My father suffered from a chronic intestinal disease that lasted for many years, and all the financial burden was on Mom’s shoulders. In return, Father stayed at home, helping Mother to take care of the house and the daughter. I remember when I was a child, Mom worked hard from early morning until 7:00 pm to return home, even on weekends. The two routes Mother knew by heart were the way from home to work and the way from home to my Grandmom’s house. Once my mother took a few good friends from high school to come over. Mom and her friends were happy to see each other again after many years apart. But a few months later, they didn’t meet often. The little daughter asked:
– Why doesn’t Mommy have many friends? It was so difficult for you to meet some old friends but why don’t you keep in contact very often, Mom?
– Everyone has their own life. It is fun enough when I have you and your father with me.
– You love my father so much that you don’t want anything for yourself, Mom?
– If I don’t love your father and you, who else do I love?
Busy work and worries have separated Mom from social relationships. Mom’s life is like a gentle moon, quietly revolving around a small planet – a family of 3 with Father, Mother, and Child. The cost of raising a child and treating her husband’s sickness is not small for a woman in Mom’s time – a woman who earned her living by working day by day for salary, 20 years working at the same company, in the same position. Mom’s choice – is to be by my Father’s side, taking on Father’s responsibilities, which were not so easy. Yet Mom was always strong, resilient, carefree, optimistic, and happy. Mom often bought new clothes, wearing make-up when going to work, going out like other women with good conditions, who didn’t have to struggle to make a living. When the love was big enough, Mom became “a super woman” that easily. I once wondered: when I get married, is my love for my partner big enough to sacrifice myself like my Mother?
And I met him – who helped me realize that in love there is no need for sacrifice, but simply to give away the good. In the past, I thought that people loved each other to be fulfilled. Only then did I realize, we need to fill ourselves up before we love someone. The recent article by Mrs. Lynh Mieu helps reinforce that belief in me. She wrote: “One day you realize you are stronger… You no longer feel like you have to sacrifice. You find yourself giving. Even when the incident is still the same. Sacrifice is a state of uneasiness and suffering … when you feel insecure and lacking inside. Giving away is very different. I am full, so I want to share my fullness with those I love.”
Until now, I can say “Ah!”, I understand why Mom always smiled brightly despite the hard work. Because Mom is inherently stable. All she does is to give away the great love nourished by her open and peaceful heart.
We have two friends. She loves and accepts to marry him even though she knows that he has cancer, and he does not know how tomorrow will be.
My high school best friend also married his lover while she was undergoing treatment and monitoring for a thyroid tumor.
Between them, if not love, what should it be called?
While, besides those stories, every day, I hear many cases of one person breaking up with another for reasons that don’t seem to be so big. For example, mother-in-law interferes too deeply in the couple’s private life; the wife could not stand her husband’s messiness, the husband could no longer love someone who kept telling him what to do; the man likes to go to the forest to build a wooden house, and the woman is attracted by the prosperity of the town; the man does not accept the woman who is trying to make her career, the woman says the man has no urge for improvement… I realize that, in the era when each person’s ego is high, and people don’t have a lot of patience with this fast pace of life, the biggest challenge is not how to make a living, but how to reconcile the two big egos.
There have been many arguments between us because of small things when we both like the other to do what we want. “Choose a plate of food – quarrel, set up a vase – quarrel, buy cat food – quarrel, plan traveling plan – quarrel. I put the brush or shoes in the wrong place, he plugged the iron and forgot to unplug it, I forgot to put the food in the fridge, he drank up the water bottle without refilling it and putting it into the fridge, I took the hanging clothes from the closet without separating the hangers – quarrel … Although there is no serious conflict, each problem which seems to be small is a powerful weapon that kills love at any time. Originally, men and women fall in love for no reason at all. But only a stain on the floor can become the reason they are apart.” (*)
This October is the 8th anniversary of us officially falling in love. Certainly, love has to be big enough to be able to embrace and pamper each other’s ego so that it, for the other’s sake, becomes pleasant, patient, and tolerant. We have given each other a love big enough to nurture the marriage and to freely fly in each other’s private sky, just like our Parents who have given each other a love enough to nurture me to grow up today. And you, is there a story of your own that you want to tell us?
“Small as an ant
But we got it burn
Where you put the key?
Why not hang the clothes?
June just had it rain,
But stopped right in March,
Love is born again
From the sulking words,
From the hasty things,
From the sweet kisses.
You said young seedlings
Are like my fragrance
A childish woman!
You love that childish me
So you love the elephant,
and the ant.
So are our quarrels
Because we’re in love
Too much love?” (*)
Photo: Nguyen Manh Hung
(*) The excerpt and poem from the book “The house with two lives”