Us: How the coronavirus brought my family together

By Cassandra Liu

May 2020

Thanks to the coronavirus, I was stuck at home with my parents whom I constantly refused to talk to.

Our relationship hit rock bottom ever since I was diagnosed with depression five years ago. I ascribed my condition to my parents, who always beat and scold me whenever I fail to reach their expectations. It turned out that they made me insecure and unconfident, and I lost the capability to feel happy anymore.

I couldn’t imagine life with these two people I thought I would never forgive.

On Jan. 25, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year when we were at my grandma’s, we were suddenly called back by my father’s work because of the coronavirus. He works for the local Disease Control and Prevention Center, and that was the first time we learned how severe the situation had become. On our way back, my father said to me and my mother, who were always longing to travel during the spring festival but who were forced to go to my grandma’s home every year instead, “I saved your lives! ”

 That is just the kind of stuff that would come out from his mouth,” I thought to myself.

I recently read the book “Educated” by Tara Westover, and I found great empathy with it. My father is not that much like hers, but in essence they are the same——extremely irritable, arrogant and narcissistic, sticking to their own philosophy of life that no one dares to challenge. We do not have a basement filled with food and guns, but we do have a huge suitcase where you can find everything—cookies, sausages, water, cash, property ownership certificate and even my dad’s favorite beer—next to our bed. He announced that if there happened to be an earthquake, these could make us the richest survivors. But I didn’t tell him that I secretly ate up all the food inside as my midnight snacks. And my mother, a middle school history teacher, was crazy about controlling and judging me like I was one of her students.

Staying at home with my parents seemed a nightmare.

During the time confined at home, I cooked three meals a day for my family. I tried to vary the dishes and nutrition to strengthen our immunity so as to resist the virus. However, one day after our trip to the supermarket, my mother blaming me for buying too much food that was too expensive. Suddenly, all the frustration and anger flooded over me so strongly that I couldn’t bear it anymore.

I shouted at them all the hurtful things they had done to me since childhood, and how they made me into a person I hated so much. For the first time in my life I spoke out about how I longed for love and encouragement, and how I couldn’t control my depression that took away all the color of my life.

“I’m fighting against it because of your mistakes as parents! How many times I wish anyone of you could hug me and say ‘I’m sorry for what you’re going through’, but you never did. Never! ” I cried, feeling ashamed to say the words since I was brought up in a family that never speak our feelings out.

Silence, with only sobbing. Suddenly words dropped hard. “We love you,” said my mother, “but maybe we love you in a wrong way. It’s the first time we tried to be parents, and I guess we just didn’t learned to be good ones.”

My father still didn’t say a word. But that night, when we were taking a walk after dinner as usual, he hesitated for a second, and then lightly held my hand. I could feel that he tried his best to try to make up for the warmth I didn’t receive from him before. He tried so hard that both of us had a huge sense of awkwardness.

He never held me in arms when I was a little girl. But that moment I started to feel that I was a little girl to him.

I gradually realized that my parents never chose to hurt me. It is because of their poor family background, their not-high-not-low social status, and the average-level education they received that naturally led them to who they were. As my mother said, it never occurred to them that they should learn to be parents. The only thing they knew was that they had benefited from their experience, which let them get rid of the limitation of their families and feel successful about themselves. Therefore, they thought that they were able to bring up their child, who enjoys better resources, into a more successful person.

However, they didn’t figure out what “success” actually means before starting to chase after it so desperately. Having been cultivated to have a “success-longing” heart for more than 20 years, I found that I had to get rid of it during the rest of my life.

It occurred to me that it was harder and more precious to accept mediocrity rather than refusing it.

In the meantime, the coronavirus forced me to think about myself. The moment I shouted “You never care about me”, I knew I was exaggerating. Seeing my parents be silent, I struggled so much in my mind whether to apologize for what I had said and for how I wronged them by throwing away all the happy memories we had together. That torturous struggling suddenly made me realize that I, myself, was also arrogant and self-centered—— in the past they required me to be a perfect kid which deeply hurt me, but now I am doing the same thing by asking them to be perfect parents.

It’s like an endless circle. We all wanted each other to be that certain kind of person we thought each other should be. However, only by dropping selfishness and showing weaknesses instead of pride can we become strong enough to break that circle.

“I feel regret for saying that you didn’t love me at all. I knew that wasn’t true,” I said, finally opening my mouth, using up all my courage.

My mom cried and told me I couldn’t imagine how much those words meant to them.

Seeing so much grieving news about the coronavirus, I never feel that grateful before for what I have, even my depression. Because of it, each one of us went through a second growing-up. The virus makes us to be a true “us,” who could feel truly happy, truly sorry, truly moving, truly grateful for each other.

Staying at home with my parents seemed a nightmare.