1. Grandma:

My grandparents live side by side in a 50m2 apartment with no interaction for at least the past 10 years, except for a few daily snarky comments and once in a while, outright yelling matches. Together, they have 6 children and 10 grandchildren. Grandma is known as the friendly lady of the neighborhood, talking and joking with everyone from babbling toddlers, to motorbike taxi guys that once a long time ago took her to her son’s house. Grandpa is the nice old man who loves music and small children, always humming when by himself, and always having a stack of candies to give away. Yet to each other, on those rare occasions that they have something to communicate, nasty things come out of their mouths. And I have to do that very irrespectful thing of chiding the grandparents. I swear in those moments, they are the immature kids throwing tantrums and I am the stern adult enforcing the rules. Grandma is the one that initiates. She feels like her life, since the day of marrying my grandpa, is just a series of burdens and mistreatments. What does she want now? That I would side with her and disrespect grandpa? I would not, because he certainly does me no wrong. And I have flatly told grandma so. Apologies from grandpa? Certainly he would not, with the way that she throws charges at him. Maybe she gets a sense of moral superiority, from putting him down. But in the end, it certainly doesn’t alleviate a single ounce of her animosity.

Grandma talks about death all the time these days, especially on days when she doesn’t feel so well. She’s 76 after (and grandpa is 83). I always thought after having been through many of life disappointments, when they’ve climbed to the other side of the hill and nearing its foot, they would be more able to accept and to let go. I said to grandma: “You’re old, wouldn’t it be easier to just live your life and not mind others?” It didn’t make a single dent in her outlook. And now I have this perverse thought that maybe she gets the energy to continue on out of the bitterness, and I let her be.

2. Mom:

My mom has not got along with my dad’s family since day 2. And for good reasons; I’m happy that she’s a strong woman that doesn’t put up with bullshit and mistreatment. In the beginning years, both mom and dad tried to sugar coat the notorious mother/daughter-in-law relationship, but my dad’s mom is not a reasonable person, and my mom doesn’t forgive easily, so nothing really improved much over the years. They’ve settled into a nice routine of not seeing or talking to each other. Some years, my mom doesn’t even go back to my dad’s hometown with him for family gatherings. It’s rather a big deal since my dad’s the oldest son. I take her side; she would certainly end up complaining for days after, so why even bother in the first place? And yet, whenever my mom catches wind of what my dad’s family is up to, she still gets pissed off to no end. I throw my hands up in disbelief every time my mom calls to rant about the newest outrageous thing that she gets tipped off through the grapevine grown my dad’s brothers’ wives. Every single time, she agrees with me that she should not pay any attention, and yet she can only keeps calm for 2 minutes before going back to ranting. And she certainly doesn’t remember my words the next time she calls to rant. Mom has been doing more Buddhist things in recent months like chanting and eating vegetarian food. She even took the 3 refuge vow. I support her fully and pray that it will eventually cool her down so that she’ll lead a happy care-free life in old age.

3. Me:

25, with lots of good luck in life. No husband, no mother-in-law. I have little, if any, reason to be bitter. I hope to stay this way. At 18, I realized that negative emotions such as anger and jealousy drains me and destabilizes me, and decided I would not indulge in them. Bitterness would fit nicely in the same category. And rationally speaking, why waste energy when it would not change one goddamn thing in life.