Subtitle: Choose: Mother or Wife!


It’s Christmas time, and I have to make a hard choice. Either I will spend my time in cold impersonal hospitals in China and watch doctors stab my wife with needles, or I will jump on a plane and visit my mother.

I made two or three vows in my life and I am about to break one of them.

This will soon be offered as an audio book.

Chapter 1 – Marriage — idealism versus reality

Before I got married, I wanted things to be perfect for the one person on planet Earth I love most, but my life wasn’t in order the way I wanted it to be when we got married. In fact, things were pretty far from perfect. When I was young, I had my dreams and expectations of what being the perfect husband meant.

After I married Gigi, something wonderful happened as the months passed. I became more and more appreciative. I was lucky, really lucky. It may sound silly, but I’m being honest. Coming home to my wife is the thing that makes life so much more meaningful.

Without question, my life is much more wonderful since I married. People today seem afraid of commitments like marriage, yet for me it has been life giving.

I walked into my home and shut the door. A second or two later, I heard her say “hello.” I smiled. She was in the other room, walking my way. As I heard her walk towards the door to greet me, my eyes watered.

As she turned the corner, she looked at me to give me a hug and a kiss. After we embraced, I looked at her and smiled. I thought to myself :

I’m home

I felt a little embarrassed because my eyes watered and she saw it, so she asked an unnecessary question.

“Why crying?”

Gigi is Chinese, so she often forgets to add verbs and other parts of speech when she speaks English. This adds humor to daily life, and especially to endearing moments like this one.

One of my favorite sentences that she used to say was “Can eat restaurant.” In other words, “Let’s eat at the restaurant.”

My mind drifted back to her questions.

“Why crying?”

I used my hand to wave-off her silly question because she knew why I had watery-eyes.

“I’m home. You’re my wife. Nothing is wrong. Everything is good.”

“You crying too easy.”

I am more emotional than her. Most of my Chinese friends do not show their emotions as often as my western friends, so this isn’t surprising. I think she is getting used to it, but she still makes comments. In our home, we call this our role-reversal. I like it this way.

I noticed a new behavior in myself soon after we got married. When I arrived home, these feelings came over me more and more, and I bathed in them. Whether she was there physically or not, she was still there. This is still true today, years later. Having her in my life makes our house a home.

Chapter 2 — Vows And The Confusion They Bring

I did not want to rush into marriage because I had seen so many unhappy marriages. After all, more than half of the people I know, including relatives, had either been divorced or the marriages were admittedly nothing to brag about. Statistically, the odds of me having a successful marriage were not high. However, since I could not imagine life without her, I knew marriage was the best choice for us.

However, on some occasions, life brings a little drama to remind me of how important she is to me. And this is what this story is about.

An event happened that I will never forget. We were in China, preparing for a trip to America to celebrate Christmas. Because of scheduling conflicts, I had not celebrated Christmas in America the year before, so I made a promise to myself that “nothing” would stop me from making this trip. Nothing. I called it the vow.

A few days after I had purchased my plane ticket, Gigi got sick. Her sickness wasn’t life threatening, but it required her to go to the hospital for daily treatments. According to the doctor, the time period for the treatments would take more than one month.

I had a problem: My mind was set on leaving, knowing Gigi’s friends and family would be happy to help her. But my heart was set on staying.

The date of departure was about one week away. As it got closer, I got very worried because I did not see her condition improve. The struggle between my heart and my mind turned into panic attacks. She was struggling with a facial muscle condition called Bell’s Palsy. This condition affects facial muscles, so the person is not able to smile using both sides of their face.

The most important person in the world to me was suffering and needed me. Why did I feel so conflicted? Because sometimes we get conflicted in the midst of easy choices.

The term I use to describe this is acting stupidly.

Chapter 3 — Watching the Blood Squirt

When she first got sick, I asked her if she wanted me to stay, fully expecting her to say, “Yes.“ Her response surprised me. She made a fuss that I was making a fuss. She seemed emphatic about me leaving.

“Go America. See mom. I good.”

I wasn’t happy with her response but I didn’t feel like arguing. I also didn’t want her to yell at me for cancelling the plane ticket because it was expensive.

As I went with her to the hospital each day, my feelings about her being alone bothered me more and more. And I know why. Her treatment included acupuncture.

On one particular occasion, we went together to the hospital, and I watched the doctor stab her face, arms, and hands with a sharp, long needle. Although the treatments lasted less than one minute, it looked painful.

Just before the doctor started, I gave myself a pep talk: “Now don’t flinch when you see that needle go into her face and bend. Keep cool.” The pep talk didn’t help. I flinched and felt shivers run through my body.

You could say this was a special occasion because I was within a few feet of her. Normally, I either waited from across the room or in another room. Where I waited often depended on how many patients were in the room.

I am not using the words stab or needle bend to be dramatic or hyperbolic. Years before, I used acupuncture for neck pain, but my experience was different. The doctor placed many needles on my arms, legs, and head. Each time he placed a needle, he watched to see my response. He was careful and I was comfortable. My treatment took about 30 minutes. I was so relaxed during the treatment that I forgot I had needles sticking out of different parts of my body.

