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《斯人已逝(之一: Betty)》 Departed Soul(1: Betty)

(2023-11-22 14:17:18) 下一个

斯人已逝(之一: Betty)Departed Souls (1: Betty)

序:2006-2008年是我压力大,心情不愉快的两三年。那时已经做了几年博士后,前途没有着落。年前女儿降生了。两个孩子加一个房子,经济压力陡然增加。就在此时,另一个系的学界大佬DK向我抛出了橄榄枝,答应给我涨40%的工资和Research Assistant Professor的头衔(其实没意义)。于是我转到他的实验室,开始了两年不堪回首的第二期博士后。我在博文《一个关于fact 的真实故事》中,暗示了我的困境…… 恰好,绿卡到了,于是开始找工作。我投出七、八十份简历,全美国范围内找。只得到两个interview的机会,最后的offer就是现在我仍然在工作的这家公司(跟我的专业背景和特长很对路子)。我老婆跟我商量,假如她辞了工作、与两个孩子马上一起随我,到千里之外、生活开销高两三倍的新地方,太冒险了。一旦我在industry混不下去,全家怎么办呢?于是乎,我开始了三年的“单身”生活;而她继续留在大学城,一边工作一边带着两个年幼的孩子,辛苦可想而知…… 我一个人在公司附近租了房东楼下的一间屋,单独从后院出入。意外发生在我已经在此处住了近三年、即将离开的时候。那是10年前的事情了。】

Preface: The years 2006-2008 were two or three difficult years for me, marked by high stress. I had been a postdoctoral researcher for several years with an uncertain future. My daughter was born in the year, adding to the pressure with two children and a house. Just then, DK, a big name in another department, extended an olive branch, promising a 40% salary increase and the title of Research Assistant Professor (which was essentially meaningless). So, I joined his lab and embarked on a second postdoctoral stint that I'd rather forget. In my blog post "A True Story About Fact," I hinted at my predicament... Coincidentally, my green card came through, prompting me to start job hunting. I sent out seventy to eighty resumes nationwide in the United States, but only received two interview opportunities. The final offer came from the company where I am still employed today, aligning well with my professional background and expertise. My wife and I discussed the option of her quitting her job and moving with our two children to a new place with living expenses two to three times higher, which seemed too risky. What if I couldn't make it in the industry? What would we do as a family? So, I began three years of "single" life; she continued to stay in the university town, working and taking care of our two young kids, a difficult task, to say the least... I rented a room near the company, with my own entrance in the back. The unexpected tragedy happened when I had been living here for nearly three years and was about to leave. That was ten years ago. 】

 

那年4月初期来了倒春寒。一连三、四天雨夹雪,整个世界都阴沉而寒冷。

In early April that year, a late spring chill arrived. It rained and snowed for three or four consecutive days, casting a gloomy and cold atmosphere over the entire world.

那天晚上下班回家,我发现停车位全被占满了,包括我自己的那个。这时房东Tom出来了,我问你们家里开party吗?Tom带着哭腔说:“Betty死了,她没了。”

One evening, as I returned home from work, I noticed that all the parking spaces were taken, including mine. When Tom, the landlord, came out. I asked, "Are you having a party?" With a tearful tone, Tom replied, "Betty is gone. She's no more."

房东太太Betty中午突发中风,再也没有醒过来。

The landlady Betty had a sudden stroke at noon and never woke up again.

Betty 60多岁,身体一直很好,人也显年轻,她曾经对我说她几乎从来不生病。今年年初她突然出现了中风的征兆,但经过治疗很快就没事儿了。她跟我打趣说这下子不能吃牛肉、要少沾油腻了,我说那我教你做豆腐吧。她似乎恢复得特别好。真没想到突然撒手西去了,生命有时真是很脆弱。后来我得知她家的高血脂症是有遗传的,她其实一直属于高危人群,但重视不够。

Betty, in her 60s, had always been in good health, looking young for her age. She once told me she rarely got sick. Earlier that year, she had a minor stroke, but after treatment, she quickly recovered. Jokingly, she mentioned that she couldn't eat beef anymore and had to avoid oily food. I suggested teaching her how to cook tofu. She seemed to have had a full recovery. It's really a shock that she passed away suddenly. I later learned that her family had a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, and she was actually at high risk, but didn't pay enough attention to it.

Tom和Betty这两口子属于最普通的美国老百姓,太太在学区(类似于中国的教育局)当个小公务员,正打算过两年退休。Tom没有学历,一辈子当labor,打各种杂工。就是这样一对有3个孩子的普通家庭,在一个高物价高消费的地区,靠着几十年的勤劳、节俭、投资和其他的生财之道(比如我住的那一部分,就是十几年前孩子长大离家后,Tom对房子进行改造,独立出去的两块,分别出租,每年给他带来不少收入),财富逐渐增长,从结婚时租的一间狭小的公寓(Betty跟我描述过),到拥有那幢很不错的house (按照现在当地房市,我估计1 m 以上了),不仅房款完全还清,而且在北边两小时车程以外的湖边还另拥有一个度假房。这应该算是美国人实现美国梦的例子吧。

Tom and Betty were an ordinary American couple. Betty worked as a small government official in the school district and was planning to retire in a couple of years. Tom, without a formal education, worked as a laborer, doing various odd jobs throughout his life. Yet, with three children, they managed to accumulate wealth over the years through diligence, frugality, investments, and other ways of making money (for instance, the part I lived in was transformed by Tom into a rental property after their children grew up and moved out, bringing in significant annual income). Their wealth grew gradually, from renting a small apartment when they got married (as Betty described it to me) to owning a very nice house (given the current local real estate market, I estimate it to be worth over a million dollars), not only paying off the mortgage but also owning a vacation house by a lake two hours north. This could be considered an example of achieving the American dream by ordinary Americans.

