Sweet Sto­ries of Si­lent Mat­suno


Special Focus - - Contents - Liu Yurong 刘於蓉

Back when I was just a poor, strug­gling stu­dent in Los An­ge­les, I couldn’t af­ford a car at all. For­tu­nately for me, one of my class­mates in­tro­duced me to Mat­suno—the man with the keys to a car…and my heart.

Ret­i­cent but At­ten­tive

He re­ally felt for me. Come rain or shine, he was there for me driv­ing me around four times a day so that I could read and work with­out any un­nec­es­sary bur­dens. It was like me hav­ing an own pri­vate chauf­feur.

Un­for­tu­nately, it didn’t last long. Within three months, I got ter­ri­bly ill. The doc­tor di­ag­nosed me with mild pneu­mo­nia. I lay in bed in a daze with a high fever and couldn’t get out of bed for at least two weeks. Mat­suno was right there tak­ing care of me, serv­ing me soup and medicine and mak­ing food for me. My par­ents and chil­dren were not around, I was alone, poor and sick, and des­per­ate. Had I not met this quiet, dili­gent and metic­u­lous Japanese Amer­i­can who worked tire­lessly with­out com­plaint, I might have died in a for­eign land.

Mat­suno’s par­ents were born in the United States, so he is a third gen­er­a­tion Japanese- Amer­i­can, and the el­dest of five sib­lings. Due to his nat­u­ral shy­ness, he had not re­ally been in love till in his late thir­ties. With his Doc­tor of Phar­macy de­gree from the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia ( USC), he has es­pe­cially high in­come. Ly­ing on the sickbed, I looked at his mas­sive back when a thought crossed my mind— maybe he’s the man for me? Soon after I got well, we

qui­etly reg­is­tered for mar­riage at the lo­cal town chapel, and I have been Mrs. Mat­suno for more than 20 years.

After mar­riage, both of us have lived to­gether day and night. We’re like two peas in a pod. We’ve adapted to each other swim­mingly, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our mo­ments of fric­tion. In the first ten years, I of­ten doubted my choice. He is such an aver­age guy, who sits like a stone and stands like a pil­lar. He is slow to act and re­act, and he be­lieves that “si­lence is golden.” Some­times it could nearly freak me out that he kept silent with­out say­ing a sin­gle word for a whole day. I sit there won­der­ing if this sweet, mild-man­nered Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen is still a Japanese male chau­vin­ist at heart.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve grad­u­ally learned to take a step back and ob­serve my hus­band and our mar­riage from an ob­jec­tive per­spec­tive.

Hon­est and Sin­cere

I must ad­mit that I have a lot in com­mon with him. I have never dreamed that I would come to Amer­ica and marry a Ja­pane­seAmer­i­can. He is nearly six feet tall and weighs 260 pounds, 120 pounds heav­ier than me. His huge bushy eye­brows spread­ing across his broad face al­most make him a cen­ter­fold from the book of Japanese clichés.

Silent Mat­suno had no sense of hu­mor, but his sim­ple na­ture gives him a sort of naïve charm. Dur­ing her life­time, my mother loved him so much and used to make him talk.

My mother died of ill­ness in the United States. Be­fore her burial, her chil­dren knelt with the monks and chanted prayers for her. While chant­ing to­gether with us, un­ex­pect­edly, Mat­suno fell asleep with his hands clasped to­gether, still on his knees and mum­bling “Amitabha” in an al­most undis­cernible prayer. I didn’t have the heart to crit­i­cize his gaffes see­ing he didn’t com­plain about be­ing tired and his fil­ial piety was com­mend­able. Ev­ery morn­ing I light in­cense and wor­ship the bod­hisattva of Kuanyin ( God­dess of Mercy). When I read a Bud­dhist su­tra, he also silently re­cites, “Bod­hisattva blesses me and my fam­ily.” Over th­ese years, maybe the Bod­hisattvas can also ap­pre­ci­ate his hon­esty and sin­cer­ity and bless us.

He firmly be­lieves that “a man does not eas­ily shed tears,” but he does not un­der­stand that “a man has gold at his knees.” When I scold my daugh­ters in anger, he and the chil­dren of­ten go down on their knees to make amends, which leaves me kick­ing my­self that I’m al­ways so tem­per­a­men­tal and mak­ing up my mind to change.

Sim­ple and Lov­ing

Mat­suno loves my chil­dren so much. To help with their study, and car loans, he works tire­lessly and takes part-time jobs. Yet he’s such a trooper that he never ut­ters a word of com­plaint.

When my younger daugh­ter grad­u­ated from med­i­cal col­lege and was ap­ply­ing for her med­i­cal li­cense, her schol­ar­ships and stu­dent loan checks all stopped, leav­ing her un­able to meet her liv­ing ex­penses, in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums and car pay­ments. As her stingy mother, I tried to treat it lightly by say­ing, “She’s old enough that she should take care of this on her own.”

How­ever, as luck would have it, her big-hearted old step-fa­ther said solemnly, “If you do not pay, I’ll pay. I go to find an­other part­time job…”

He used to be a golfer, but now he has to work ev­ery day to earn enough money to sup­port our fam­ily, with no more time to play. Since I fin­ished my business, he has shoul­dered the bur­den of sup­port­ing the fam­ily with­out com­plaint. Liv­ing with my two chil­dren for 20 years, he never minds that the chil­dren are still us­ing their bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther’s Chi­nese sur­name with­out chang­ing it into Mat­suno. In

Amer­i­can so­ci­ety, there are many ex­am­ples of rais­ing chil­dren from their ex-wife or ex-hus­band, but a step­fa­ther like him, some­one who truly and af­fec­tion­ately loves and cares for his chil­dren, I be­lieve, is hard to find not only in the United States, but also in the whole world. He has never read any of China’s an­cient books of wis­dom, but he un­der­stands and prac­tices the hu­man­ity spirit of “ex­tend­ing the same care to oth­ers’ chil­dren as if they are his own chil­dren.” I am grate­ful for my two daugh­ters who have lost their fa­ther’s love long be­fore and found pa­ter­nal love again in Mat­suno.

( From Life Is Like a Stage in Amer­ica , China Fed­er­a­tion of Lit­er­ary and Art Cir­cles Pub­lish­ing House. Trans­la­tion: Qing Run)

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