Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tiger Mother - Part II, Men of The House

(If you happen to stumble in this post, you could start with Part I).

Uncle Engineer:

After Grandpa died, the family was under the care of two of his oldest children: aunt Er and aunt San. The men of the house were tied up by their work outside the village: uncle E worked at a National Railway Base in Changsha.  I am not sure what job that uncle Playboy held while he married into Mom's family, but what I know was that he was not home much either.

I grew up believing that uncle E single-handedly designed the Wuhan Bridge standing over the Yangtze River - while this could be true for other smaller bridges in various locations in China, Wuhan Bridge, however, was designed by a team of Russian and Chinese engineers.  Uncle E was one of the members in that designing team.  Needless to say, he was best accomplished and respected man in the family, although what I heard of him was usually not about his achievements, instead, was often about his charms, intelligence, nuttiness, attentiveness - his charisma. I "knew" him as a man of every girl's dream.  Aunt Er, as I was told, was not only beautiful, she also was the best-mannered, well-educated, and most graceful woman of the girl-kind.  Mom had a few family photos, in which I "met" aunt Er and uncle E and cousin Qingyun, their daughter.  Aunt Er had curving and small eyes with the typical look of an ancient Chinese beauty, which is nothing like these modern Chinese beauties.  Uncle E looked like a movie star, his handsomeness was breath-taking.  Bro Qingding looks like aunt Er's clone: except for his triangle eyebrows.  Sis Qingyun looked like her father’s clone.  I saw Bro Qingding in person only once so far when I was 22.  He was so irresistible that I immediately drowned in his charms - he is the first and only man with whom I fell in love at the first sight.

Aunt Er, aunt San, and Mom looked quite alike, but somehow Mom was not regarded a beautiful girl in the family, probably because she did not have her oldest sister's sophistication.  Aunt Er died at age of 49 to pneumonia/TB.  Uncle E then married to another woman and then died soon after that without any additional children.  Stepaunt died in early 90s.

Sis Qingyun was "brain-damaged" due to meningitis that she got when she was little.  I used quotation marks because I don't know whether she was truly retarded or just had peculiar personality.  Also since her parents were first cousins, which often makes me wonder whether it was the root of Qingyun's unique personality or retardation.  Qingyun had two marriages and 2 children, one from each marriage.  None of her 2 husbands is retarded.  Qingyun died of cancer few years ago.

Uncle Playboy:

In contrast to uncle E, uncle Playboy was not favored by the family, although he was multitalented: was a stage-performing artist specialized in Beijing Opera; a post office clerk from late 50s to late 60s; a Chinese traditional medical doctor with specialty of infertility from late 60s to late 70s; and finally, a calligrapher worked in "Wenhua Gong (cultural palace)" until his retirement in early 90s.  His calligraphic work has been collected by many art museums including the Stele Forest of Calligraphy in Sichuan province.  Practicing Zhong Yi (Chinese Medicine) was uncle Playboy's surviving tool since his formal job with a steady income at the post office had been taken away - he belonged to the "5 Black Categories".

I visited aunt San and uncle Playboy for the first time in 1976 when I was 14.  Their 5 children are 13 to 4 years older than me so they all teased me like I was some sort of retards.  It was a summer holiday and Mom and Dad allowed me to stay there for a whole month.  I found uncle Playboy funny, witty, and extremely and amazingly good-looking.  No wonder people called him by his nick name!  Unfortunately, other than being teased by him at the dinner time every night, I don't recall what else happened involving him during my stay.  It seemed that he came home only at dinner time, he would joke around while we were all eating our dinner.  No one would respond to his jokes.  He also liked to tease me about my funny look and accent, he called me names, like "Guangxi Lao".  Now I finally figured out why I did not see him after dinner - I had taken his spot by sharing a bed with aunt San. 

Two years after my first visit, I went to Guiyang once again for a summer holiday.  This time, I found out where uncle Playboy lived - his office where he "saw" his patients.  It was an old, dark, and narrow room with a tiny hospital bed.  I was told whenever the family has guests, he retreated to this place.

The third time I visited Guiyang was the summer of 1983, I was just passing by on my way to Sichuan - I had a whole month travel plan ahead of me.  So I only stayed a few days.

And then the next time I saw uncle Playboy was 1987, when I was 25.  I was going there to accompany Mom.  It was Mom's very first visit to Guiyang and also unfortunately the very last trip for Mom.  She was diagnosed with 3rd degree cervical cancer in 1984.  Since the tumor was too large to be surgically removed, the doctors did chemo/radio therapies on her.  Three years later and after having been in and out of the hospitals countless times, the primary tumor disappeared.  Doctors may have told her that it might have metastasized to other places which would soon take her life away.  However, Mom and Dad did not tell us anything.  They just made various travel plans for Mom to go about the country to visit her family.  Mom had been to Shanghai first to spend some time with aunt Jun's family and then she went to Guiyang to spend some time with aunt San and aunt Dai's families.  I went to join Mom as soon as the summer holiday started. 

