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她曾經是我父母婚姻的第三者

更新時間:2019/9/16 19:58:30 來源:紐約時報中文網 作者:佚名

From ‘Homewrecker’ to Caretaker
她曾經是我父母婚姻的第三者

She’s tall for a Chinese woman, built like an Olympic volleyball player. Her torso is long, her face wide. Dark pink powder accents her cheekbones.

她在中國女人里個子算高的,體格像奧運排球選手。她身長臉寬,深粉色的撲粉突出了她的顴骨。

“Peasant features,” my mother used to say. “Not beautiful, not even pretty!”

“農民長相,”我母親曾說,“不美,漂亮都算不上!”

My father disagreed.

父親不這么看。

Twenty-five years ago, he left my mother for this woman, a graduate student in his department — and more than three decades his junior.

25年前,他為這個女人離開了母親,她是他系里的研究生——比他小30多歲。

She became his wife (I would never call her my stepmother). His house became their house. Though by now, it feels mostly like her house, with her knickknacks and plastic slippers and stacks of papers to grade. I no longer refer to these occasional weekend trips as coming home, with its implied warmth and welcome, but rather going to visit, a wholly different beast.

她成了他的妻子(我永遠不會管她叫繼母)。他的房子成了他們的房子。雖然現在,感覺上那更像是她的房子,里面有她的小擺設、塑料拖鞋和成堆要批改的論文。我不再管這些偶爾的周末之旅叫回家,那暗含著溫情與歡迎,我說探望,那可是截然不同的一種東西。

During a recent visit, she prepared his oatmeal with flax seeds and almonds, and fed it to him one spoonful at a time. In between bites, he mumbled. Often his voice is laced with irritation, though that morning’s confusion felt benign.

最近一趟探望中,她為他做了亞麻籽和扁桃仁燕麥粥,然后一勺一勺喂他。在吃東西的間隙,他咕噥著。他的聲音里常夾雜著怒氣,不過那天早晨的困惑似乎是良性的。

“Look who is here,” she said.

“看看誰來了,”她說。

I beckoned my two children, who inched forward awkwardly. “Hi Gung-Gung,” said the 6-year-old, and my father opened his eyes.

我招呼我的兩個孩子過來,他們局促地湊上前。“嗨,公公,”6歲那個說,父親睜開了眼睛。

“Hi Ba, we’re here!” I said.

“嗨,爸,我們來了!”我說。

“Ah, hi, hi!” He nodded with the enthusiasm of a puppy. One hand reached out from under his thick blanket. The children smiled. He couldn’t remember their names.

“啊,嗨,嗨!”他像只小狗一樣興奮地點著頭,從厚厚的毯子下面伸出一只手來。孩子們笑了。他不記得他們的名字。

Twenty-five years ago, my father was a professor of theoretical physics, charismatic, with an agile mind. How did it happen? Did he notice her sitting in the front row of his lectures, always asking the most pertinent questions? Did she come to his office hours, hesitantly at first, accompanied by a classmate, then later, on her own? Was he a Casanova fueled by lust, or was theirs a gradual kinship, sparked by a shared fascination with high-Tc superconductivity? Who made the first move?

25年前,父親是一個理論物理學教授,思維敏捷,魅力四射。那一切是怎么發生的?是他注意到她坐在前排聽講,總是在問最切題的問題?還是她會在辦公時間去找他,開始有些猶豫,叫一名同學陪著,后來就自己去?他是受欲望指使的花花公子嗎,還是說,他們之間是循序漸進的親密關系,由對高溫超導的共同迷戀所激發?是誰主動的?

Given the power differential, one might have assumed he was the manipulative party, but my mother never saw it that way.

鑒于權力的差異,人們可能會認為他是操縱的一方,但母親從不這么看。

“She comes to this country from mainland; of course she wants his money!” she would often say. “Green card. Gold digger. Your Ba, so stupid, only knows his physics!”

“她從大陸來到這個國家;她當然想要他的錢!”她過去常這么說。“綠卡。拜金女。你爸太傻,只知道物理!”

