When I was young, my father once told me that it’s everyone’s duty to leave the Earth a little better than how we found it. “Fine,” I flippantly replied, “I’ll plant a tree someday.” My father’s kernel of wisdom was lost on a teenage son who had no love or patience with people, especially children.
Fast-forward twenty-two years. I had just ended a twelve-year marriage to a brilliant woman no longer wanted me as a husband or bed partner. Initially, I was crushed, but I realized that it’s better to be in no relationship than in one where one partner is unhappy or miserable with the other so we amicably split and went our separate ways. *SIgh* I’ll miss is her intellect and dislike of children.
Near the end of that marriage, by happenstance one day I logged into an Internet chat site and was greeted by an Asian woman who was a part-time Chinese teacher. Her life history was the stuff Victorian novels: she was born literally dirt poor to sharecroppers who lived in an oversized chicken coup. They had no electricity, running water, or even toys for her eight brothers and sisters to play with. She worked the fields until she turned sixteen, when, against her father’s wishes, she ran away to a Buddhist temple where she worked and received an education. From there, she started her own language school which, unfortunately, failed because her American ex-boyfriend beat her senseless and took all her money, leaving her heavily in debt. From there, she started teaching freelance. She never had basic medical care, lived in the tiniest of living spaces and always lived on the edge of starvation.
I thought I’d brighten her days by visiting her, so twice I flew to Hong Kong and Beijing to visit her; to say she was thrilled with my visits is an understatement.
Then the SARS epidemic. Her students’ parents dumped her for fear that she’d unwittingly transmit the virus from one student to another. She was out of work, destitute, and had nowhere to go. I felt badly for her, so I sent her what little money I had and said, “Look, you’re not getting anywhere there. Why don’t you move here where I can get you decent health care, feed and clothe you, and you can rest for a while before going home?” She didn’t have to think twice for an answer, though there was one, small catch: we’d have to marry so she could legally stay here long enough to receive the medical care and rest she needed. So, with what retirement money I had socked away I paid off her debts, paid to ship her meager belongings here, and of course fly her here was well. We married within three days of her arrival.
It was soon after she moved here that I realized how totally unfit a couple we were: she’d leave dirty dishes, clothes and trash around, and I’m a neat-freak; she was simple-minded; I had a vastly superior intellect; she was clumsy and “lived in the moment”, and I was poised and a long-range thinker. She was the exactly opposite of my first wife: extremely high maintenance with all heart and no brains.
For over three years now, I’ve regretted my decision to “import” her; I don’t love her, so why don’t I divorce her, give her some money so she can go home, and that’s that. I would be so much happier being on my own again! Then those thoughts trail away to thinking of her heart being dashed to pieces. She lives every moment to please me any way she can and is so grateful that she lives in a place where she has food on the table, health care, her own car, a house instead of a hovel, soft bedding and a part-time job to help contribute toward the household. How could I take that away from her? How could I crush her spirit, one which only wants to unselfishly love and care for her benefactor?
This I believe: I will stay with her until the end of our days. I’m the first to admit I’m selfish in many ways; I don’t have any want or sense of duty to improve everyone’s world. However, I can take heart that I can improve the world of one person, and that is enough for me.
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