Sweet Stories of Silent Matsuno
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)