A Belated/Advanced New Year Greeting of 2016

(This message should have sent to you last year. Sorry for the delay.)

When I stepped out of the immigration lobby in Dulles Airport four days before last Christmas, I was greeted with festive holiday wreaths and colorful lights in the arrival hall. There did I realize I had been away for quite some time. Precisely, I was in a more dismal state for more than a month. (Read on, you’ll know why.) Dragging my weary body as heavy as my backpack and suitcase on the handcart, I was immersed in the joyous scenes of reunion at the airport. I had my own warm homecoming as well. An affectionate hug from Arnold and then as soon as our car pulled in the turn of our house, I saw beautiful lights lit up the front of my neighbor’s and our houses. A huge thank-you to our very thoughtful neighbor Winnie. The lights had brightened me after a day’s non-sleep air travel. Inside the house, Arnold had decorated almost every corner that could strike my attention with Welcome Home banners and balloons. Presents were lying on the table awaiting to be uncovered. Then in the following days, greetings cards from everywhere, by postal or by email, flew like snowflakes in our mailbox. And one of the greetings is from you!

Thank you so much for thinking of me (us). Your holiday wishes have warmed my heart.

I hate to begin my greeting with an apology for being unresponsive either in person or online in the past few months. I am sorry for having made some of you misunderstand me for snubbing you. If you don’t have time to read on, I just want to tell you that I am doing fine. And I cherish our friendship dearly.

I am still working full time in Washington, DC and spicing up my life with reading, movie-going, housework, yard work, and excursions with Arnold. He’s such a remarkable driver that other than flying to London for last Labor Day weekend, to Japan last November where my father joined us and then to China for a family visit, we (actually he did!) drove 99 out of 100 times domestically. In China I used to rely on air travel to my destinations. Here in America I am more of a frequent rider than a frequent flyer. I like to be driven. If only I have the stamina to sit behind the wheel!

This is a belated newsletter for 2015, although by the Chinese lunar calendar we are still in the Year of Sheep until Feb 8, 2016 when the Year of Monkey arrives. Last year, in addition to at least 25 movies I watched in theatres (Hollywood should send me a reward for my contribution to the box office), we traveled to the neighboring wild and wonderful West Virginia, the familiar and yet fascinating northern Virginia, and of course, the enchanting Finger Lakes that we loved so much that we visited twice. We also visited Saratoga, NY and NYC for family get-together. As a compromise for having a pet in the house, we planted a tree on the front lawn. So do come and visit in the new year! (despite the fact that our lilac tree is not on Google Map yet.)

2015 was eventful. My column “Karen in America” for a Chinese/English bilingual magazine said farewell last December, due to the restructuring of the magazine. My writing was mostly work-related. My literary writing is unfortunately slack. I tried to self publish my memoir but in the end even the printing service turned its back on me. Just like those hundreds of rejection letters to agents and indie presses, none of them explained why and why not. Is this the American way of doing business? No response, no follow-up and no manners. When I said my writing was work-related, I mean at work I go through global news headlines daily and write a news summary. I am working as an administrator for a news media company. So the perk of my job is to tune into current affairs closely. With today’s new media, it becomes too easy to obtain information, just almost instantly as it happens. Overall, I managed the tough times at work. So did I in dealing with my father’s health issue.

Some of you may know that my father was diagnosed with advanced tongue cancer. After a week’s visit in Japan with my father, I accompanied him to the hospital in Guangzhou, China for a checkup for an aching growth on his neck. From then on, the situation changed quicker than the volatile Chinese stock markets. My father was immediately admitted to the hospital and underwent an operation the following week. The surgery that lasted almost eight hours went well. The malignant cancer in my father’s mouth and neck was removed. He was in ICU for two nights and another three weeks hospitalized in a regular ward. I extended my visit in China and cared for him all the way until he was discharged from the hospital. When I left him for America four days before last Christmas, my father was getting ready for radiotherapy with the care of his brother and a live-in caretaker.

Long story short. My father is doing ok and I will travel to see him next month after his course of treatment. I am very thankful to families and friends from the US and Guangzhou for your concern and care and suggestion during this difficult time. While encouraging my father to live on every day in his bout with cancer, I am fighting against time, anxiety, uncertainty, fear and frustration in the face of adversity. And yet I draw on my experience with my care for my late mother. (Do read my memoir someday!) Please don’t worry about me and my father. This obstacle will prove how strong both of us can be and how close we are as family.

At last, wishing you a healthy, prosperous and happy life in the upcoming Year of Monkey!! We may be far apart by geographical distance, but not in mind. Stay in touch!

I’m ending with an excerpt of the new year letter from Arnold in case that you may be interested in seeing our life from a different perspective:

No fancy online cards or moving pictures and cartoons here, folks, just a simple wish that all have a happy, fruitful new year, despite the apprehension that 2016 will be bloodier, more chaotic and, perhaps, more significant than 2015.

Karen and I saw the peanuts cartoon movie, starring Charlie Brown, the other night. Toward the end, Charlie Brown with hope tries to kick the football that his nemesis, Lucy, is holding for him. As usual, she drops it just as he tries.

At new year’s time, we’re all so much like Charlie Brown, hoping to kick our football and wishing everybody the peaceful, prosperous new year that doesn’t quite ever happen. Enough of pop philosophy!

Our plans for the new year are uncertain. We’re just back from a lengthy visit to Guangzhou, China. As some of you already know, while we were there, wife Karen’s dad underwent an emergency, eight-hour surgery to remove cancerous tissue from his tongue and jaw. As a result, we extended our visit so Karen could help with his care.

We are back in Virginia. He is out of the hospital in Guangzhou and starting with an intensive course of out-patient radiation therapy. Depending on what leave arrangement she can make at her work in DC, Karen may soon return to continued assisting his recovery.

We had hopes of taking Karen’s dad on a tour of the U.S. West Coast in the new year. That was before his surgery. Now that hope is on hold. However, there is an increased chance we’ll see her friends in Guangzhou during the new year.


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