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  • Writer's pictureSharon Uy

#14. A is for Anniversary



Welcome to issue #14 of my letters! (You can read the others here.)

As has become usual, I've put off many a letter in the name of self-consciousness, self-pity, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, you name it, I've got it! In spades. We can get to all of that later. Maybe. But in this moment, I'm a little too sober, and I've got a thing for the alphabet (and making alphabet books). I'd long ago thought about making yearly alphabet books for my life, but as has been usual, I'm far more proficient in dreaming of things than doing them. 2023's A was reserved for the word Actually, or maybe it was Anger. Or was it Ambivalence? No matter. Because today is (the day after the day after) my parents' 45th anniversary, so Anniversary it is!

--


It's not a favorite memory, but it's one that sticks out:

It was sometime around 5th grade, and as was typical on weeknights, I played the piano for my parents. To this day, I'm unsure whether they put me in lessons for my own learning or to become their personal jukebox of standards. Anyway, for one reason or another, I began probing them about details of their wedding--who was present, what kind of food they served, what they wore, the exact sequence of events. I asked what their wedding song was so I could learn it for these nightly recitals, being the sentimental romantic that I've been since I was St. Valentine a thousand lifetimes ago. I don't recall getting much of an answer, just laughter, and more laughter, then tears along with the laughter. I remained quiet, staring at them, my mind somehow both exploding and turning to dust. Being a psychotic and farthest-fetched conclusion jumper in addition to being sentimental, I figured I'd accidentally unearthed the secret that they weren't Actually married. It wouldn't have been so surprising, after all, a secret of this magnitude. After all, I am Filipino. To be vague, Filipinos generally harbor secrets of all kinds, the most common of which has made a mortal enemy out of 23andme.

This supposed secret was something I dwelled on for years. Every time I asked for confirmation of their federally-recognized union, they'd just laugh in response, and go back to whatever they were doing. Perhaps realizing that this was making me even more of a conclusion-jumping psychotic, my dad finally showed me their marriage certificate, 18 years later but about 17 years too late to prevent my ravaging phobia of secrets.

-

I asked my mom what the secret was, to 45 years of marriage.

"Love," she said, with the kind of twinkle in her eye that hinted this was an answer of the kind my dad used to give me, one that was, in response to whatever question I might ask as an adolescent, any other possible answer than, "I don't know." (A far lesser parent's unspoken response would be, "I don't care.")

I was asking out of curiosity more than out of desperation, though, believe me, there have been many (many) times.

I asked my dad what the secret was, to 45 years of marriage.

He said, after thinking about it for 2 seconds, "There is no secret." (This might have been a more nuanced version of "I don't know.")

His answer reminded me of the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching, which reads, in part, "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao." ("Tao" is the way - the way of the universe, or the way of ultimate reality.) Which is to say that, once you speak aloud the sacred thing, it robs the thing of its sacredness. The attempts to capture the thing will forever pale in comparison to the thing itself. In other words (ha), words will always fail.

Maybe my parents are not speaking aloud the eternal Tao of their sacred union because they understand this principle on a cellular level, but I, one half of their offspring, am merely a flawed human ever-struggling to find my/the way, so I am not above spilling what I think is the Tao to their 45 years of marriage--

My parents mind their business, and they don't sweat the small stuff. I, on the other hand, am the busiest body you've seen on either side of the Mississippi, and I've taken up permanent residence in the sweat lodge of my mind. They also keep their business tight in the lip and close to the hip. Sure, studies have probably (?) shown that it's beneficial for kids to see real-life interactions between parents to prepare them for real-life relationships, but my brother and I are not to be counted among those children. There are pros and cons to everything in life, but I like to think we consider it a blessing rather than a curse that we've never seen our parents fight. Not to say they haven't experienced marital drama, but if they have, I know nothing about it. And I respect that. Take it from me, I've certainly learned my lessons from spilling my relational guts to 30 too many people!

But, I clearly haven't learned enough of this lesson. Last year was a rough one. I wondered if J and I would ever laugh together again or if I'd just chop his head off with a machete, throw his body in the LA river during a storm, and call it a day. With hard work and divine timing, to super-oversimplify, we found our laughter again, and I only needed to look to my parents to see how consistent laughter can be a savior and a sign that all is well. Sometimes when I think I'm laughing too much or too often, or at inappropriate times, I remember that I am the daughter of my parents, lords of the laugh. It's an everyday thing, and to quote every Gen A-Zer, if you know, you know.

I'm not a mom, unless you count my mothering of Pacquito, Bubba (rest in peace), boyfriends, or any and all of the therapy clients I've had over the years, so let me first say that I have no idea what I'm talking about. But I did go to school and learn about triangulation (not to be confused with strangulation), and when I see parents choose their children above their partner, well, you can just read a peer-reviewed article about the potential and guaranteed consequences. My brother and I knew that we were the closest second possible to their friendship with each other, and I've always thought that that's dank, and an excellent example to follow, even though I'd throw J off a cliff to save Pacquito.

I hope I'm not getting them in trouble with any Catholic family members by saying that they're not very religious (at all), but my parents are the most zen folks I know without realizing they're zen. I think it's more of the "Tao that is spoken is not the Tao" stuff. There was always a simple and somehow truth-resonating answer for every emotional ailment I've ever had in my life, real or imagined, like when I was so scared we were all going to hell when we died, and my mom turned around from the passenger seat, looked me in the eye, and said, "We'll be fine."(Lol.)

There seems to be a societal emphasis and goal on lengthening relationships, friendships, jobs, thought patterns, habits, like there's some trophy-crown-badge of honor to be won at the end of life. I call this the myth of loyalty. And though the length of time my parents' marriage has traveled has perhaps placed within me an adolescent and unrealistic expectation that things need to last forever (right alongside my adult realization that breakups and divorces can be such excellent ideas), for them, their loyalty to each other has worked out, and beautifully, I might add, and without forcing it, I might add further.

Lastly, keep it simple, sweetheart. Sometimes just making the commitment to show up every day is what gets a couple through the good times and the bad times. I don't know where my abandonment issues came from. Just kidding, I do know, but it definitely wasn't from any example my parents' relationship set. Loving someone is cool, but liking each other is what makes happy days turn into happy years in the blink of an eye.

Here's to 45 more years of my parents liking each other and laughing every day, and here's to 45 more years of my learning how to do it like the greats.

As always, thank you for reading--

<3 SBU

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