Last week, I helped my dad mark an item off his bucket list: Pearl Harbor. As a former P.O.W and army guy, my father’s interest in Pearl Harbor was quite unique. He has read so many books and articles about it, it was as if he was giving me the tour and history lesson for the start of U.S involvement into WWII. But as an old man, his recollections were constantly repeated. His memory has started to fade but not at an alarming rate; just a natural aging process. When he forgets something, he just moves on. I did, too. It wasn’t worth trying to jog his memory. I’ve only heard the stories 5x before.
I spent 4 days with my dad to take him out of his monotony. I thought I was being a good daughter. For years he has been wanting to see Pearl Harbor but has no one to travel with. He visited Hawaii many times but never Pearl Harbor. So, I closed my office to take him. At the airport, my dad saw my older sister with her kids heading to Honolulu as well. We were all surprised as she didn’t tell anybody she was going there. It stung my dad gently because she didn’t invite him, whereas, he nudged me to take him. In my culture, the oldest takes care of the parents, not the middle child. But since my parents are divorced, my dad got me by default. My uncle has always told him he got the better daughter. My dad never confirmed it. He was just happy to get one child to care for him. Even his surgeon told him he was lucky to have me. He just smiled and nodded in politeness, like he would even if the surgeon was to tell him he will lose a leg tomorrow. “Thank you, doctor.”
In Waikiki, his patience shortened with the rising temperature. I thought it was his low blood sugar as we were standing in a food court surrounded by restaurants and he complained about being hungry. But his HbA1c is 4.4. After 3 years of prodding me to take him to Pearl Harbor, a 5.5 hours flight, 15 minutes of air turbulence, 5 hours of interrupted sleep the night before, and an hour on public transportation, he spent all of 30 minutes there. The last 20 minutes were spent touring the submarine, our only glimpse of Pearl Harbor. I felt like I was paying for my daughter’s music lesson, $1/min. But unlike the control I have over my daughter, I couldn’t make my dad practice more at Pearl Harbor. We skipped the main attraction because it required a ferry ride over the water under the sun. He was sparing my skin from the potential burn as it was delicate and soft. He did purchase that hat for me.
We picked up our luggage at the hotel, headed to the airport, changed our tickets to get an earlier flight to Maui, then boarded. My husband picked us up in a rental car. My father complained the ride from the airport to the condo was too long. He wished the restaurants were closer to the condo than the airport. Luckily for me, restaurants were just a short walk away. Wailea did not fail me, it had restaurants galore. But it failed my dad for it lacked a Vietnamese pho place.
At the luau, I advised my dad to take a little bit of all the food offerings just in case he doesn’t like something. He listened. He enjoyed the show. He even joined in on the hula lesson. By the end of the night, he wanted to purchase our souvenir picture. It was dark so he couldn’t really see the poor quality of the image. Not to mention, there were people in the background. So instead of $40, they offered to let us purchase the 5”x7” for only $30. I told him no. He said he could Photoshop the person out and enhance the quality of the picture. He heard of Photoshop; he has never used it.
By Sunday, I was happy to be back home, jetlagged and all. I didn’t have to carry anything but my own bags. I didn’t have to worry about ordering food that someone might not like. It was eat or starve. The little things of my everyday life were a joy to me. The irony of old age pouting is only funny after the facts. Even after all that, I don’t think I’ve gained any points with him. But I know he loves me in his own way; he wished me a happy birthday a whole week before the actual date. It just tells me he’s celebrating his second daughter for a week in his own way.
This weekend, I took my daughter to get her hair cut before orchestra overnight camp for a week. She had asked the lady to cut her long hair up to her underarm pit. That is a good 6 inches of hair to lose. With an agonizingly slow pace, her hair got shorter and shorter, creeping up to her shoulders. One stylist after another came in to fix the “thickness” of her hair. I can see the worries on my daughter’s face as she sees her hair going from an unwanted short hairstyle, into a long bob then medium bob. I raised my index finger to my lips to signal for her to stay calm. When it got to be a ridiculous fight over which side is longer and an hour later, I walked over to the third stylist and told her I just want to take my daughter home. The first lady said the haircut was free as it was so much shorter than what my daughter had asked for. Four inches shorter to be precise, 10 inches cut off overall.
As I walked towards the door, I laid my money on their countertop and left. I paid for the haircut and left a tip. It wasn’t for their (lack of) skill, but they tried. Incompetency still needs to be paid. I put my hand on my daughter’s back to show support in public. The minute we sat in the car, tears flowed and my heart ached for her. She kept it together for so long and when it was safe to let go, she did. I gave my motherly speech but it didn’t work. Tears still came. When we arrived home, I told her to sit down again so I can try to fix it. After another 10 minutes, her hair line was much better. I continued my motherly speech of how beautiful she is, regardless of hairstyle. She stood up, defeated, and went to take a shower.
Luckily for us, she is leaving for camp soon to be with her friends. There she will be distracted with her peers and orchestra. There is no time to fuss over hair. I keep reminding her the hairstyle itself is not bad. The problem lies in its short length. But hair will grow again. When dinner came and went, she was already adapting to her new haircut. The smile was back on her face. She was talking away about her plans for camp. She is a lot better than I at that age with a horrible haircut. I remember being mad for days. I’m so glad in this society, my daughter is not obsessed over hair. I’m also glad she understands what we may not like at first can grow on us.
