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.