Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Pre-destined relationship

My friend sent this essay to me through the internet. I took many hours to 0-=gtvbhjyc2wsauk2 ui - I have to mark at this point no matter how inappropriate it is, that I spilled half of my cup of coffee onto the keyboard of my notebook. I was upset for a while but then life goes on. I turned the notebook upside down, cleaned up the mess on the table and the floor and just moved on with my life.

The notebook was fated to survive the ordeal and it is now my time to upload what I have been labouring for hours over to make sense of this article that was sent to me in Mandarin. I am now able to appreciate the full article only because made the effort to do so using the Chinese peraperakun software downloaded free from Firefox and consulting my electronic dictionary to ensure that the English translation that I made captures the essence of each sentence and paragraph. It was hard work but worth the effort. My next post will be my thoughts and reflections on the contents of this essay, hopefully I can write about them in Mandarin.

~ 父母子女的缘份 ~ Parents and Children - It is Fate

二十年前,我的叁个孩子长大了,一个一个相继离家,本来就聚少离多的我们 ,整个家空洞的....连唿吸都听得到。

Twenty years ago, my three grown-up sons started to leave home one by one even when we hardly saw much of each other when we were together. An emptiness filled the entire house and even our very breathing could be heard through the silence.

我无意中看到一个外国妇女写的文章 ,把其中片段摘录护贝后 ,当我寂寞或孤独时就再看一遍...
By chance, I came across an article written by a foreign lady. I extracted a particular portion of that article and I would read it whenever I feel lonely or want to be alone.

你的孩子并不属于你 ,
Your child does not belong to you.

They are an extension of life.

They may have owed their existence to you but they do not owe you a living. You can give them love but you cannot dictate their thinking because they have minds of their own.

你可以给孩子一个家, 但这不是他心灵的住所,因为他们的心早已飞到他明天的家,
You can give your children a home but this home is not the dwelling that they want in their hearts because their hearts have long flown away to a future that is their home.

You can love them with all your might but you cannot ask or beg them to love you in return.

龙应台最出了一本 "目送" 文字优美洗炼,内容深刻感人, 真诚推荐,感动心灵! 算是一本 "感,"
Recently, author Long Ying Tai published a new book titled "Watching a loved one leave". It was beautifully and succinctly written. I sincerely recommend it as one of the most touching and witty piece of work ever written.

目送 (Watching a loved one leave)

There are some roads that only one person can travel on. I am slowly but surely coming to realise this.

所谓父子女、母子女一场, 只不过意味着, 你和他的缘分就是今生今世, 不断地在目送他的背影渐行渐远。

The parent-child relationship just means that it is fate that has brought both of you together for this particular lifetime and the relationship entails continual episodes of watching them leave as you gaze intensely at their receding backs.

华安上小学第一天,我和他手牵着手, 穿过好几条街,到维多利亚小学。
On Hua An's first day of school I held his hand as we weaved through the street to Victoria Primary school.

At the beginning of September, the apple and pear trees of every household were full of fruits the size of a small fist.

The branches of the trees were so heavily laden with fruits that they were bent over the hedges, touching the heads of passers-by.

Many children and their parents were at the playground waiting for the first bell to sound the commencement of class. Hands held by their mother or father, they wore nervous expressions as they surveyed their surroundings.

幼稚园 毕业生,但是他们还不知道一个定律:一件事情的毕业,永远是另一件事情的开启。
They were the kindergarten graduates but they were still unaware of a rule: The end of something, such as a graduation, is always the beginning of another.

When the bell rang, there was chaos as people hurried off in different directions.

But in the middle of this messy situation, I was able to clearly see the back of my son as if I were amongst a hundred crying infants and yet I was able to pinpoint exactly where my son's crying was coming from.

Hua An, carrying a multi-coloured school bag was walking forward but kept turning his head back as if moving through a boundless river of space and time.

Our eyes met and I kept gazing at his thin frame until he disappeared behind the door.

十六岁,他到美国作交换生一年。 我送他到机场,告别时,照例拥抱,我的头只能贴到他的胸口, 好像抱住了长颈鹿的脚。他很明显地在勉强忍受母亲的深情。
At sixteen years of age, he went to the USA for a year on a Student Exchange programme. I sent him to the airport and as usual, gave him a hug. I only reached up to his chest and I must have looked like I was holding on to the leg of a giraffe. He was obviously uncomfortable at his mother's display of deep affection in public.

As he stood in the long immigration line to have his passport examined, I stood outside and watched his back as he slowly inched his way forward.

Finally, it was his turn. At the officer's window, he waited for a brief moment, collected his passport and disappeared in a flash behind a door.

I was waiting, waiting for the moment just before he disappeared for him to turn his head back to look at me. But he did not. He never did.

Now he his twenty-one years old and is attending the university that I lecture at. Although we take the same route to school, he hardly takes a lift from me.


Even if he sits in my car, he puts on his earphones to listen to his music. Sometimes I see him waiting for the bus from my office in the building opposite: A tall and thin youth with eyes that seem to be looking out at a grey ocean before him. I can only imagine how similar his inner world and mine are with the turbulent waves and hidden depths except that his world is out of bounds to me.

Shortly, the bus pulls up and blocks my view of him. After the bus leaves, there is an empty street with only a post box on it.