Back then, I sided with my mother out of loyalty. Of course I did. As a daughter, as a young woman, as a feminist. My mother was strong, but this hurt.

那時候,我出于忠誠站在了母親一邊。我當然會這么做。無論是作為女兒,作為一名年輕女性,還是作為女性主義者。我母親很堅強,但這事很傷。

My father’s wife returned to scooping oatmeal into his mouth. I sat by his feet. She spoke in a loud, upbeat tone without glancing my way. Over the years, she has never asked for help, ignored my many offers, and now we’re entrenched in a place where it’s less awkward if I don’t offer, and I wonder if I should have tried harder.

父親的妻子接著喂他燕麥粥。我坐在他腳旁。她用一種響亮、上揚的語氣說話,不朝我這邊看。這些年來,她從沒尋求過幫助,沒理會我主動提供的很多幫助,現在我們陷入一種為難的境地,我不主動還少些尷尬,不過我也在想,是不是應該更主動。

My mother is no longer alive, but I still hear her voice: “Homewrecker.”

母親已不在世,但我依然能聽到她說:“第三者”。

I don’t fault my father. He was dissatisfied. My parents’ marriage was one I never understood: She nagged, he yelled, they fought, she ignored.

我不怪父親。他是不滿足的。我始終無法理解父母的婚姻:她嘮叨、他吼叫、他們吵架、她不理不睬。

I remember, as a child, watching him pace in endless circles around the house. “Are you working again?” I would ask. “Yep,” he’d say, a huge grin on his face. He loved that thinking was his work. To teach us math he would sit us on his lap, ask us to calculate how many chickens and how many pigs, in a barnyard with 18 legs and six heads.

記得小時候,我看著他在屋子里沒完沒了地轉圈。“你又在工作嗎?”我會這么問。“沒錯,”他咧嘴一笑說道。他喜歡別人覺得他在工作。教我們數學時,他會讓我們坐在他膝蓋上,說谷倉前的空地上有18條腿和6個頭,讓我們算算有多少只雞和多少只豬。

I can’t fault my mother, either. A practical woman, she worked as a librarian and raised three children, carting us to gymnastics and swimming and piano lessons, always chop-chopping with her silver cleaver in the kitchen while a bone broth simmered on the stove.

我也不能怪母親。她是個務實的女人,靠一份圖書管理員的工作養活著三個孩子,載著我們去上體操、游泳和鋼琴課,總在拿她那把亮閃閃的剁肉刀在廚房里切切剁剁,旁邊爐子上煨著骨湯。

The difference between them, I think, was this: My mother never expected a life of happiness or fulfillment; my father did.

我想,他們之間的不同在于:母親從未期待過一種幸福或有成就感的生活;父親卻在期待。

Midlife crisis, we thought (though he was pushing 60). It won’t last. Also, ew (she was in her 20s, my age). Today, would my father be presumed a predator? Back then, in the ’90s, there were whispers, snickers, haughty rolls of eyes. Today, surely he would face condemnation. And she, if not a conniving, green-card-coveting gold digger, was naïve at best, a silly young woman, easily duped. Today, perhaps someone would protect her from her own foolishness.

中年危機,我們這樣想(雖然他已年近六旬)。長久不了的。而且,呃(她才20來歲,和我一般大)。如今父親會被看作是獵色者嗎?90年代的時候,人們竊竊私語、偷笑、眼睛滴溜溜地轉。放在今天,他無疑會面臨譴責。而她,就算不是貪圖綠卡的淘金女,充其量也不過是個幼稚、好騙、沒頭腦的年輕女子。而今,也許會有人護著她,讓她不被自己的愚蠢傷到。

His was a slow decline over many years. First the forgetfulness, pauses, gaps, easy to forgive. Then the same stories, repeated, looping across days, then hours, then minutes, seconds. One morning he lost his way driving to campus on roads he had followed for more than 40 years. A kindhearted undergrad found him panicking, brought him to his office. The term absent-minded professor took on a dark new meaning.

