Disclaimer: This blog post reflects the author’s present recollection over time. Characters and dialogue have been recreated and rearranged. Events have been fictionalized and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Everything must be used until it falls apart. Clothing should be worn and handed down until it became threadbare. No grain of rice should be wasted.
The man walks up to the volunteer table where we are performing free blood pressure and glucose checks. He is Asian, in his fifties or sixties, with greying hair and a smiling, weather-worn face.
As I prep his finger for the glucose stick, he tells me, “Do you want to know a secret?”
“What is it?” I ask, politely.
“I have a bad liver. My doctor gives me medication to take every day. But here’s the secret. I can make the medication last longer if I only take it when my skin is yellow. See?” He presses on his skin so that it turns pale. “That’s how I check.”
He tells me this with the confidence of a man who does not expect to be challenged. After all, I am a young Asian woman, fresh out of college. In most traditional Asian cultures, the young do not correct the elderly. I probe delicately, with deference and respect.
“Why do you want to make the medication last longer?” I ask.
“To save money, of course!” the man exclaims.
He looks at me incredulously. However, after some more questions, I find out that he is financially secure. Why then, is he concerned about money? I don’t need to ask to understand. My parents and grandparents are similar. After World War II, conflict continued in East Asia for decades. The people became frugal by necessity. When my grandfather was eighteen, he fled to Taiwan with nothing but the clothes on his back. He instilled in my father the mindset of thrift, bordering on cheapness, that everything must be used until it falls apart. Clothing should be worn and handed down until it became threadbare. No grain of rice should be wasted.
I can see that same frugality in this gentleman.
“Maybe there is a reason that the doctor wants you to take the medication every day,” I suggest as I wrap a bandaid around his finger.
“Ayy, they just want my money,” he says with a smile. Then he becomes doubtful. “And I feel fine.”
I attempt to nudge him along.
“It wouldn’t hurt to ask your doctor.”
Then I tell him that his blood glucose is normal. He smiles and shrugs and raises his eyebrows as if to say, See? Everything is fine. He thanks me. I watch him leave and hope that I had said the right things.
Today’s Daily Post Writing Prompt: Yellow