Written by Jean Lee, translated into English by Veronica Liu
I hadn’t seen Summer for a long time. I missed her and her elderly father, so I decided to email her. A few days later, she came by to visit with a basket of fruits.
Summer, “Thank you so much for your email………..”
“I haven’t seen you for a long time, how’s your father? Does he still like to read those Art of fighting fiction?” I asked.
“He has passed.” Summer started to cry.
“Oh no, when was that?”
“Last May, it was lung cancer. He didn’t suffer much.”
“Summer, if you need company or someone to talk to, I will be happy to do so,” I said.
Since I was at work, I couldn’t really talk much. I suggested meeting another time so that we could talk more freely.
The next day, Summer called and asked if I would be available after dinner for tea or for a walk. We set up a time to meet at 7 pm.
Summer came, dressed in a brown skirt and a green top. Green symbolizes growth and harmony, while brown signifies earth, stability, and endurance. She looked like she was on the right path and feeling better.
“Are you warm enough?” I asked.
Summer said, “I am fine. Last night I met with a therapist. He was very serious and his stare seems to go straight into the core of my heart and he knows everything. He asked me if my father had ever beaten my mother. I tried to look away from him but I said, ‘My father did …he did not care about my mother – he lost his mother at age 5. My mother was an only child, but he treated his children well.’ Brooke, during my parent’s 50 years of marriage, lots of things had happened. It was not my fault, nor was my place to discuss it. I never even mentioned it to my husband, and all of us siblings never talked about it either. Sometimes we would start talking about it, and then we would stop – all these emotions, love, hate, pain, and intolerance… I lost sleep last night with the therapist’s stare and his words.”
“Perhaps it is time to talk about it, so it no longer bothers you,” I said.
Then Summer said, “This morning I called my youngest sister. We talked about some old arguments between my father and mother. Then I had regrets after. I shouldn’t have brought it up and upset her.”
“How old is she?”
“In her fifties,” Summer replied.
“I think she can handle it.”
Summer continued: “A few years ago, my second sister told me what happened when she was about 10 years old. Our father was in the kitchen and he hit our mother’s head with an iron cooking spoon and there was blood on my mother’s head. My sister was so scared that she thought of killing herself, but didn’t know how to kill herself. This story made me ill for a week.”
“What kind of illness, Summer?”
“Depression,” she said.
“What happened after?”
“I just acted like nothing happened, went back to work. I bowed my head during the day so no one could see my facial expression.”
“I am so sorry, Summer. I don’t know what I can say to comfort you.”
“Thank you, Brooke! But I have to walk this path alone. Back when I was in high school, my mother had asked me to take my three younger sisters. We rented a room at a friend’s house so we could go to school. It was a six hour train ride. And when we had long weekends, I would bring my youngest sister home. I thought to myself that since she was so young, she would miss mom a lot. However, it was totally the opposite. As soon as she got on the train, she would cry and kept saying she didn’t want to go back. She only stopped when the train started to move. At that time I never asked her the reason why. But now I realized she was traumatized by what happened between our father and mother.”
“So you never asked her the reason why she cried like that?” I asked.
“No, never did,” she said.
“May be if she let it all out, she might feel better.”
“Brooke, our father has already passed away and mother is almost 90 years old. When I go visit her, I don’t want to look at her and remember the pained, sad expression look on her face. I know in her heart there must be 99% of hatred and sadness. Each time I reminded myself to be strong but seeing her aging and weathered face, I feel so sad I just wanted to get up and leave.”
At this point, Summer’s eyebrows knitted together. I could see the struggle within her.
“Summer, how about the next time when you see the therapist, let him know all these things,” I said. “He is a professional, he would know what to say and help. I don’t know what to say, I can only listen. In that era, women were prone to be yelled at or beaten up. It’s not that I don’t empathize with your mother. Nowadays, if something like that happened, women can get help and support and don’t have to suffer anymore.”