多年以來,他的健康狀況一直在慢慢變差。起初是健忘、呆滯、語無倫次、容易原諒。接著是重復、循環說同一段話,先是幾天、再是幾小時、然后幾分鐘、幾秒鐘。一天早上,在開車去學校的路上,他在走了40多年的路上迷了路。一名好心的本科生發現他神色慌張,把他送到了辦公室。“心不在焉的教授”這個概念,多了一層灰暗的新含義。

Another time, he called me in a panic. “I was working on my physics, and suddenly I felt so fuzzy, I had no idea where I was. Daughter, are you listening? If I lose my mind, I don’t want to live.”

還有一次,他慌張地打電話給我。“我在忙物理的事,突然覺得迷迷糊糊,我不知道自己在哪兒。女兒,你在聽嗎?如果失去理智,我不想活下去。”

He started to cry. I didn’t know what to say. My father, like all fathers, was supposed to be invincible.

他開始哭。我不知道該說什么。像所有父親一樣,父親理應是堅不可摧的。

Still, his deterioration was tempered by a sameness to these weekend visits. We had our rituals: Chinese buffet (she would bring her own tea leaves), Red Lobster for dinner (he would order the surf and turf), the 60-inch television on nonstop, Chinese soap operas or CNN.

不過他的病情惡化因得這些一成不變的周末來訪有所緩和。我們有固定儀式:中式自助餐(她會自帶茶葉),晚餐吃紅龍蝦(他會點海鮮牛排套餐),60英寸的電視不停地放著中國肥皂劇或CNN。

We would go for a stroll on the sidewalks of their suburban neighborhood — first, all of us, one child in a stroller; then he, clinging to her arm, the children running ahead; then one of us pushing his wheelchair, blanket on his lap. Now, at 83, he hardly goes out at all. He can’t walk or urinate or eat by himself. She sits him by the window, the shades drawn up on sunny days.

我們會在他們的城郊住宅區人行道上散步——起先是我們所有人一起,嬰兒車里推著一個孩子;接著他緊緊抓著她的胳膊,孩子在前面跑;之后我們其中一人推著他的輪椅,他的膝蓋上蓋著毯子。如今到了83歲,他幾乎完全不出門。他走路、小便或吃飯都不能自理。她讓他坐在窗邊,太陽好的時候拉起窗簾。

She is cordial, kind to the children. But she doesn’t ask about their school or activities, or whether we have summer plans. I try to engage: “How many classes are you teaching this semester?” “Has it been cold?” “How is his appetite?”

她對孩子們和善而熱情。但她不問他們在學校怎樣或者有什么活動,也不問我們的暑假計劃。我試著跟她交流:“這學期你教幾門課?”“天氣冷嗎?”“他胃口怎么樣?”

She is polite but unwavering in her reserve. It’s cultural, maybe, but it’s also this: I am my mother’s daughter.

她彬彬有禮,但始終出言謹慎。也許是文化的原因,但也因為我是我母親的女兒。

Here’s the thing: She doesn’t seem bitter. Weary, yes. Sometimes her voice grows thin, even sharp.

是這樣:她看起來并不憤恨。是的,有些疲憊。有時她的聲音會變細,甚至尖銳。

I can hear my mother’s warning: “Don’t let her fool you.”

我能聽到母親的警告:“你小心被她騙了。”

But there remains a gentleness to her touch as she reaches to adjust my father’s baseball cap or gray wool socks or the dark glasses on his face.

但當她伸手整理父親的棒球帽、灰色羊毛襪或者他臉上的墨鏡時,動作始終有一種溫柔。

She could put him in a facility, hire a full-time nurse, a roster of home health aides.

她可以把他送進護理機構,雇一個全職護士,一大群家庭健康助理。

She doesn’t.

她沒有這么做。

Sometimes, I spy. She holds his hand even when no one else is in the room.

