I’ve been reading “Let Love Have The Last Word” this month and here is a paragraph about expectation:
“I think, throughout my life, I’ve had pockets where I’ve wanted the other person to elevate me, or felt as though they were going to provide a kind of boost for me to approach my higher self. I think, why wouldn’t love elevate m? But it’s not fair to my partner to assign such responsibility to them; to a degree, a relationship should always elevate both people involved; you want to feel as though there is some obvious, tangible improvement to your emotional well-being from actively building a relationship with this partner. But a higher self? That’s God’s work.”Common
There are a lot of expectations and disappointments when love and relationship are involved. In the good old days when my grandma and my grandpa started their family, duties were clearly defined, boundaries were set in non-changeable customs, and hierarchy is reinforced by gestures and greetings every day. Expectations between the two life partners are already mapped out by the society. Life was so easy and lay back, and suffocating too if you didn’t like the map given to you.
Then came the generation of my parents, for whom things started to become confusing. My mom’s lover disappeared when she tried to nag him about marriage; my dad was heartbroken by a girl who rejected him. My parents licked their wounds together and the next thing they knew they got married. By the way, my parents didn’t tell me this, but when I was young we lived in the close quarter of the staff housing in a provincial university where my mother worked. Everybody knew everybody, including family histories. I heard stories just by eavesdropping on adults’ conversations.
My parents’ lifelong tug of war on expectation started when I was born. It’s obvious my mom expected my dad to help, but my dad was no help. He couldn’t see the reason for him to do housework since his father and his mother had six kids without his father lifting a finger at home. However my father was a lay back guy and didn’t want to argue with my mom. So he got himself transferred to the farthest coal mine–40 kilometers away from the rural city we lived in–so that he could only come home once a week. In those days transportation was not as readily available as nowadays.
My mother, as a new woman and a career woman, was not going to be defeated by such an antic or discouraged by such an obvious affront. Reforming my father became her lifetime mission and obsession. The first step of reform–getting my father transferred back. She wrote letters to my father’s work unit’s HR department, she called various places, she made friends through the wives of people who could have a say on this issue. Finally, after ten years’ of relentless campaign, my father was transferred to the coal mine headquarter located only three kilometers away–there’s no excuse for my father not to come home every day anymore.
However my mother’s victory was short lived. In the headquarter of the coal mine, there were a lot of chances for people to go on business trips, especially for my father who got himself into the training department. There were all kinds of training happening all over the province and in adjacent provinces too. My father booked his trips so that he could be absent from home most of the time.
I’ve always thought that my father is of Mongolian descent and his nomadic instinct is always there. Just leave him alone and let the man be free. However I never dared to mention my thought to my mother. I knew she refused to suffer quietly in her disappointment. She did everything to reform him, but to no avail. What’s worse was that the tug of war created a lot of animosities and distrust. The distrust came when everything she said seemed to have a hidden purpose of pushing him to do housework, and every sound she uttered seemed to have a hint of disapproval. I have to say I admire my mother’s tenacity–battle fatigue is not a phrase in her dictionary. Divorce was not an option for her and she fought to the bitter end. I don’t think I have any of her tenacity. I am quite like my father, but my nomadic instinct is only applied on Internet where I travel vicariously to exotic locations through other people’s posts.
Other stories of my parents and my grandparents can be found here:
An Awkward Picture: An unwilling painter and the painting he painted.
A Mini Love Story: This is the story of my cousin on my father’s side.
My Mischievous Great Aunt: My great aunt on my father’s side is a mischievous woman, whom my father often talked to me about. He tried to warn me against becoming a woman just like her.