This was different.

The doctor did not carefully and slowly tap the needle into her face and hands. Instead, he raised his arm like he was in a horror movie and stabbed several times, quickly enough to cause a squirting affect. The needle bent from the resistance because the facial muscles pushed back. I guess this was how he knew he had gone deep enough!

I am not questioning the doctor’s methods, for he is a famous and well respected doctor. Instead, I am merely describing what I saw and how it made me feel.

When the doctor finished the treatment, the blood slowly trickled down her face and hands. I remember shaking myself out of my trance as I watched the stream of blood making its way down to her chin.

When the doctor stepped away to attend to the next patient, I gazed at her, waiting for a cue to start my duties. Probably still in a trance, she looked at me and then paused for a long moment. My guess is she was waiting for the pain to pass. Finally, she motioned me to come closer. I had a tissue in my hand and a few in my pocket, so I used them to clean off the blood from her hands and face.

As was common, when she finished her treatments, she could not grip her purse with her swollen hands, and she had a difficult time putting her coat on. She didn’t smile too often because it reminded her of her condition.

Chapter 4 — Acting Stupidly.

Christmas was coming soon. I had bought the plane ticket and made a vow. I didn’t want to be in a cold impersonal hospital watching the woman I love suffer from her disease and the treatments she was enduring.

As we walked out of the treatment room, I noticed a small amount of blood had smeared and dried near her chin. As I leaned closer to wipe it off, I wondered, how painful is it? I shook my body trying to divert my attention back to her. It worked, but I still asked a stupid question.

“Hon, how much does it hurt and for how long?”

Her response was predictable.

“Pain over — leaving.”

If she was a native English speaker, she probably would have said, “I’m not in pain anymore, so it’s time for us to leave.”

In order to better grasp what was happening, let’s do a question Chinese lesson.

First, she probably thought, “Bu tong le.” The word “bu” means “no”, the word “tong” means “pain” and the word “le” means finished or complete.

Next, she probably thought “chu fa.” This means “leave.” However, she loves adding “ing” to English words, so she said “leaving.”

As stated above, the words she spoke were, “Pain over—leaving.”

When I speak, I translate from English to Chinese, so I rarely speak without a pronoun. Had I spoken, I would have said, “Xian zai, wo-men chu fa.” A loose translation is “Now, we leave.” The Chinese word “wo-men ” means “we.” Honesty, I cannot think without pronouns.

Now, you know a little Chinese, so back to the hospital.

I was happy to be with her. The swelling had already begun to decrease, so I knew she would be comfortable again to enjoy a small meal within 30 minutes. In this case, we had planned a late dinner of soup with vegetables and noodles.

I had several jobs during our hospital visits, including carrying her purse on the way in and on the way out of the hospital, wiping the blood away after the treatment, and helping her put her coat on.

As we left the hospital that night, I knew where I wanted to be for Christmas.

I had made a vow and after that visit, I was ready to break it.

Chapter 5 — Back Home and Feeling Terrible

A couple weeks had passed and I had made trips with her every day. This meant the date of departure was coming soon. Only one big question was on my mind.

“Should I stay or should I go?”

As I sat in my chair in the kitchen, I knew I would not be able to sleep until I made a final choice about how I was going to spend Christmas. All I thought about was how much I wanted to be with her during this time, so I stood up and marched into the bedroom where she lay on the mattress. I was a bit dramatic as I stomped into the room because I wanted to startle her. She looked up at me, probably knowing what was coming. We made eye contact and I gave my memorized speech.

“I’m not traveling for the holidays. I’m staying with you.”

“. . . plane expensive. Mom want see you. (I) can get help from colleagues and mama and baba —“

I was relieved because as she spoke, there was no fight in her voice. Her tone was passive, like a boring speech.

I interrupted.

“I don’t care. I want to be with you. I love you, and I want to spend the holiday with you.”

She didn’t yell at me or tell me that I was making the wrong choice like she had a week before. Instead, she smiled, got out of bed, and motioned to me to come closer. I did and she gave me a hug.

“Ready.” She spoke it with command tonality “— leaving. Need go hospital.”

In the past when she asked me to correct her English grammar, I would have asked, “Who is going to the hospital?” since she had forgotten to use the pronoun ‘we.” This time I didn’t dare.

“Yes, every day. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”

Damn, was I happy! The woman I love smiled with half of her face, and that was enough for me. She didn’t yell at me for choosing to stay. That was a memorable Christmas present.

Making the right choice was easy, but I knew I had a couple of calls to make, and I had to make them soon.

Chapter 6 — Sniffle Sniffle

It was time to make another call. I knew mom would understand but I didn’t want to get emotional. However, when I heard her voice, I choked up.

“um. . .hi, Mom.” sniffle sniffle

“What’s wrong?”

“Gigi. She’s sick.”

I wanted to give a lot of details; instead the words were few.

“Her facial muscles aren’t working quite right. It’s affecting her smile, and I need to be with her because she must go to hospital every day for treatments. We don’t know how many days or weeks it’ll take . . .”

The call ended soon after. The call lasted long enough for mom to re-assure me she would update the others.

Audio version coming soon.