有時候我會偷窺。即使房間里沒有其他人,她也會握著他的手。

Once, they co-wrote academic papers, discussed politics while eating pistachios in bed, watched early seasons of “The Bachelor.” Once, they would drive two hours just for a dim sum meal, fly off to Asia for a school reunion. It was obvious — but never easy for me to accept — how well her intellect, curiosity and sense of enchantment matched his.

他們曾經共同撰寫學術論文,在床上一邊吃開心果一邊討論政治,一起看《單身漢》(The Bachelor)的前幾季。有一次,他們開兩個小時的車去吃粵式點心,然后坐飛機去亞洲參加同學會。她的智慧、好奇心和迷人的感覺和他很般配,這是顯而易見的,但我始終難以接受。

She couldn’t have known he would end up this way.

她不可能知道他最后會變成這樣。

Around dinnertime, my 8-year-old asked to go to the Chinese buffet, “like always.”

大約晚飯時間,8歲的兒子叫我一起去吃中式自助餐,“和平時一樣。”

“Like always” will end one day, soon.

總有一天,“和平時一樣”會告終,這一天會來得很快。

It was cumbersome, getting my father into the van, though she has a practiced system: Right foot here, left hand there, up, mind your head! O.K., the seat is here, relax.

把父親抬上車是件很麻煩的事,然而她有一套嫻熟的方法:右腳放這里,左手放那里,抬頭,當心頭!很好,座位在這兒,放松。

Before he relaxed, she was bearing every ounce of his weight.

在他放松下來之前,她的身體承受著他的每一分重量。

She could do this, I realize, because he has lost so much. He’s a bag of bones. And her strength has become important, a practical advantage. I keep thinking: How wisely he chose. How lucky I am. If it wasn’t her, it would be me, but as a caregiver I have none of her grace.

我意識到,她可以這么做,是因為他失去了太多。他瘦得皮包骨頭。她的力量變得很重要,一種實際的優勢。我一直在想:他的選擇是多么明智。我真幸運。如果不是她,那就是我,但作為一個照護者,我沒有她那樣優雅。

“Long time no see!” said the host at the Chinese buffet.

“好久不見!”中式自助餐廳老板說。

He wore a terry cloth bib. She loaded his plate with spareribs and ginger beef, cracked his king crab legs with her teeth. An hour later, back at the house, she was feeding him leftovers.

他戴著一件毛巾布圍嘴。她在他的盤子里裝滿排骨和生姜牛肉,替他咬開帝王蟹腿。一個小時后,回到家里,她把剩菜喂給他吃。

“Still hungry, Ba?” I patted his head.

“還餓嗎,爸?”我拍了拍他的頭。

“He has good appetite,” she said, and we smiled as if he were a baby who had just finished his bottle. As we cleared the dishes, he started to mumble again, “Ahh, get out!” The air around him rattled with his annoyance. The demented are rarely grateful. But she is the one who could run away.

“他胃口很好,”她說,我們都笑了,仿佛他是個剛把奶瓶喝空的嬰兒。當我們收拾碗碟時,他又開始咕噥:“啊,出去!”他周圍的空氣仿佛都因為他的惱怒而變得緊張起來。失智癥患者很少心存感激。但她本可以逃開。

She hasn’t. She won’t.

她沒有。她不會。

“Open wide,” she said. She flossed his teeth.

“張大嘴,”她說著,用牙線給他剔牙。

I wonder what people think of them now. But society’s assumptions and opinions don’t matter. To them, they never did.

我想知道人們現在怎么看他們。但社會的成見和觀點并不重要。他們從來沒有在乎過。

However scorned or unsightly, their marriage has taught me: Don’t be so quick to judge.

無論他們的婚姻是多么可鄙或不雅,但它教會了我:不要急于下結論。

She stands tall, proud, resilient. For better or worse, until death do us part.

她有擔當,驕傲,堅強。無論是好是壞,直到死亡將我們分開。

This is love, undeniably. (I’m sorry, Ma.)

無可否認,這就是愛。(對不起,媽)。

This is love, deep in the trenches, worthy of respect, admiration and gratitude.

這就是愛,夫妻如戰友,值得尊重、敬佩和感激。

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