Posts Tagged ‘Cantonese’

published December  14, 2019

Reading Victoria Sweet, M.D.’s new book SLOW MEDICINE The Way to Healing and watching/listening to Carole King (“A Conversation with Carole King” – Veteran journalist Mike Barnicle talks to Ms. King about her memoir A NATURAL  WOMAN at John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on April 12, 2012) motivated my completing Part 2 of Author Teresa Jade LeYung’s New Monologue “What The Man In 17-B Wanted”

In my blog post  my father was coping with his circumstances – as a reluctant resident at a nursing home.

This is what happened in November and December 2018.

Remember that piece of paper that I needed to fill out for the nursing home staff? The one about naming a mortuary.  Every resident must fill out that form

Well, there is another form to deal with – “Notice to Terminate Lease” -  the agreement between my father and the apartment building property management – that a tenant must give up his lease after six months of absence and vacate his apartment.

I waited for a “good” day to show this second document to my father.  Only his signature would be accepted by the property manager.  That day, Papa appeared to be cheerful, the sun was shining. I said to him: “Papa, remember you went to the hospital in July? You’re safe here with nurses and CNAs who care about you. Your Social Security money is paying for you to be here. There is no money to pay for your apartment too. Also, the lease says that you have to give up the apartment by end of December. I will help you. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything. You just have to sign this paper.  Okay?”

He signed.  I don’t know what happened after I said “Goodnight” to him. He probably cried when no one was watching.

What I didn’t have the heart to tell him was that every object which represented his life had to go away – to a storage unit , to a recycling center, or to the dump. If not for my brother’s first wife and four other precious friends, I wouldn’t have been strong enough to take on this job.

What irony for a writer – I (narrator) wanted to give my father (protagonist) what he wanted (to be able to return to the place he called “home”) but he was a fall risk and could no longer live alone.  Because he was relying on me to be his advocate, and,  because he didn’t get what he wanted most, he probably viewed me as an obstacle as well.

Like the son in the movie Garbo Speaks (written by Larry Grusin), I was the daughter who was worn out chasing after something that seemed impossible to obtain.

Back to that first piece of paper that I needed to fill out for the nursing home staff.

I need to do the right thing when Papa dies. Mrs. Chu, the oldest resident at the nursing home, is 107! My father is only 85. He has a long way to go.

Does my father want to be buried or cremated? He won’t talk about illness, certainly not about funeral.  I cannot read his mind.

Thanks to Amy Grace Lam who said to me “Teresa, you will get your answer not by asking your father but by finding the right person to ask your father.”

The right person would be someone who speaks fluent Cantonese and is the archetype to ask such a question.

On the day when all three Cantonese-speaking team members (nurse, social worker, chaplain) showed up at the nursing home to meet my father and me, Amy Grace Lam’s words replayed in my head.

I showed Chaplain Yuen the piece of paper  and told him: “I want to honor my father’s body and need to know what he wants.”

I did not need to explain any further; the chaplain nodded, and took the paper from my hand.

While he was chatting with my father, I stepped aside to talk to the nurse and social worker.

Fifteen minutes later, I hear Chaplain Yuen telling my father that he would visit again.  As though a director was in the room and we were all rehearsing a scene, a CNA comes into the room to distract my father. The chaplain says to me: “Your father wants burial, not cremation.”  The social worker tells me that she’ll get me a list of mortuaries which will include those catering to families of Chinese heritage.

I got what I wanted – the answer to my question. What more can a daughter ask for.


photo by Teresa Jade LeYung 2018 November 20


I wish you, dear Reader, excellent health.


Teresa Jade LeYung

Teresa Jade LeYung - photo by Sharon Leong 2019 May 10
















As a story theme consultant, award-winning writer, and platform-building coach for pre-published and published authors, Writing Coach TERESA JADE LEYUNG empowers her clients to identify their core themes in their manuscripts and career mapping.

TERESA JADE LEYUNG (formerly Teresa LeYung-Ryan) is the author of:

Love Made Of Heart

Build Your Writer’s Platform & Fanbase In 22 Days: Attract Agents, Editors, Publishers, Readers, and Media Attention NOW

Talking to My Dead Mom monologues






December 1, 2008

by Teresa LeYung Ryan

I was eight years old when my parents, my siblings and I came to the United States. An older cousin (who was born in California) gave me a picture-dictionary. “A” for apple, “B” for bus, “C” for cat, etc. I learned those words by listening to my cousin enunciate them. My first day of school (third grade in San Francisco) was a memorable experience. I was too scared to say anything, so, the other children laughed at me. Their laughter compelled me to learn English with urgency. By the time I entered fourth grade, the teacher couldn’t tell that I was a new immigrant.

However, mastering the language wasn’t that easy. My first language is Cantonese; there are no verb tenses in the Chinese language. In Chinese, we would say: I eat today; I eat yesterday; I eat tomorrow. In English: I eat today; I ate yesterday; I will eat tomorrow. Also, I had to remember to add “s” after the verb when the verb is used with third-person singular: He/She eats today; he/she ate yesterday; he/she will eat tomorrow.

And, the English language has many idioms. Idioms are common phrases that usually do not make sense when you translate the strong of words. Examples: “Keep an eye out” which means “watch for …” (I thought it was “keep both eyes out” and my friends would laugh); “Hold your horses” which means “be patient” (not “hold on to your horses” which invited more laughs.) is a useful website to learn English idioms. Be careful though; using idioms with someone who is not familiar with idioms could create misunderstandings. I’ve been speaking English for over forty years and sometimes I still have to ask: “What do you mean?”

My biggest advice to ESL students:

  • Connect with nature. Even if you and I don’t speak the same language, we have something in common–we appreciate the gifts from nature. So, go for a walk in the park/on a trail, visit a garden, sit near the ocean or under a tree; there’s something for everyone.
  • Watch DVDs and turn on the subtitle feature (choose English of course) so that you can see the spelling of words while listening to them.

I welcome your advice to fellow ESL students. Please post your comments on this blog. Thank you.

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