My dad turns 70 today.
This morning he said, “You know, when your uncle Louis turned 70, your cousin Andrew moved home from the Bay Area to be closer to him.”
“Oh,” I murmured, “I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah, you go ask him. For my 70th birthday, my daughter is leaving to Australia.”
I laughed but was also kind of sad.
Older Chinese people are both extremely pessimistic about old age but also seem like they can’t wait to get old, so they start counting age from the time you’re in the womb. So by the time you’re born you’re basically almost one, so they make a big deal out of 69 and celebrate it as 70. I say “they” because I mostly mean Chinese people my parents’ generation or older. My parents have also almost exclusively celebrated their Lunar birthdays for the past 69 years. I know vaguely that the dates are like a month off or something.
To be really sure, I could go to EastWest Bank every year like my parents do and get the free red and gold calendars that show both calendars and hang them all over the house. But this year my mom said, “We’ll stick to the regular date because it’s easier for you guys (my brother and I) to remember.”
Last year my dad celebrated his “70th” for an entire week, American Princess-style. Each day, different groups of friends took him out to dinner at different Chinese restaurants and he boasted about how busy he was. By the end of the week, he was tired of Cantonese style seafood – of big Chinese banquets in general. By the time Tom and I arrived to see my parents, he suggested we eat hotpot at home.
This year, my dad’s real 70th is a small-ish affair and hotpot is again on the menu. We’re going to hotpot tonight with my aunts and uncles at a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations. Earlier, he went to the office for a little over two hours and then came home to eat some leftovers in an empty house. Tom and I had gone out for a hike, and my mom was at badminton. Now he’s napping in the massage chair with his iPad perched on his lap, lulled by the barking of Taiwanese politicians on YouTube.
A few weeks ago I came out one morning and my dad came up to me with a questioning look.
“Do you have any new thoughts?”
“About what,” I said.
He sighed. “I just thought maybe by now you would think it was a bad idea.”
I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but I also don’t think it’s the greatest idea. Not when your parents are turning 70 and you’re planning to have a baby. But it’s just an idea. Something to switch things up, to slow time down.
Anyway. Happy birthday to my dad.