Sunny, with a Chance of Travel (#303)

Many readers have requested more “when the in-laws visit” stories.

I see you, sadists.

The only good thing about my Chinese-American father-in-law’s decline was that he could no longer visit. (This is why I am not in prison.) Instead, Andy flew to Hawaii to help his mom with Jay’s care.

The one time Sunny briefly left her husband for her niece’s wedding, I told her how pleased I was that she had gotten away. (Jay was in the hospital for tests and procedures.)

“I feel terrible,” Sunny told me. “So guilty.”

“Why? You should get a chance to see your sisters and have a break. Jay’s fine, with round-the-clock care.”

“But he always said it was my job to take of him. And now I’m not.”

How was it that a man who could no longer speak was still imprisoning his wife with words?


After years of dementia, feeding tubes, and immobility, Jay died.

I asked Andy about Sunny’s plans now that she wasn’t caring for his father 24-7. “I hope she sells the house and travels.”

“She doesn’t want to sell the house. She’ll take a hit on taxes.”

“But she could buy a little condo! And not have to take care of that huge house and yard!”

Sunny did not sell the house. She merely called weekly, complaining to Andy about the neighbors and the yard.

“You know,” I told Andy, “if your mom would go on a trip with Yee-mah to Europe, she could complain about the VAT tax instead of the neighbors who don’t pick up dog poop.”

But Sunny didn’t go anywhere until Andy’s brother Denny asked her to come take care of his three kids. Both Denny and his wife worked. Normally Denny’s retired in-laws were responsible for childcare, but they were traveling back to Taiwan for a few months. Sunny would be their temporary (and free!) nanny.

When Andy gave me the news, I said, “That’s not exactly what I had in mind when I suggested your mom go travel.”

“At least it’s getting her out of the house. It’ll be a change of scenery.”

“Denny has a baby and two kids under age six. Changing diapers is literally a shit change of scenery.”

“Don’t worry, she’s planning on having a side trip while she’s on the mainland.”

“Thank God. She’s going to Vegas with her sister, right?”

“Well, she was, but Yee-mah is going to be out of town.”

“What about Sam-yee?”

“She’s in China.”

“Your sister in Iowa?”

“Too far,” Andy said, carefully NOT looking at me.

The penny dropped. Hard. “She’s coming to stay with us, isn’t she.”


“Well, Baby D will be excited to see his Nai-Nai again.”

Andy snorted. “And the hundred dollar bills she showers him with.”

“Too true. When is she coming?”

“So, well, uh…she’s going to visit us before she sees Denny. At the beginning of April.”


Andy winced and said, “Your birthday.”

“Did you TELL her it was my birthday?!”

“Yes. And she’s really pleased. She said, ‘Oh, I have never been with Autumn on her birthday! And she will be so happy that I am taking her advice and traveling!’ So, um, happy birthday, honey! I got you a visit from your mother-in-law.”


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

20 thoughts on “Sunny, with a Chance of Travel (#303)”

  1. Speechless. One thing I have concluded about Asians. Half of them had a spine of steel and half of them don’t have any spine at all! Guess you could say that about many cultures.

  2. Your FIL’s type of masculinity is oil to my vinegar. I can imagine how tricky it was to deal with him, and those who enabled him. I wonder if he realized how difficult he was?

  3. Tara got a visit from her MIL on her birthday this year. And then, as a bonus, we BOTH got a visit from her and my dad on our anniversary. Yay!

    “How was it that a man who could no longer speak was still imprisoning his wife with words?”

    I love that line…

  4. Been waiting eighteen years for even an acknowledgement of my birthday from my inlaws…guess the grass isn’t always greener?

  5. So, will we hear how the visit went? And I’m wondering how successful she was in taking care of the three kids.

  6. I’m also looking forward to reading what happened during the visit, hehe.

    In China, grandparents are always free childcare… I think they would be offended if you didn’t want them to, like you don’t trust them or something.

    1. Yeah. I’ve heard about grandparents like that.

      With Jay and Sunny that wasn’t exactly an option, which was probably a good thing. If I couldn’t trust them with my tea kettle, how could I trust them with my kid?

  7. Back and your posts are as witty and sharp as every, Autumn. Sorry to hear about the family loss. Sometimes life is hard that way. Sometimes some humour will make the day a bit better.

    I think you are right when you say men – and really any men – imprison women, children and so many others with their words. It’s such a dominating trait and some people are just happy to be obedience. In reality there is so much more standing up and being free by being your own person. Sunny sounds like the kind to lead a life to serve, taking care of others, when in reality a dose of Sunny time for herself will probably do her a lot of good.

    Like Martha I also look forward to reading about your birthday getting gatecrashed. I hope there at least was cake. Good cake.

    1. Thanks, Mabel! Nice to hear from you again.

      Sometimes people find their purpose in caring for others. That’s not always a bad thing, but the patriarchal expectation that women mainly exist to serve their husbands and their families is maddening. Especially right now, when you look at all the women dropping out of the workforce to handle childcare during the pandemic. Men aren’t doing the same–and even when both parents work, the mother handles far of the domestic load.

      Just another reason why fewer women get married and have kids. Which is very smart of them, really.

      1. That is a good point. Caring for others is a good thing but yes, patriarchal sentiments will always exist – and they always do. There are also men who prefer working in the office so as to escape what goes on at home with their partner and kids – not many bat an eyelid at that.

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