3）The Mom and Her Boy
The next day of our visit with Betty, we dropped in early. Ted stood by the window and took a comb to help Betty with her hair. The morning sun peered through the window and showered them with soft sunshine. It was the first time that I watched the mom and son together. Ted gently combed Betty’s grey hair as if he wanted to make each thread of her hair at right place and not to break it. Betty looked up at her son with such fondness and gratification. Her grey hair, like those in her photos, was still full shock and fashionably accompanying her gracious smile.
Later, Ted found a private caregiver, Ruth, to give Betty massages and check on her from time to time.
To get my mother’s understanding and permission to marry, Ted and I took time to write her a long, long letter. It took us a couple of months to complete, hand-written on a nice piece of paper and translated into Chinese. Still, my mother was not assured nor satisfied. Perhaps all mothers would be so reluctant to let their daughters go. Or, perhaps Ted was a foreigner who she had not met yet. Was he the right person to take my hands?
If somebody could do this to his mother, do I still have any doubt?
4) Uncle Dave – Memory and Heart
"How’s Dave?" This is the question Betty would repeat from time to time, sometimes every ten minutes. Uncle Dave was her brother-in-law who took care of her and her mom after Betty lost her father and elder brother at a young age. I believe he cared her like her father and brother. Uncle Dave was a district Judge in Detroit, a happy one performing marriages. When Ted asked him to marry us in 2003, he humorously replied to do that he would have to renew his license as it had already been expired some 20 years ago. He was then in his late 90’s.
When we visited him before his 100th birthday, he recounted stories of a happy judge. For instance, how he married a couple of different nationalities over a bridge connecting Canada and the US. When he treated us a nice meal in a restaurant, he insisted to pay. He surprised me by pulling out a money clipper from his pocket. All cash, no credit cards.
It was Christmas Day, and another visit with Betty. She asked about Dave again. At that time Ted already had a Motorola cell phone. So, he demonstrated his new toy to Betty, which was a brand new type of telephone device. He then connected her to Uncle Dave. The two talked over the phone for quite a while as they had not met nor spoken for a long time. She looked to be quite happy and enjoyed the talk very much.
One day, the bad news came. Uncle Dave passed away before his 102nd birthday. As his long- time companion and court assistant told Ted, "Your uncle lost his desire to go on." Indeed, people who he loved and knew had long gone. And his body failed him even though his mind and memory was ever as sharp as before.
When Betty asked about Uncle Dave again, Ted said straight: "Mom, Uncle Dave has passed away." Her face saddened, and she never asked about him again. I guess that beyond memories there is heart that carries the feelings.