The Meeting

I was feeling pressured to find a translator for the meeting I had arranged with Shu Mei’s mother today. I had called Li Wen’s family house last night, after Teacher Johnson and his daughter left the house and the boys were bathed and put to bed. However, nobody answered the phone and they don’t have an answering machine. I got the same result when I called his cell phone number. Also, I had called President Li to get Fenster’s number, but he only had an old number that was disconnected. Johnson said he could translate for me, if I couldn’t find anyone else, but I didn’t want to have him do that. He barely understands what I tell him. He couldn’t translate well between Shu Mei’s mother and me. In my mind, Li Wen would be the ideal translator. So, I kept calling him throughout the day today and finally reached him. Luckily, he was home from college for the weekend. He doesn’t always come home. Because Li Wen and I had a falling out the last time I spoke to him, partially fabricated on my part because I didn’t like him calling me all the time, I had to apologize to him before I could ask for his help in translating. He agreed to meet with me at 4:15 p.m. at McDonald’s. When I saw Li Wen, I couldn’t believe it! He is now as big as a whale. He had been losing weight the last time I saw him, but something had happened to cause him to go the other way. He’s had a lot of emotional issues in his life, so maybe that had caused him to gain weight. I certainly know that my stress has added to my junk food craving in the past five years or so.

We talked about what the plan was for meeting with Shu Mei’s mother. Li Wen cautioned me on some of the things I had wanted to say, saying it wouldn’t be prudent, given the culture here. So, I took that into consideration when we got to Shu Mei’s parents’ house. Shu Mei’s mother and her sister, Mei Hwa, were there. We sat down and I introduced Li Wen to them. Then, I asked them (through Li Wen) to please hold their questions or comments until I was done talking, because I had a lot to say. I began by saying that I was sorry for how I acted toward them on Saturday night, at the family get-together. Then, I told them that I did not want a divorce. After that, I began at the first of my marriage to Shu Mei and went up to the present, telling them my side of the story. I shared with them the reason for which I moved to Taiwan and the sacrifices I made to do it, in case they thought it was for money. I told them about how Shu Mei wanted a divorce just a few days after we were married, then six times she repeated that request in the first year of our marriage, and then three times since then. They listened intently. I’m sure they didn’t know about any of the things I was telling them. They appeared very interested when I spoke about how Shu Mei left me twice for several days, to an unknown destination, and even left me once overnight when Billy was a baby. I don’t think they knew to what extent I had taken care of the first Billy and then Billy and Tyley, giving up most of my nights, weekends, and all of my vacation time in doing so.

Forty-five minutes after I began speaking to them, I ended by talking about the events of Saturday night. I told them what had been going through my mind, even before everyone arrived, and what Shu Mei had said to me in English. These were things they didn’t know and it seemed to make an impact upon them. After I spoke, Shu Mei’s mother said (through Li Wen) that they never thought Shu Mei and I should get a divorce. They were upset that I had gotten so angry that quickly, but now understood it was something that had been building up over a long period. Mei Hwa said that if they had known I wanted the party on Sunday, instead of Saturday, they would have gladly changed it. They felt that counseling would be a good idea for Shu Mei and I and that Billy and Tyley need their parents to be together in a loving relationship. They said that they would try and convince Shu Mei to go to counseling. I was very happy to hear them say that. I don’t know if that was their exact sentiment before my long speech to them, but it was a great thing to hear afterwards.

I suspect that they felt that way all along and were just a bit confused about the events of Saturday night. I doubt that they had backed Shu Mei’s decision to get a divorce at any time, though I’m not certain for sure. I left there feeling like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I told Li Wen that I would pay him for his services, but he said I could buy him dinner instead. So, we drove our scooters toward Shalu, to an all-you-can-eat restaurant he recommended. Halfway there, it began to rain heavily. Even though we put on raincoats, the rain was so heavy that the streets were flooded and our shoes and pants were getting soaked. It got so bad that I suggested we turn back and head to my house.

Shu Mei had taken the boys to a dance show in Taichung (I learned the next day from Billy). So, I cooked food for Li Wen. That was no minor task. By himself, he ate a big chef salad, 4 grilled beef patties, 1 large piece of grilled salmon (the size we usually cook for the whole family), a full package of macaroni and cheese, three mangoes, and drank three glasses of soda.

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