We were sitting there on the couch, after yet another rich meal courtesy of my mother, with my dad reclining on the “l” part of our nice L-shaped leather–almost always a pathway to eventual sleep–flipping through channels on the big screen. To my surprise, my parents aren’t watching the cheesy Chinese dramas or goofy game shows on KTV. They have recently taken a liking to American television.
“Look, crazy guy!” Ba exclaimed. The number blinked 51 in the upper right hand corner, as Ba appears to have rediscovered the Discovery Channel. “No way, he not going to do that. He crazy!”
Oh yes, Pops, he did it again. Bear Grylls jumps into a lake of sub-30 degree temperature in the middle of an icy nowhere, at once capturing the bemusement and wonder of my father. Man Vs. Wild was a title that could have aptly applied to him as well.
“Where’s Cat, Mom?” I shot to my mother, who was trying to concentrate on her Sudoku puzzles amid all the noise and fanfare. Sudoku was something my sister and I introduced to her as a means of relieving her addiction to FreeCell. She used to play that every night after dinner. And now? Well…let’s just say she stopped FreeCell.
“I don’t know. She maybe come back later tonight. You know she busy,” she retorted. “Oh, you hear by the way? She just got second internship! She interview on Tuesday and they hire her on spot.”
“No, I hadn’t.” For some reason still unknown to me, I never hear about these things.
“Oh, we never have to worry about your sister…” Her response implying that I, on the other hand, might be a different story. But I was proud of my sister because she deserved every single bit of success that came her way. You don’t come by many 21-year-olds who are nearly as hard-working or talented or mature. Not to mention her resume that reads more like a New York Times Best-Seller. And she scrapped for every little bit of it.
“Oh, jai, can you help Ba make e-mail account?” Ma said. “You know how he is with computers.”
“Yes, please!” Ba replied, as he returned to reality. It was commercial break.
I sighed. To my shame, I was reluctant to assist my father. I think it was because of the fact that he was bad with most things new, especially when technology’s involved. Or the fact that he would repeat the “Haaaa” expression in Chinese every time he didn’t understand something–only one of the most deplorable sounds to my ears. But the man’s my father, so naturally, I relent.
“I tried ‘Bill Yan’ at gmail, ‘Man Yan’ at gmail, but nothing works,” Ba shrugged. “It is all taken already.”
With no more than a millisecond’s notice, Ma blurts out: “Why don’t you try ‘I’m-afraid-of-my-wife-Yan’ at gmail? That should work,” in her usual biting wit. We all LOL’ed on the spot. Ba’s round mound of a belly reverberated with laughter. There is nothing more contagious than my father’s laugh–it is kind of like what I imagine an old grizzly bear would sound–if it were jolly and drunk off wine.
“Why don’t we try ‘fatbill’ at gmail?” Ba suggested.
“Dad, you do want this to be professional, don’t you?”
“Okay, fine.” After a couple of misfires, we finally settled on the name. It was a fusion of his American and Chinese names, and though a bit long, it had a nice ring to it. It would serve as validation of his identity as an American, but with a notice to the world from where he came. This e-mail account would be a reminder that even he, a schooless vagabond who grew up wandering the streets in HK, could make it in America.
“Ok, Dad, now it’s asking you for a security question.”
My eardrum hairs shivered. “In case you forget your password, we need to create a question and answer to get it back. What do you want to ask?”
“Why not look at box?” He was referring to the drag-down menu.
“Dad, I don’t think those questions apply to you.”
“No, let me look.” At his request, we scrolled down the list together. What is your primary frequent flyer number. What is your library card number. What is your first telephone number. What is the name of your first teacher.
“Ai-yah, you didn’t even go to school!” Ma retorted. “Just listen to your son!”
“Let’s just do something you’ll easily remember. ‘What is your favorite sports team?'” I typed. A slight moment of silence. Just to make sure that he knew what his favorite sports team was, I confirmed: “Lakers.” Ba just gave a simple nod.
At last, it was created. I showed him the possibility of “g-chat” and offered to add buddies to his chatlist, in case he ever wanted to talk to Cat or Mom whenever he logged in. But he declined, insisting that we keep it simple and take it a step at a time. He was right–this was already a big enough step. To my chagrin, even Ba knew when to exercise his limits.
“I’m glad I got my own e-mail,” Ba delighted, “Because I never will share e-mail with your mother.”
I don’t know how most of your families are, but there is something to be said about the love that is shared under our roof. We are nowhere near perfect or even fully functional, but I am blessed to have my family. It’s the simple things in life–sharing meals, watching a crazy Bear, creating e-mail accounts–that we so often take for granted, that we so easily lose sight of when our souls are not in tune. But it is in these moments with our loved ones, when we are perhaps the least bit aware, that we can be surprised and overwhelmed with humor and love and joy.
We laughed the night away, as a dripping, half-naked Bear Grylls ran shivering in the backdrop of our living room spirit.
– – – – –