If you beat a dog, don’t be surprised if he runs away.

—letter to my uncle, March 2008

When I was a child my mom would always ask me if I’d let her live in a nursing home. She would do this as a form of reassurance, a way of addressing her insecurity about dying alone. To Chinese people, this is a fate worse than death. I understand that there may be medical conditions or other circumstances that make it impractical for a family member to live in your house, but that doesn’t change the fact that being put in a nursing home is like waiting to die.

At the time, I was too young to understand the gravity of such a question, so I would always reassure her, no. Maybe I even loved her at that point, and meant it. But I’ve since cut off all ties with her, and after the divorce, she has no one left. Her relatives lead their own lives, and she’s never had enough of a personality to make any friends. I’ve lived with her long enough to understand what a hollow, empty existence she has.

Now I’m old enough to know that she’ll die alone.

And that it’ll be exactly what she deserves.


  1. I completely understand where you are coming from with this post. My parents divorced when I was 13 due to an alcoholic abusive dad. I vowed then (as I was young and totally oblivious to how life really works) that I would hate my dad for the rest of my life. As I grew older, I changed and finally had a talk with him about how I really felt. He was never going to change his ways and I could accept it or continue to hate him for the way he was always going to be. As fate would have it, I was the one he chose to spend his last days with. I took care of him until his last breath. I won’t say I feel like I should be given a gold medal for being such a forgiving child after all the torment he put me and my family through, but I know I won’t ever be asking myself “What if I had done this…..” I realize this isn’t the case with you and your parents, but I hate to see you think this way about your mother. Thinking like this often drains the very life out of you…..

  2. It’s certainly a self-destructive feeling, something of which I do want to let go, but I can’t. I think it’s quite commendable that you were able to forgive your dad in such a way, and take care of him before his passing.

    Unfortunately, forgiveness in not a choice for me. The emotional scarring has made up my mind.

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