So Lia assumed a place in the family that, if possible, was even more regal. She was constantly smothered with love, and she was the only Lee child who had birthday parties. At her party, they served Hmong egg rolls, steamed bananas, sacrificed chickens, and Doritos. She was still a beautiful child. She was kept perfectly clean and her was shampooed, and kept shiny. She always smelled delicious, because her parents treated her like a winsome baby. She was cuddled, stroked, rocked and bounced, sung to, and played with. Even the children loved her, giving her bear hugs and once her older and young sisters piling on her in a heap on the floor to make her part of their game. Her mother also continuously put her limbs through the range-of-motion exercises.
Sometimes the author thought that this was not so terrible for Lia. She lived at home, not in a chronic care facility, and she was a love object, not a pariah. Her teenage siblings never seemed embarrassed by her as American children might. But whenever she was lulled by this relatively rosy picture, she would be drawn up short by Mao Kao’s explosion of rage against the doctors or more frequently, Foua’s seepage of grief. She sometimes felt she did nothing but care for Lia and that she didn’t know anything except being alive. She would cry and say that she loved Lia too much. A half-finished bottle of Depakene syrup continued to sit on Foua’s kitchen shelf for years, not to be used, but because at one time the American doctors had considered it priceless, and discarding would have been like tossing out a pile of foreign coins that were no longer negotiable but had not altogether shed their aura of value. They also brought in a shaman twice a year to perform a pig sacrifice over Lia and the child wore soul-binding strings around the wrists.
Once a year, the Lees would bring Lia back to the clinic at MCMC for a check-up. When they would miss an appointment, the compute would spit out a letter addressed to Lia telling her that she had not come to the clinic, and she needed to call to set up another appointment. Of course, Lia never called. Eventually, Lia was turned over to the services of a public health nurse named Martin Kilgore. He made house calls, and, because he was a champion of liberal causes including the Hmong, he thought that when he came to the home of the Lees, he would be accepted and that the questions he asked would be answered. He compared the relationship between the Lees and the medical providers to the myth of Sisyphus, the Corinthian king who attempted to cheat death by placing him in fetters. He was condemned by the gods to roll a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down after he got it to the top. Unfortunately, to the Lees, he fit into the mold as well. He was overly concerned by how they treated Lia’s constipation. They preferred to give the little girl laxatives, but Martin told them it would better to give them Metamucil or prune juice. Nao Kao and Foua just stared at him. For four years, they had been told to give Lia medicine they didn’t want to give her. Now, they were being told not to give her medicine that they did want to give her. The two of them seemed to have entered a vegetative state themselves when it came to Martin. The author couldn’t figure out what came over them. It occurred to her that these were the people that Peggy and Neil had been dealing with for years. No wonder everyone but Jeanine thought they were impenetrable and stupid. It was as if, by a process of reverse alchemy, each party in this doomed relationship had managed to convert the other’s gold into dross. them seemed to have entered a vegetative state themselves when it came to Martin. The author couldn’t figure out what came over them. It occurred to her that these were the people that Peggy and Neil had been dealing with for years. No wonder everyone but Jeanine thought they were impenetrable and stupid. It was as if, by a process of reverse alchemy, each party in this doomed relationship had managed to convert the other’s gold into dross. Martine couldn’t figure out why the meeting with the Lees had gone so bad? He tried so hard to be courteous and respectful. He said that he gave them his full shot and did the best he could. He likened Lia to a character in a Greek tragedy.
The title of the chapter is so applicable, because it shows how little Lia, who has lost her soul, had a life that is mostly good, because she is loved and cared for, even though she is unaware of anything around her. And yet, she is a child who had so much potential and because of two cultures that both seemed unwilling to understand the other, became a lost child.