“Good morning!” I yell and wave.
It is the middle of the night on my side of the phone. The blinds are down. The light is on. It’s quiet with the television off.
My son went to bed about an hour ago. He should be asleep unless he is reading secretly. It’s almost time for me to get to bed after another quiet day at home.
“Good morning!” my mother yells back from her side of the globe. She has been up for a little while.
“Honey, it’s our daughter,” she thrusts the phone in front of my dad’s bleary face.
He is a night owl and takes a little while to get up. He takes the video call though.
“Good morning,” he croaks back.
Usually the television news is blaring in the background. The sun is up. They are about to start another day.
We chat about how they are. Dad says he’s well. He is always okay. Even when he’s not. Mum has her good days and her bad days. They are in their seventies and their body is catching up to their age. I think there are times when their limitations frustrate them.
They came to Tasmania with us in tow in the mid-1980s. We were the only Korean family living in Hobart when we arrived. My parents live there still. And they are as far away from London, where we currently live, as you can get.
They tut-tut their concerns about my health, weight and face to let me know they still love me. I need to be careful now that I am in lockdown and not moving as much. I need to try and avoid sweet, fattening foods.
“But I like muffins…” I tease.
“No!” my mother responds. “They are the worst.”
I need to be careful of sunlight. I’m already getting freckles. There’s a great sunscreen they use.
No. SPF 15 from my foundation is not enough. It needs to be SPF 50. They’ll WhatsApp a photo to me later. I should try and find it in London if I can.
I understand some friends who have grown up in a western family might find this form of care somewhat confronting. But I have never taken it to heart. I knew, have always known, their best intentions for me.
There were times when their idea of what was good for me wasn’t what I wanted. I’ve somehow ended up with a law degree I may never use. The dutiful Asian daughter striving to meet her family expectations is a stereotype, but sometimes stereotypes exist because they’re true.
A small part of me felt I could never quite measure up. And as I grow older, I feel a little sorry that I’ve let them down. I’m sure what they envisaged for their daughter was not what they got.
It’s too late now.
I’m too happy where I am.
“Just be happy,” my mother says these days. “That’s the best kind of care you can provide your parents. To live a happy and fulfilled life.”
During this pandemic, I try and call my parents once a day. It doesn’t have to be for long. I just want to check to see they’re ok. And usually they are.
We may be half a world away from each other, but with a little effort we can still remain close.