Father's Day is around the corner. I’ve translated into English what I have written so my husband can more easily understand the language of my heart.
As usual, he gets up in the morning first, as he knows I love to stay in bed for at least for 5 minutes longer. Breakfast is as usual, he sets the table and I get the food ready. Juice made from fresh fruits and freshly ground and brewed coffee are necessities. He also loves his yoghurt and granola.
After breakfast, he usually says “HONEY, what time shall we eat tonight and is there anything in particular you would like?”
The variety of food here is limited. There is plenty of steak, pork chops and pasta. But I am tired of eating that food, too tired to think what to say when asked. So I generally say, “You decide”. He usually tries to get me to say something, but in order to get off to work quickly I tell him to make what he feels like. “I’ll eat whatever you prepare”, I say. Sometimes though, I say “let’s eat grilled fish”. That makes him quite excited. I guess he doesn’t have to think of what to prepare!
The city where we live is far from the ocean. We don’t have much of a choice of fresh seafood. When I say I’d like fish, he immediately starts looking for recipes on his computer, printing them out and checking if we have all of the required ingredients at home. If not, he writes it down and hurries off to the store to buy what he needs. If he doesn’t like the look of the particular species of fish he wants at one store, he will go to another store.
My husband treats daily life quite seriously. If our son-in-law comes over for dinner, he wants to know a few days in advance so he can buy the food. I often challenge him and tell him that it seems like an appointment is required even for friends and family to visit! It would be easy for people to think he’s too fussy and that we don’t lead a normal family life. In fact, it avoids a lot of unnecessary anguish and upsets, although it does take time and understanding to get used to his habits. The relationship between us has become easier and led to greater respect for each other.
In his view, parents should love and care for their kids, checking with them from time to time on how their life and job is going, and giving some advice, if necessary. He doesn’t feel we should get too involved in their lives or them in ours. Our kids live in different countries at the moment. As a mother, I think it is normal that I worry about relationships. I will certainly worry until they too can settle down and lead a normal family life. But he thinks that once kids grow up they have their own ideas about the lives they want to lead. That may involve living in separate places at times. We don’t need to get too involved. But we should always be there to help in whatever way we can. They should always feel that we love and care for them and their happiness.
Yes, he is serious in his habits. For example today, he has given up watching the WORLD CUP so that he can go out to buy wine for our pasta tonight! We are only two at home here. But for each meal we have to set the table formally; knives, forks and wine glasses have to be in right place. Otherwise, it is quite likely I would hear a yell! Over the years, I myself have gotten used to the habit of setting the table before eating.
Many of our habits are different from the average family. But perhaps that is not the right comparison to make as long as we ourselves feel comfortable and happy with our lifestyle.
If I receive a letter, even from his family, his sisters, with my name on the envelope, it will stay unopened on the countertop until I get home to open it personally. At the beginning, I thought he was very strange. I said “this letter is from your family, why don’t you open it?” He looked at me seriously and said that it was very impolite to open or read other people’s letters. It showed a lack of respect for their privacy.
We have two landline phones at home, one for him and one for me. If I’m out he doesn’t answer my phone and I don’t answer his. We have two satellite TV services installed, a Canadian one for him and a Chinese one for me. Some may think that we are simply passers-by living together, that we don’t trust each other or have any common interests or hobbies. But that is far for the truth.
Time has proven that we both enjoy our own space; mutual non-interference in internal affairs in diplomatic language! At home, we both have our own, fully-equipped workplaces. If his computer breaks down, I don’t get blamed. And it’s the same for him if mine has problems. Of course, the cost per month is a bit higher, but it’s worth it. He has friends among his community-work colleagues as I do in my business circle.
Our common interests include nature, travel, photography, competing with each other on who spots wildlife first. Our life is never boring. Of course, we have our fights but we mainly live in harmony. Economically, we are independent of each other, both taking care of different parts of our living expenditure. Again, this is in contrast with most ordinary families, but it suits our situation.
He has no family living in this country and neither do I. Although we are from different cultures, lifestyles and family backgrounds, living together in a foreign country, only we can understand each other fully. Early in the eighties I worked for him, and we fell deeply in love. Many years later, we left our old life, family and friends and work environment, to start our new life together here. I am pleased that we depend on each other in this new country.
Some people may think he is a stay-at-home, house-husband.
But that would be a mistake. Before retiring he was a workaholic, working day and night. He was the Director of United Nations World Food Programme emergency relief world-wide. He once had four secretaries working directly for him and they still could not keep up with his work output. He managed many staff and offended a lot of them too. Those colleagues who worked with him at that time had a lot of respect for him. They had a saying that if he farted at Headquarters, the staff in Africa could smell it! Of course, some staff hated him too. Working with him was to increase the risk of a heart attack several times above normal. When he was 39 years old, he had already been promoted to Director level with the United Nations. Many of our colleagues were jealous and envious of him. The very senior and junior ones admired him.
After retiring from the United Nations, he served as CEO of an American social marketing company in India. He also wrote a weekly column on international affairs for our newspaper.
He once belonged to the world now he belongs only to me. I am proud. Even after all these years, our feelings for each other have not faded.Now his hobby is photography. Several well-known photo agencies in England sell his work. He now hunts animals with a camera instead of a gun. Over the years, influenced by him, I have become a fan of wildlife too. I have come to love nature and am happy to and follow him to wild places, even to the end of the world which we visited last year!