[Hand-Out] Part 1: The Welfare and the Unemployment of my Parents


Brushes with Poverty

Grandpa Dinosaur

Part 1: The Welfare and the Unemployment of my Parents

For weeks on end in January, I spent my time between my mother and father at the unemployment centre and work. I squeeze into my schedule to call and arrange for my mother to go to the dentist as her root canal had fallen out due to shoddy work. For weeks my brother had been losing his temper over selfish matters, which means I could not. One day he turned to me with a twisted smile and said, dad is hiding. Almost to say, “from me.” Everyone expects my brother to act badly, no one expects me to react or act badly myself.

I don’t know how long I’ve been my father’s mother, my parent’s parents.

I never wear my hair braided, never wear a chain of keys around my neck. It makes me look too much like his mother, my grandmother.

At one party I caused a scene. I caused a group of grown adults to cry, because my face was identical to hers. My hair, the way I carried myself. When they had started to treat me like I was her, I wanted to tear out my hair and ruin my clothes running from that room. Years later I found out that the people in that room starved her to death (by accident they claim), trying to threaten my father into sending them money in Cambodia. It’s very common. My Vietnamese friend often complains that they don’t understand how bad it is here, too but they keep demanding money. Everyone still pretends it didn’t happen. They just act like she just died.

I don’t know how long I’ve cared for my parents, physically, mentally, financially. Being the person who everyone imagines my brother to be, the shadow and magic of the illusion itself. Something that is already haunting me and always has.

The recession has made things harder. It’s never enough for them, in the eyes of my community I never give enough. My mother’s horrible health and my father’s unemployment and feelings from his lack of autonomy are two things I have to struggle with on a day to basis. I have to solve somehow. I never seem to be able to do enough for my mother, the “aunts” continue to berate me when I stumble in from work, covered in snow.

In the eyes of my friends and peers, I feel overburdened. Like I have to say the right things, the right way with the right emotions. “Don’t do anything if you can’t do anything right,” and these days I can’t do things right. My friends treat me badly for it. I’m always supposed to do things right, say the right things in the right tone, with the right reason. I have to be careful with my temper. Even when they say: “say it how it is, say how you feel” they crumble when the anger is directed at them.

I’m afraid of being called selfish, self-centered. (Almost as much I’m afraid of losing my temper needlessly.)

When I start taking care of myself, people chalk it up to selfishness. “How can you be so selfish and care about yourself when I/your mother/your friend is so sick.”

I don’t even know what to do anymore. I feel so stretched thin. Caring about so many people and ignoring my health as well.

In this recession, I can never give enough. Enough of my time. If I withhold it, I’m being selfish. And not even being able to get angry.

This is was a constraining society reinforced by your female peers will do to you. I feel I have no one to turn to and know few who are willing to understand. It’s easy for someone to tell you to make a sacrifice, when it’s your sacrifice and not theirs.

All doctor appointments, government filings, speaking to clerks is done through me. My mother cannot speak English and my father lacks the social skills to arrange such matters. When my mother is ill, I have to take her to the hospital by bus even though my brother when a free schedule and is able to drive her. (Mostly because he’s self-centered.) I barely have time to breathe. Everyday, even today I fall asleep and wake with a tightness in my chest. It is a daughters duty to sacrifice everything for her family, I heard a Buddhist nun say once.

The standard people hold me to is high, I also have my own expectations as well. Recession or not I still want to make something of myself. My expectations are more like goals with loose deadlines. But they still bother me when I accomplish nothing. I keep trying to stick with each goal, but each one falls by the wayside. I had to cancel my first trip to Otakon, my first trip outside of the US. I don’t know how long I will have to wait for my next trip. I’ve never been on a vacation, just to Anime Conventions that I call vacations but leave me stressed out. I just want to go one vacation out of Canada. Even if it’s some hole in America, I’ve decided to go alone.

I’m tired of trying to convince a friend to attend a city when they’ve “been there, seen that. Didn’t have fun.”

