It’s been a while since I last went back to my hometown, which is probably a good idea that I have planned a trip to visit my parents. Recently I’ve always been hesitant to tell them about my visits. If the past is any indication, they would be waiting for me at their door from dawn to dusk if they knew which day I would be visiting and open the car door for me as soon as I arrived. So, I decided to give them a surprise this year instead!
Once I got off the flight and onto the shuttle, I called my sister. My call was received by her excited voice, informing me of her insistence to pick me up at the station. About half an hour later, I saw my sister’s car coming. What surprised me was that my hemiplegia father and my mother who was recovering from surgery came along with her. They apparently missed me too much and could not wait to see me any second later, a gesture that drove me to tears.
My parents had been married for half a century after weathering many storms together. They held each other’s hands steadfast through highs and lows. Especially in the recent years, my father fell twice and had surgery for cerebral hemorrhage. Soon after, my mother exhausted herself taking care of him, ended up with her own surgery for cerebral hemorrhage. Though each of them had their one foot in the grave, their near-death experience only made them cherish each other more.
One can say their personalities are at the opposite ends of every spectrum. My father is calm and reserved, careful in his conducts—a learned gentleman. My mother, on the other hand, is passionate and bold, rough around the edges, free in her spirit, and not overly concerned with formalities. Father has a great memory, whereas mother… not so much. They are very much two completely different persons! How can such a pair of distinctly different people spend half a century together, not only amicably, but also with so much love and affection? What are their secrets?
One glorious morning in southern Taiwan, I was woken by the gentle sunshine. Upon descending the stairs, I noticed that my parents had already been near the door, their hands held tight, eyes closed under the sweet rays of sun, apparently sunbathing. The golden sunlight poured generously on their silver temples and wrinkled countenances, reflecting an abundance of happiness. It was then time ceased to march and afforded us a moment of eternity. How delicate it was that I dared not disturb! Not before I made sure they had enjoyed a full while of happiness till they opened their eyes, had I approached them as my mother stretched her body and pushed father’s wheelchair inside. I knelt before him to start massaging his feet, and asked, “How do you two enjoy such a loving relationship? Is there any secret that you can teach me?” To that, my father replied with a slight embarrassment, “What secrets?!” Mom also blushed, “I hardly have any idea what you are talking about!” I found their humility and shyness all the more adorable.
Indeed, nothing else could be said about them other than a very ordinary couple. To many, their lives may as well seem uninteresting, yet I have observed some interesting secrets from their 52 years of “humdrum” marriage that are quite worth sharing with everyone.
During their fifty something years of marriage, they almost never spoke ill to each other. In all my memory, they have always honored each other. Ever since I was little, we must always wait at the dinner table for my father to be seated and eating before we could eat. Sometimes my dad needed to work
overtime and came home late. Naturally, the children were hungry and pleading to eat, to which my mom always replied, “Your father is working very hard right now and must also be very hungry, so let’s wait together for a bit longer. I’m sure he will be home soon.” Then the bunch of us would run towards the gate, crowd together, and hope earnestly for dad to come back quickly. Once we saw him, we swarmed him towards the table without delay, because all of us were starving by that point. That was the routine, internalized in all our minds since our childhood, to teach us to respect and honor our father, even till this day. Meanwhile, my father never treated my mother with contempt, despite her mistakes, forgetfulness, or delay, even for the most important things… Mom is also hard of hearing and often has trouble hearing many things clearly. Words often need to be repeated multiple times to be understood by her. Nevertheless, he has never despised or disregarded her. Their mutual respect creates an atmosphere of harmony and honor and a perfect example for the children to learn.
2、Turning a Deaf Ear
Exactly because of her hearing issue, my mother quite literally turned a deaf ear towards my father’s occasional complaint or displeasure. As a result, she was never quick to be hurt or offended. If you think about it, shouldn’t that be part of an exemplary marriage in the first place? We too often find ourselves stuck in the merciless pursuit of the other’s lack of judgement or rash choice of words, which in turn leads us deeper and deeper into a downward spiral of anger, resentfulness, and negativity. Such is the nature of negative emotions, as a popular saying goes, “There is no kind word during a fight.” Once our anger breaks out, we can hardly control our tongue. The more ill, harsh, and hurtful the words, the more exhilarating they are to be spoken. Little did we know then, uttered words could never be summoned back and a knife would surely demand its scars! Therefore, we will all be best served to “turn a deaf ear” knowing a word to be born of anger. Ignore the other’s offence rather than retaliating in anger. Deflect a thousand pounds with your four ounces by leaving the scene of contention for a breath of fresh air. Let the harsh, angry, and hurtful words enter through your one ear and exit the other. Find a better time with a better temper to talk the rest of it out.
It’s not always a terrible thing to have a hard hearing. If someone has a hard time controlling his or her words, then put a filter on each of our ears! Let us amplify the good words that have been spoken and diminish the bad ones at the same time.
Everyone has strengths as well as weaknesses. Do not expect others to change for you will always be disappointed! My father used to say, “Your mother is always like that!” or “That’s your mom!” He always leaves room for my mother to be angry or even unreasonable, yet still accepts her and loves her none the less. When my father woke up from his surgery for cerebral hemorrhage, the nurse asked him a few questions to test his lucidity, such as his name and the names of his family in the room. What amazed me was that he wasn’t entirely certain or accurate with our names or even his own, but as he saw my mother, he yelled at the top of his lung, “That’s the love of my heart!” You could understand the astonishment of everyone in that room! We never imagined him being so romantic with no regard to how others thought of him. In his less than lucid moment, he still clearly remembered the love of his heart! True love is complete acceptance, to the bones. Even in the midst of the fog of mind, the subconscious acknowledges and accepts.
She (or he) may not be a perfect companion, but can always be your perfectly suited companion, for God has so designed. You two are indeed different in that you have what she or he does not and she or he has what you do not. Do not impose your wish on others; impose hard work on yourself! Make careful choices before marriage; and once the marriage is sealed, make every effort to protect that precious marriage. Always honor, turn a deaf hear, and accept completely! May all the married couples kindle the love treasured in their hands held tight.