We all knew it could be the last time that Mom would be with her sisters and we were all very sad, but in the mean time, everyone there was also trying to enjoy every minute that Mom had left.  

One night after cousins were gone back to their respective homes after our routine dinner gathering, Mom and aunt San went to their shared bed, I should also have gone to my bed that was in the living room where uncle Playboy was still watching TV.  He didn't seem to be getting ready to leave, which was a bit surprising.  Uncle Playboy was a different person ever since he got his government job back.  It was way early for my bed time anyways, so I joined uncle Playboy.  He then started to tell me his childhood stories that involved Mom.  As Mom's second cousin, uncle Playboy shared part of his childhood with Mom and aunt San.  According to uncle Playboy, he loved Mom at least as much as, if not more than, he loved Aunt San.  But Mom was 6 years younger so he could only marry to aunt San at that time.  I was interested to hear Mom's childhood stories so I kept asking him for more.  But all he could say was that he loved Mom very much.  He then whispered nervously to my ears, “You are so beautiful, you look just like your Mom when she was young.”  Then he suddenly started to tell me things about his work as a doctor.  He bragged about the power of his magical Chinese medicines that could turn cold women into hot women, meaning he could cure woman's frigidity.  Then he asked me to stick my tongue out so he could examine it.  He checked it out for a few seconds and said that he could give me some Chinese medicine to adjust my Qi.  According to uncle Playboy, my kidneys were too weak, they needed to get stronger (FYI, he was right, I found out that I had few small kidney stones a year or two later).  After that, he asked to check my pulse and then he said, "I'll make you a healthy girl." - if I was not mistaken, I believe he meant to make me a girl with strong sexual desires.  His play went on.  He asked me whether my boyfriend and I had active sex life, I was speechless.  He told me that male impotency was quite prevalent and he also was able to cure them with special Chinese medicines... Finally, he reached the point, "Sex is a very pleasurable and a girl like you should be enjoying it a lot."  My reaction to that suggestion was, "I am a virgin and I would not lost it to anyone that I am not in love with."  Then I realized that uncle Playboy was holding my hand the whole time after the pulse checking.  Since he was a doctor and I was a biologist, talking about sex between us was not troubling me too much.  However, to say that I did not know what he was doing would have been a lie.  Everyone has a desire for pleasure, I guess, especially at that time I had already a boyfriend with whom I had practiced such human behaviors already!  I was quite curious about how far this conversation would go even though I had no idea about what I would do if things had gotten out of hand.  While all these went through my mind, I felt that he was taking my hand on his aroused manhood.  Yes my friend, he was my uncle and I know what you are thinking: it was creepy and disgusting.  But honestly, that was not how I felt at that particular moment.  Part of me was really curious to find out what he would do to seduce a women.  Another major part of me was scared: Mom and aunt San, his wife, were sleeping next door.  I was more scared of him being caught than me being raped.  Gently and slowly, I took my hand back and sat there with my eyes staring at the TV screen.  I was trying very hard not to make a strange sound to wake up Mom and aunt San.  Luckily, he soon finished his business by himself and calmed down.

Uncle Playboy just demonstrated to me how he got his nick name.  Mom has 4 beautiful sisters, he married to one and must've wanted to sleep with all the other three!

I reckon that he "loved" all the beautiful girls that he met as much as I "love" all handsome men that I meet.  It's a human nature.  While I may not necessarily take any actions to those handsome men that I love, I don't blame him for loving Mom, his little sister that he loved since childhood.  He was out of line, of course, but that happened at a special time - he was possibly dealing with the fear of losing Mom.  In fact, uncle Playboy and Mom had never seen each other ever since the family split.  Mom died less than a year after her visit to Guiyang.

The last time I saw uncle Playboy was about 2 year after Mom died.  Uncle Playboy came to our hometown Nanning for an exhibition of calligraphic work in Guangxi Art Museum.  This time, he brought his “secretary"/mistress, the last lover of his life.  I again turned a blind eye to his betrayal to aunt San.  I guess I simply didn't know how to hate a handsome and talented man who I always admired.

Uncle Playboy died in late 90s to pancreatic cancer at age of mid 70.
P.S. my true forgiveness to uncle Playboy is possibly rooted in the fact that I had fell in love with two of my cousins: Bro San, uncle Playboy's second son, and Bro Qingding, uncle E's son.  Love stories will be told in later posts. Stay tuned.

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