I failed to get into Toronto Comics, which I beat myself up for a lot. I’m never good enough. My portfolio is never good enough. My art and comics are never good enough, mostly I think because they’re not White enough. These days I appease my stress by reading really trashy Clark Kent and Lex Luthor Fanfiction. Soon I read every fanfic on the internet, with no direction for my anger and no more outlets I grow more frustrated. When I don’t drink, my dependancy starts to show even though I have tried to wean myself off of it.

Getting my father’s welfare check was the most frustrating, heartbreaking experience I’ve ever had to endure in a long time.

My father wants to keep working at the same factory as my mother so they can drive to work together, but plans are changing. My mother will have to find a job where she can bus to work if they cannot return to job. She is old and her arthritis is worsening, any little bit that my father can do to lessen it. They are trying to hold on so they can return to their old workplace together, return to their own lives. My father tires of working in a dirty factory. He wants to work in a nature conservation area or a plant store working less than half his wage, unfortunately my older brother’s immense debts are the reason why the family is spiralling out of control.

My brother’s careless driving has driven my father’s car insurance to high amounts. Add the debt from my brother’s credit card and bank scams and a problem that could have been easily contained is now a blown up, nuclear plant.

It took from January 4th to February 14 for my father to get his welfare check. Every week, I would shove some time before a short shift and accompany my father to the unemployment centre where I would harass the staff members on where my father’s unemployment access number was. It was immensely stressful because I was trying to be civil when my father way pressing me to be more rude and angry. Then I was working 5-6 days a week. I was really tired and wanted nothing to fall asleep in my seat.

Add on the fact that my mother made an error with her mother’s name on the application, it was an administration nightmare. Not only that, my father kept yelling at me because it was supposedly my fault that I was supposed to know something my mother couldn’t even remember. I can’t keep living like I’m supposed to know how to do the right thing, say the right thing. Do everything perfectly.

Add on the fact that my father’s lack of self-esteem and helplessness due to him being laid off is something my brother is using to abuse my father with and you have a rough situation.

It started giving my father nightmares. And I try to lessen the abuse and contact my brother has with my father, but my brother is actively seeking my father out due to old, unburied grudges.

Finally, a month later, my dad can access his account.

My dad runs off with his welfare check and you know what the first thing he does is?

He gets a hair cut. He’s there in the barber’s chair. Hasn’t cut his hair in months. I had just got off from a shift that I took that morning. I’ve been rolling out of bed to cover shifts all week. My boss knows that she can call me and I will appear at the drop of a hat. Because I have to. Because of my bills and my family relying on me. He turns to me and says, “look at me! I got a hair cut! I can afford a hair cut! You don’t have to buy me beer anymore!”

I just nod, “that’s good, ba.”


~ by l on March 4, 2009.

2 Responses to “[Hand-Out] Part 1: The Welfare and the Unemployment of my Parents”

  1. Don’t give up! I can’t help you out, I can’t fix your problems. But I can tell you this: You make me laugh. Sometimes I laugh out loud becasue even though we’ve never met, our lives are so the same. You and davitacuttita both. Also,you make me cry. Tears well up in my eyes and spill over the edge run down my face when I read this blog. Sometimes I wipe the tears away, Sometimes I don’t. Your thoughts are beatuiful, orginal, familiar and strange. This blog stimulates and opens my mind. I don’t know about the rest of your work, but I can say with all certianty: this blog matters!
    I want to share one more thing with you, the big secret. Love is what matters, love from friemds, family and love from yourself. Find love, bring love to your door and remember though we live thousands of miles apart, I love you.
    P.S. If you ever get the chance come visit Denver, Coloroado we’d love to have you

  2. I felt the need to write this, I’m sorry that it’s so depressing. The next chapter will be on the Food Bank. This is the bitter part of my life, two more parts and this depressing recession saga will be over.

    And now you know why I never post when I’m going through hardships, although I wanted to tackled this issue from a different angle. I like what I am writing.

    Thank you for your love. I feel bad, maybe I will end this saga with the next chapter. I’m making all the readers depressed. This is one of the reasons why I never update the blog when my life is hell, my sadness is infectious. It’s not the empowering sadness, it’s the bleak part of sadness that no one likes.

    I’m sorry for making you all sad, dear readers.

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