Monday, March 5, 2012

Meeting the Man

Minxi's two oldest brothers have a house building business and pretty much the nicest houses in town.

Minxi's2nd Brother's House

They are side by side, three story tall, white tile jobs.  Although I was there in the cool of February, the main concern is shedding heat.  There are no carpets and high ceilings.  The hallways and stairwells echo with voices from the kitchen or front room.

We were greeted by Minxi's eldest brother, a hansom man of maybe 50 years.  He had short hair and face that smiled easily.  "Ni hao."  I said, "wo jiao xiao gou gou."  'Hello, my name is small lap dog.'  

He and, everyone else on the street, laughed.  I knew that Minxi and her father called me Xiao gou gou.  It's sort of a joke since, at 6'1," I'm really way to big to be anyone's lapdog.

Minxi and I were shown to straight to Ba ba's room.  I can see it so clearly.  It was a large room 12' X 12' maybe, with white and green morning light pouring in a window.  Ba ba was there sitting on a wide bed.  He rose to greet me and offered me a cigarette, the customary greeting apparently.  We both agreed that we didn't smoke and I sat on the bed with him.  Minxi joined us from a rough wooden chair by the bed.

The morning was still cool and the tile walls were wet with dew.  Ba ba's breath steamed in the light from the window as we spoke.

"I speak English slowly."  He said.  "Because I taught English twenty-eight years ago."  He paused.  "Also my hearing is falling."   I understood.  At 83 he was afraid that his memory of English would not be too good.  Also, he was partly deaf.

I was in a wonderland.  This man, who survived wars, and revolutions, raised a child alone, and was the elder of his family, was spending time to talk to me.  The conversation didn't matter much.  He couldn't hear me and nodded when Minxi translated for me.  What mattered was that I had come home.  To a new home, a new family, a new way of life.  

My father wasn't a bad man, just hopelessly, destructively self-indulgent, far more interested in telling you what a great man he was than in showing any kind of restraint or nobility.  Ba ba is the opposite, having survived an incredibly hard life, he wanted to sit in his house and tell me about his son's garden out the window, about rain and the dangers of cold water.  He was in charge of the family no doubt.  He never asked me what I wanted to do.  He would say, "come sit in the living room now."  or "Now it is time to eat."  But this wasn't ego.  He wasn't proud of his ability to order people about.  he was proud of his children and grandchildren and he liked to sit in the sun.

We only talked a little about Minxi and my's wedding plans.  He didn't really understand what it would take to get her to the US.  He only wanted to take a look at me make sure I was okay.

We passed some marker I couldn't see.  He said, "Okay.  Now you go to take shower and then sleep.  Later we eat."  The 'we eat' meant that he was going to summon this male members of the family together to meet me.  I had been accepted.  I was now a member of Minxi's family.  In many ways this was the moment that Minxi and I were married.

The shower exploded, but that's a story for another blog.  Here's today's story:

It took three airplanes, four buses, one subway, one taxi, and a motorcycle to get this shot. I'm about 7,700 miles from home.  Was it worth it?  Oh hell yes.  I'm a member of that man's family now, and the very tired looking girl is my wife.  What a great life I'm having.


Carl said...

Aw... shucks, that's awesome.

Joel Stottlemire said...

Yeah. It was the high point of the whole year pretty much. Thanks, Carl.