On the afternoon before the 70th anniversary party for Herman’s mother and father, I sat down with my father-in-law for a chat. Since he is hard of hearing, he spoke while I responded by writing on a notepad. It was the longest exchange we’ve had in the twenty-four years I’ve know him. It was the first time he’d ever asked about my life, and he seemed quite surprised by my answers. For instance, he is an avid reader and he was surprised to discover I’ve published nine books.
During this conversation, I found it strange that he knew so little about me. I would have thought the rest of the family, Herman’s brothers and sisters, would have given him my details. But no, he seemed to know almost nothing about me.
Then he asked if I planned to ever get married and have a family. That’s when my jaw dropped nearly to the floor, because it was painfully obvious that he was talking about my marrying a woman.
I wrote on the notepad: “Herman and I have been living together for twenty-four years. We have been legally married for ten years.”
He read my response and grew very still, not saying anything for two or three minutes. I’ve never seen him look so sad. But then he waved a hand in the air to dismiss the whole subject and said, “I don’t care what you people do with your lives. I just want you to be happy.” I told him we are very happy, but that didn’t make him look any less sad.
Now I’m wondering if he is suffering from dementia. I don’t know how else to explain it. I mean, I’ve attended every family event and every holiday and anniversary for twenty-four years. How could he not know Herman and I are married? Everyone else in the family knows. Why not Mr. Chin?
I found myself feeling very sorry for the old man.