An Extraordinary Husband

This weekend was our 6th wedding anniversary. Our 12th year together. 5 years living together total before we married. I should tell you something about the Mister since I pick on him a bit in this blog.

He’s amazing. On every level, he’s handsome, hes kind, his spirit is generous and he came from the kind of poverty we don’t really understand in the US. He has defied the odds and come out successful in a way that shames me, and makes me feel like even though my upbringing was enough to bring a decent person to their knees, I don’t know anything about being alone, the way he does.

He was born in Kowloon, Hong Kong in 1962. His father was 65 when he was born. Which means his father was born in 1897. During the reign of the last Emperor. He was educated,  wore a queue, wealthy, and married several times as his wives kept dying in childbirth. During the 30’s when the Japanese invaded China, he sent his sons to the 4 proverbial corners of China, so that if one city was bombed and a son was lost, he wouldn’t lose all his children at one time. Most of them never saw each other again.

By the time my husband was born his fathers wealth was long gone. His father was punished for his education. His children were punished for being doctors and lawyers, artists and thinkers. Most of them were executed during the cultural revolution. His father escaped to Hong Kong, continued to try to work but was over 60 and considered an old man of little value. I’m not sure who his mother was, I’m not sure he knows either, however I can say that he identifies as completely Chinese, and gets upset when you being up that he is 50% Japanese.

They lived in an area of Kowloon that’s since been demolished. It was called the Walled City. There is a book about its horrible conditions, its poor lighting and the fact that it was built around a temple in the center, where people threw their waste, their trash and their leftovers. The smell had to have been suffocating in the Hong Kong heat.They lived in an 8 by 8 room, with 2 walls walled off with curtains, a shared kitchen and a bathroom shared by the entire floor. Theirs had a window, which meant they got at least a little fresh air. He didn’t have a crib, only a mahjong table turned upside down to make a playpen for him.

As he grew older and attended school they had money for congee or rice porridge, but could afford meat only 3 or 4 times a year. There is only one photograph taken of my husband as a child. It sits on our living room mantlepiece, showing him in all his fat legged glory as a toddler, maybe 4 years old with one leg eating his shorts and a really happy look on his face.

He spent his youth being afraid of clocks, clocks that would foretell his fathers passing and what would happen to him then, clocks that would chime death and bring an uncertain future to a smart, talented boy who loved his father so much. Clocks that indicated the closeness of the Cultural Revolution and how he would never ever have a family again. Time made him afraid.

At some point it was decided that he would be sent back and forth between the US and Hong Kong because his father was aging, and didn’t know how much longer he would be able to take care of a young and growing boy.  He tolerated it, until the day came when he had been sent to the US and his birth mother told him ” I don’t love you, I never wanted you, I have my family now, and you will never be part of it”

He was 12. He ran away. His mother lived in Beverly Hills with her new husband and family but he took a bus to Pasadena, lived under a bridge near Echo Park, where he was going to school, and stole for food. He lived like this for several months, never missing a single day of school. He would be so ashamed if he knew I was writing this.

Eventually his fathers 4th wife heard about it. She never bothered to divorce him she just emigrated to America with her daughter and started over. But she heard, and she went searching. Over time she found him, and raised him as her own son.

They were so fucking poor. Even as a child he worked in the sweatshop until midnight, and then the days would begin again with him getting dropped off a few miles from school, and then going to the sweatshop after.No time for projects, for the AP classes he was assigned to, no help with homework, and no help in the general idea that education was beneficial. They believed his best use was at the sweatshop, making clothes along with them. No better no worse.

to be cont.

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2 comments on “An Extraordinary Husband

  1. Daryl says:

    Happy anniversary! This is an amazing story (so far). Can’t wait to read the rest!

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