This picture was taken the day before her haircut. She had just came back from a company picnic trip with her uncle. She was showing me her hummingbird tattoo. Luckily, she believed my speech that she is beautiful regardless of hairstyle. I mean, seriously, look at those lips.
This past weekend I was in Connecticut for the AGD annual conference. $70 in Lyft ride later, I arrived at the casino for the fun. Typically, it would be fun but this time, they spread the courses over two areas and I ended up running from one side of the casino to the other for my courses. Even the ladies at the help desk felt sorry for me. My classes were alternating their east and west locations. Needless to say, I got my exercise in after an overnight flight.
The following day I was just in one spot for an all-day course. My legs thanked me as my laziness took over. That night, I met up with all the awardees and other board members from California to celebrate their achievements. I saw the same family that I sat next to on the plane and we talked some more. It’s amazing how I’m the “older” one in the group now. The younger dentists were asking for advice and ideas. It was definitely a catch-22.
On my way home, I missed my connection and ended up spending a night in Minneapolis with a friend. Her home was located in a neighborhood that Californians would only see in the movies with the time setting in the 50’s or 60’s. We stayed up late to catch up and again at breakfast before she drove me back to the airport. At the restaurant, I had to be the darkest person there. That’s the joke I tell my patients and I’m repeating it here. And you know I’m lighter than half of you. Ah-hem…
So even as I detest flying and missed connections, I ended up with a pretty good trip. My meals were fancy as I hitched onto my colleague’s VIP lounge. I won some money at the roulette table. Nothing to brag about as it didn’t even pay for my Lyft ride, but it’s something. I got to see my girlfriend after all these years. I looked like a mess on Monday but my mask and glasses covered all the flaws. Like the saying goes: there’s always a silver lining somewhere.
Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, CT.
Lobster salad, cocktail shrimp, grilled veggies wrap and fresh pineapple. Yum.
With CAGD executive director. There was a funny picture of us but I can't seem to upload it here.
Meet my newest foster puppy. She is only 3 months old and has only 3 legs. She lost her leg recently and no one at the humane society knows what happened. But from her running around and speed, I don’t think she knows she’s missing a hind leg. She’s so fast that I had to get a leash to prevent her from chasing after rabbits when we go out to the backyard. She is a sweet puppy as she’s gentle. She doesn’t bark unless it’s 5:30 am in the morning because she wants company. She is almost completely potty-trained. She knows to pee and poo outside. There has only been a couple of accidents but that’s probably our fault for not taking her out enough. She is a smart dog. She understands some commands already and acts according to the tone of your voice.
We can’t figure out a name for her yet, but my boys like to call her Tripod. For a puppy, she is low maintenance. She likes to be where the family is and just sits at our feet. We put her blanket wherever we congregate and she lays right down. Everyday we toss a ball for her to exercise and she loves it. She likes being out in the backyard with the sun to sunbathe; a good belly rub is also much appreciated. She is up for adoption so if you are interested, please contact me and we can set up an appointment with you at the humane society. You will find yourself with a new happiness.
Recently I sedated a father for some major surgeries to rebuild his jaw in preparation for implant-supported restorations. As I was reviewing the post-op instructions with his daughter, she voiced her concerns that her father does not listen to post-op instructions. She said he was stubborn. Starting to hear a harsher tone from her, I interjected with my own father story to remind her that fathers are just stubborn. My goal was to keep her on my bandwagon of optimism. After exchanging a few stories, she stayed on. Suddenly my patient interjected with his own explanations of why my dad was so stubborn and mean at times. Obviously, the drugs did not take effect yet.
His stories started out benign and as he recalls his past experiences, they got deeply personal and extremely sad that even his daughter was surprised. I asked him not to talk anymore but his daughter wanted to hear them. I wanted to leave the room but he held onto my arm, wanting me to understand my dad better. Then as the drugs started to take effect, I stopped him. Both she and I were near tears and he wiped his away.
I remember being so strict with this patient because he doesn't listen. His rebuttal was typically, "I lived this long, I don't need to listen to anybody." Even after the first surgery with extractions and implant placement, he went home and smoked. How or why the implant stayed in there is beyond me. I have no explanations because he also has medical issues that was worrisome. But after this appointment, I could not repeat my restrictions to him. Instead, I helped him find a way that he could smoke and somehow protect the surgical site. I showed him a way to escape the "no smoking for 2 weeks" restriction. His daughter laughed but I was still determined to ask him not to smoke until the soft tissue is better.
Shortly afterwards Bob came into the room, his daughter said she needed to get her dad into therapy to address repressed emotional issues that he shared with me. When patients share stories of past traumas, I'm left aghast. The sincerity and heartfelt vocal vibrations in the narrator's recollection flood me with emotions. I'm so grateful for their trust. As for this patient, he and I will have a different relationship from now on. I'm going to have to treat him like my dad. I will only pick certain fights to fight. The rest of the time, I will just listen and let him talk. He was dealt with an unfair hand at the start of life. I am aiming for a place in his "nice" category when he recalls dentistry. He told me I was the one person that doesn't talk back to my dad so my dad can say anything to me, even unfairly. He's right. My dad is too old for me to argue with him. I just let him be.