我慢慢、慢慢地瞭解到,所谓父女母子一场,只不过意味着,你和他的缘分就是今生今世 不断地在目送他的背影渐行渐远。你站立在小路的这一端,看着他逐渐消失在小路转弯的地方,而且,他用背影默默告诉你:不必追。

I am beginning to slowly understand that the parent-child relationship is about only this lifetime together and that you will continually be watching the back of a loved one leaving. You stand at one extreme end of the road and you watch him disappear round the turning of the road. Not only that, he uses his back view to tell you: Don't follow me.

I gradually am conscious that my loneliness and sense of desolation seems to be connected to somebody's back view.

When I completed my PhD, I returned to Taiwan. On the first day that I had to report for work at the university, my father took me there in his old and battered van that was used to transport fodder.

When we arrived, I realised that he did not drive up to the main gate of the university. Instead, he stopped at a narrow side road.

After he had unloaded my luggage, he climbed back into the van. He started his engine, wound down his window, poked his head out and said:

「女儿,爸爸觉得很对不起你,这种车子实 不是送大学教授的车。」
My daughter, I am sorry that this kind of car is not suitable transportation for a university professor.

我看着他的小货车小心地倒车,然后噗噗驶出巷口,留下一团黑烟。 直到车子转弯看不见了,我还站在那裡,一口皮箱旁。
I watched his little goods van reversed noisily out of the alley, leaving a cloud of black smoke behind. I watched until the van disappeared round a corner and I stood there, luggage by my side.

Twenty years later, I found myself visiting him at the hospital every Sunday. As I took him out for some fresh air, he sat in his wheelchair with his head hung low, almost touching his chest.

Once, he soiled his pants and while I was squatting down to clean him up with my handkerchief I dirtied my skirt with his excrement. However, I had no choice but to hurry back to Taipei to teach a class.

护接过他的轮椅,我拎起皮包,看着轮椅的背影,在自动玻璃门前稍停, 然后没入门后。我总是在暮色沉沉中奔向机场。
The nurse took over the wheelchair from me. I gingerly picked up my handbag and watched the back of the wheelchair as it stopped momentarily at the automatic glass door. I am always rushing to airports when darkness sets in.

火葬场的炉门前, 棺木是一只巨而沉重的抽屉, 缓缓往前滑行。没有想到可以站得那么近, 距离炉门也不过 五公尺 。 The coffin looked like a huge and heavy drawer slithering slowly towards the furnace door. I never thought that I could stand so close, a mere 5 metres away from the furnace door.

雨丝被风吹斜,飘进内。我掠开雨湿了前额的头髮, 深深、深深地凝望, 希望记得这最后一次的目送。我慢慢地、慢慢地瞭解到, 所谓父女母子一场,只不过意味着, 你和他的缘分就是今生今世 不断地在目送他的背影渐行渐远。
The wind blew the slanting rain in and I parted the damp hair on forehead fixing my gaze intensely one last time on this departing soul. I slowly began to understand what the parent-child relationship is all about. It is merely a predestined relationship in this lifetime where you are continually sending him off as he gradually makes his departure.

站立 小路的这一端, 看着他逐渐消失在转弯的地方, 而且, 他用背影默默告诉你:不必追。
Standing at the extreme end of the road, watching him slowly disappearing round the corner, his back telling you silently: Do not follow.

My Reflections on the essay - addressed to my children

The writer is right in saying that a parent-child relationship is the result of fate putting two people together for the duration of one lifetime. I see it this way - I am your mum and your are my child by a stroke of fate. If you had a different mum and I, a different child, it would not have made much of a difference because it is still basically parent-child relationship regardless of the composition of the people involved.

What matters, I think is not who your parent is or who my child is. To me, what matters is the quality of that relationship. The writer's own relationship with her son, when compared with her relationship with her father are literally worlds apart. While she was appreciative of her father's thoughtfulness and looked after him when he was sick and dying, the relationship with her son was less heart-warming. It is easy for a mother to be heartbroken when her son treats her like a stranger. It is equally easy for her as a daughter to look after her old man just as he had looked after her before.

Fate may have brought us together but it cannot assure us that the relationship will be a pleasant one. There will be events that fate has laid down that affects the lives of the parent and the child and these cannot be changed. However, I believe that we do have control of the kind of memories that we can create for each other during our time together. We can choose to be nicer and kinder to each other or we can choose to ignore each others' needs and existence.

Ultimately, whether the parent-child relationship turns out to be good or bad, we just have to let things be and learn how to let go when it is futile to cling on as in the case of the writer and her son. When not wanted, do not follow. In the case of the relationship with the father, the relationship was good but the "do not follow" admonishment should be heeded as well. Instead, cherish the memories of the wonderful relationship instead of wallowing in sorrow over the loss.

We watch the backs of our children and parents as they leave us at some points in our lives and they do the same - watching us disappear from their lives when fate dictates the end of the parent-child relationship. When people we love leave us under whatever circumstances, we inevitably feel the pain of losing. So watching a loved one leave knowing that he or she will not be coming back is always a painful process. "Do not follow" is a reminder to us that life goes on despite all the heartaches, worries and suffering that each and every one of us go through.

This essay had made me think more about the quality of relationships. Many times we make things worse by thinking of the negatives instead of focusing on how we are able to make the relationship a better one or trying to prevent it from deteriorating. Though I believe in fate, I also believe that we can influence our lives and those we love through our choices of words and actions and in that respect, the quality of the relationship. If we care enough, we will put in the effort. If we do not, then fate takes over completely.