Photos by MJ Klein & Hui-chen (with just a few FOOD PHOTOS)
We were rapidly approaching our last 2 days in the US. We had seen and done just about everything we wanted to do, so we were determined to take it easy on the last 2 days of our trip and enjoy time with the family.
Growing tired of the food in the US, we wanted to try some of the local Asian cuisine. Having been very dissapointed with what passes off as “Chinese food” we decided to try a place suggested by Adam and his wife. So, we went to called P.F. Chang’s.
Here is a shot of the outside of the restaurant, showing the Chinese style horse sculptures. That’s Adam and Christin who drove us there.
The restaurant is in a rather upscale strip mall in Greensboro.
A very quickly framed shot of the bar inside. We choose the dining room instead.
I didn’t take many photos of the food, so here is a single shot of the wonton soup.
A couple of things cracked us up. One was the Chinese word they used on the menu to denote “spicy” food – the word was fire! The second thing was the “special sauce” that the waiter concocted for the fried dumplings. It was comprised of “Chinese mustard” (which every US Chinese restaurant has, but is extremely rare in Asia), soy sauce, and la jiao or hot chili peppers. The waiter made a big deal about that sauce being something special from China and it used the only 3 ingredients available on the table. Duh! The dumplings were good, nevertheless, and although expensive compared to dishes back home, we have to give P.F. credit for preparing flavorful dishes that at least resemble the originals. The decor is nice, and we were never pressured into hurrying up. We took our sweet time and had a nice relaxing meal with plenty of great conversation.
This is a photograph of the only other person in the restaurant who can read the Chinese on the menu.
The next day, we went looking for Thai food. As readers of our blog know, Hui-chen and I live in a Thai neighborhood in Taiwan, and we have Thai food all the time. We wanted to see what the Thai food was like local to our family’s home, and I must say it was pretty good. We took my Mother for lunch and she particularly liked the Thai milk tea. We met the owners’ son, who is studying business law at a local university. He had a good laugh when I mentioned that I sing Thai songs at our local karaoke, by reading the Romanized English phonetics at the bottom. Some of the customers who overheard that also got a good laugh, especially when I mentioned that it often takes 2 or 3 songs for the drunken patrons to realize that I’m not reading Thai! The boss lady apprecited our broken Thai that we’ve picked up in our neighborhood, too! After we left, we visited a couple of the local Asian markets, where I showed Mother a few items to buy so she could enjoy some home cooked SE Asian food. This included the Thai milk tea, of course!
The next day was our last full day in the US, so we decided to do some shopping, and then relax all afternoon and evening by the pool.
I get relaxed just looking at photos of Janet’s patio. Notice the electric mosquito swatters on the table. We brought 3 of them with us from Taiwan, and they proved to be a huge hit with everyone!
In the early evening, Dad and Wanda arrived.
Dad had a big smile on his face as he sat at the table with his 4 children and his extended family.
Everyone noticed that Dad seemed more animated than he was before. Ever since he went swimming the other day, there had been a noticeable increase in his awareness and interactions with people. Here we see Hui-chen laughing at some joke Dad just cut. One of the most difficult things we’ve had to deal with is watching our father’s sense of humor dwindle away because of his affliction. Seeing Dad “come back” a bit, so to speak, has been very rewarding. Janet and I had been discussing this and one of the things we wanted to do again, was get Dad in the pool and get him exercising some more.
After watching Dad in the pool the other night, I got the idea to get him a life jacket so he wouldn’t have to support himself in the pool. Dad was excited by the idea, although we’re not exactly sure that he understood what we meant at the time.
I talked with John and Janet (in the pool) and they assured me that if I were to stay out of the pool and take photographs, there were enough people around to safely get Dad in an out of the pool. I decided to stay out of the pool and handle the photography, considering that this may be the last time we are in the US with Dad, I wanted to get as many photographs as possible.
Dad is holding onto Adam’s hand for dear life, of course not realizing that it’s Adam specifically. He’s just holding onto someone’s hand. Security is a huge issue with the elderly, and Dad takes things very slowly when he’s in unfamiliar territory. This is one of the reasons why I got him the life jacket.
Nancy jumped in, and finally we see a smile forming on Dad’s face as he’s getting in the comfort zone. Janet and John are trying to get him to get down into the water.
Finally, Dad decides to get in the water, and now we realize that he does understand that the life jacket will hold him up.
Look at those smiles. This scene is very much like old times with our Dad in the pool where we used to go swimming as children. Dad is having the time of his life now that he feels secure with the vest on.
Dad taught all of his children how to swim at an early age, and he also taught us how to float on our backs! John is demonstrating this technique, which is quite difficult to do in the lower-buoyancy fresh water of a pool, rather than the ocean. Thanks to Dad’s training as a child, I’ve spent as much as 8 to 10 hours at a time in the ocean as an adult, with no flotation aids. I know how to rest in the water, and so do my siblings. Janet’s 3 sons are also avid swimmers so Dad’s legacy and love of water will live on through his family.
Janet is asking Dad “Can you do this?”
Dad makes a wisecrack to the effect that of course he can’t do that.
But then he tries it!
No one was expecting that! “Faking” things is a part of humor that requires higher thought processes. It sure seemed like Dad was “coming back” a little bit more.
You’ll notice how no one is hovering over Dad because he is fully supported by the life jacket. Normally dependent upon others, his time in the pool was rather independent because he could swim around on his own and go where he wanted to go without help. Very important indeed.
Dad took off into an overhand stroke a few times. Here we see him coming back from a swim down to the deep end of the pool. The first time he did this, we couldn’t believe it!
The 4 children pose for a quick shot with Dad (taken by Hui-chen). I wish I could have been in the pool but I really wanted to take photographs.
I had another idea in mind when we went shopping for the life jacket. Clearly this exercise was doing wonders for him, and we also wanted more interaction with him.
So we got some of those balls designed for throwing around in the pool. They soak up water and become heavier. We got a package of 2 and tossed them into the pool. This shot shows the ball in the air on it’s way towards Dad.
Dad throws back to Janet who is going to try to hit it with a “noodle.”
This shot is very interesting I think. Dad is fully “on” here. Both of his hands are below the water line so you can’t tell which hand has the ball. He’s going to do a “fake” throw just as Janet went to reach for the other ball. When she realized what Dad was doing, she was astonished. Dad hasn’t done anything like that in quite some time. This exercise and interation was making him use his brain to a higher degree than he normally does and it was doing him a world of good.
Now, this is our Dad for sure. He’s making some kind of a joke with Janet. It was very heartwarming to see this happening as we were all afraid that we had lost our father for good. Not yet!
Night fell and the pool lights were turned on. This didn’t faze Dad one bit.
This is one of the few flash photos that I took. Flash tends to distract Dad so I took nearly all ambient light photos.
After a very rewarding evening with Dad in the pool, Hui-chen and I retired for the evening. The next day we would be heading back to Taiwan.
Before we left, the siblings took a “Taiwan style” photo together in Mom’s living room.
We had one more place to go to before the airport:
That’s right! Fuddruckers!
Hui-chen and I tried the buffalo meat burger and they were great! We enjoyed some conversation with Mother for the short time we had before we had to leave. I hate to say this, but quite a bit of our time was spent with Dad and not with Mother, because of Dad’s condition. Mother was very patient while we spend time at the pool and out on the lake without her. Being a retired nurse, Mother was very understanding of the situation and we thank her.
The next installment of this series will be the last one, and it is about our return home to Taiwan. We hope that you didn’t find this rather personal series too boring as it did focus mainly on our family. Sooner or later almost everyone faces the same eventuality so I would expect that most people can relate to these experiences.
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