Yuni to take us up to the Bay Area so that Pa could see the homeopath. Yuni finally gave in and asked me to set up an appointment. The homeopath was very busy, but we were able to get an extra-long introductory appointment for two weeks after that date. I would do the interpreting for homeopath, and then we would take Pa and Ma sightseeing in San Francisco while we were there. Yuni was relieved to have two weeks in which to arrange for the time off from work.
Homeopathy is a holistic system of medicine that uses very mild natural remedies. The initial appointment consists of a long interview in which the homeopath seeks the physical and psychological roots of the problem, which are found in the patient’s constitutional indications. Over the course of the interview, I learned that Pa had had surgery as a young man in which almost two thirds of his stomach was removed. We also learned that he had been unable to eat well due to his emotional upset over the situation with Elder Sister, the problem between Yuni and my father, and my own illness. Instead of treating his eyes, the homeopath treated his stomach and prescribed a remedy that would calm his nerves and help him better absorb the nutrients from his food. Within a few weeks, his eyes were much improved. The trip to the Bay Area restored harmony to Yuni’s relationship with his parents. They went home happy with an admonition from the homeopath to return in six months for a follow up appointment.
Six months later, Pa, Ma, and Yuntian all came to the US to get treated by the homeopath. Pa was feeling better than he had felt in years. Ma and Yuntian wanted help with their chronic health issues, too. We made appointments spaced over the course of two days for all of them. The homeopath was able to prescribe helpful remedies for Ma and Yuntian, and she made some slight adjustments on Pa’s dosages. Ma and Yuntian also responded well to their remedies. Pa and Ma did not stay too long after their health appointments. We all took a few day trips with Yuntian to Disneyland, Sea World, and Tijuana, Mexico. Pa was much happier on these visits to Disneyland and Sea World than he had been on his previous visits to them.
Yuntian had been authorized upon entry to stay in the US for four full months, and he decided to make the most of his visa permission. Pa then mentioned to Yuni that Elder Sister’s family desperately needed money. He had sold our house in Chungli and had paid off our debts to the other sisters, but he was only able to repay part of what we owed Elder Sister from our share of the proceeds of the Chungli house. Pa had taken his share of the money and bought a cheaper house out by Yuni’s old military camp where there was more room. The neighborhood around our old house had been completely built up, and Pa needed elbow room. Our tenants in Washington told us that they would only be renting for another six months, and so we decided to put that house on the market. The house needed reroofing before we could sell it. Yuntian decided that he would stay with us to help reroof our house, and in the process he would get a sightseeing trip up the coast and then down the mountain range between southern California and Washington State.
It had been three years since I had had contact with my father, and I decided that this was the time to insist on a visit with him while we were in the Seattle area. I knew what I needed to do as a Chinese wife, even though I really do not like using guilt trips and histrionics to get my way. I much prefer straight forward discussions and good-faith negotiations. But I also knew that since I had helped his parents and had just recovered from a severe illness, I was at a prime time for pushing my point, especially since Yuntian was there to back me up. There is a certain ritual to these intra-family dealings in the Liu family's culture.
I did not bring up anything about reconciling with my dad until we had been out on the road for a couple of days. Then I made a scene and played the guilt-trip card, begging Yuntian to plead my case with his brother. Yuntian and the kids all begged Yuni to let me see my dad. Because I had been so sick and had still found a way to improve the health of his parents and brother, Chinese family customs demanded that Yuni give me some kind of reward. He did it in a way that saved him some face by saying that we could all go to dinner with my dad (Yuni would pay), and if I wanted to spend time alone with my dad and his new wife, that was fine. However, he kept the restriction that the girls could not spend time alone with their grandfather until they were older. When we got to Seattle, I called my dad and made arrangements to spend time with him. I think that eventually, we all went with Dad and his wife to the Seattle Center on my dad’s dime, and then Yuni took us all to dinner.
And so finally, at about the same time that Elder Sister was making headway in her quest to be reaccepted by Elder Brother-in-law’s family, my husband and father were able to begin to resolve their differences, and my life moved onto a more even keel. At least, I no longer felt caught in the middle of a cross-cultural struggle.
While we were on the trip to Washington, Yuntian received a phone call from his girl friend. She was pregnant with his child. Part of the reason Yuntian had wanted to stay behind in the US was that he wanted to wait until he knew if his girl friend was pregnant. Ma did not approve of the girl because she was not a Christian, but according to Yuntian, Ma kept parading fat, pimple-faced Christian women in front of him in her matchmaking efforts. He refused to consider women in whom he had no interest just because Ma liked them. Now he HAD to marry his girl friend because she was carrying his first child. When we got back to California, Yuntian rushed to book his flight home and prepare for his wedding.