跟房东两口子一起三年,我们相互间建立了深厚的友谊,他们对我也是照顾有加。每当下雪的时候,还没等我起床,Tom就先把我车前的雪铲了,好让我及时上班。要是那天上午没什么要紧的事儿,我就留下来同Tom一起把门前的雪清干净。我每次回家探亲去机场,他都开车把我送去,然后再把我从机场接回来。Betty有时烤点心什么的,也给我送点儿来。我偶而也请他们尝尝我做的中国饭。

Having lived with the landlords for three years, we developed a deep friendship, and they took great care of me. Whenever it snowed, before I even woke up, Tom would shovel the snow in front of my car so I could get to work on time. If there wasn't anything urgent on a snowy morning, I would stay and help Tom clear the snow in front of the house. Every time I flew back to visit my family, he would drive me to and pick me up from airport. Sometimes, Betty would bake some treats and bring them to me. Occasionally, I would treat them to Chinese food I cooked.

现在回想起来,我对自己送给他们的一样礼物感到特别欣慰 -- 那是Betty去世前不久,当得知他们要庆祝50年金婚了(他们很早婚),我就打印出自己拍摄的一对天鹅的照片装框送给他们作为礼物 (见下面),他们非常喜欢,把这张照片挂在客厅里醒目的位置。

Looking back, I feel particularly gratified about a gift I gave them - shortly before Betty passed away. Learning that they were about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary (they married early), I printed and framed a photo I took of a pair of swans as a gift (see below). They loved it and hung the photo prominently in the living room.

在遗体告别仪式(Wake)上,有两、三百人前来最后告别,看得出Betty人缘是非常好的。在这个仪式上,虽然也有眼泪,但没有嚎啕大哭的场面,有时甚至还有一点笑容,整个场面也比较随意、嘈杂。我极少到这样的场合,马上感觉到与中国文化的不同。夫妻俩是虔诚的天主教徒,教友去得很多,他们在遗体前都有一个画十字的动作。轮到我的时候,我用中国的礼节对遗体三鞠躬,愿她一路走好。

At the wake, two to three hundred people came to bid Betty farewell, revealing her excellent social connections. Although there were tears, there wasn't the dramatic wailing I expected. At times, there were even smiles, and the atmosphere was relatively casual and noisy. I rarely attend such events, and I immediately felt the difference from Chinese culture. The couple were devout Catholics, and many fellow church members attended, making the sign of the cross in front of the body. When it was my turn, I bowed three times in the Chinese way, wishing her a peaceful journey.

TomBetty3个子女都已长大成人,而且有了好几个孙子、孙女。他们的两个女儿JennLinda住得比较近,而且与父母关系也非常近,她们一直是几乎每个星期都要来看看父母。Betty去世以后,两人轮流24小时陪父亲。然而一周过后,女儿被父亲“赶走”了。Tom说我没事儿了,有什么好陪的?你们就像原先那样周末来看一眼就行。然而,女儿走后,住在楼下的我能感到楼上的不安。来回的踱步声凌晨五点就开始了。于是,我上班前敲门问他吃得如何,睡得怎样,有什么要帮忙的。Tom说一切都ok,当然,一个人在你身边50年,突然没了,要想睡踏实不容易,说着说着,眼泪就流下来了……

Tom and Betty's three children had grown up and had several grandchildren. Their two daughters, Jenn and Linda, lived relatively close and had a close relationship with their parents, visiting almost every week. After Betty's death, they took turns spending 24 hours with their father. However, after a week, the daughters were "dismissed" by their father. Tom said, "I'm fine now. There's nothing to accompany me for. Just come by on weekends as you used to." However, after the daughters left, I could feel the unease upstairs. The pacing back and forth began at five in the morning. So, before going to work, I knocked on the door to ask how he was doing, how he was eating and sleeping, and if there was anything I could help with. Tom said everything was okay, but of course, after being together for fifty years, suddenly being alone made it difficult to sleep soundly, and as he spoke, tears welled up….

又过了大约一个月,一天晚上,Tom突然敲门进来。他说,我产生了一个想法,想跟你说说 — 我知道你老婆孩子夏天就要搬过来了,考虑在这个地方安家吗?你也知道我们这个小城不错的。我可以把这个房子卖给你,现在房价较低、贷款利率更低。具体的事情咱们好商量,只要你想买就行。我一个孤老头子不需要那么大的房子,咱们可以对调一下,我住到楼下你的房间去…… 我来这个小城已经30年了,处处门儿清。你要是在这里安家,我很多地方可以帮你们的忙。

About a month later, one evening, Tom suddenly knocked on my door. He said, "I have an idea and wanted to talk to you about it - I know your wife and kids are moving here this summer. Have you considered settling down in this place? You know our small town is nice. I can sell you this house. The housing prices are low now, and the loan interest rates are even lower. We can discuss the details, and as long as you want to buy, other details are easy. I'm an old man living alone, and I don't need such a big house. We can switch places; I can move downstairs to your room... I've been in this small town for thirty years, and I have connections everywhere. If you settle here, I can help you in many ways."

我知道Tom是真心的。然而早在Betty去世前,我已经选定另一个地方安家了(仍是我现在的住处)。如果Betty不死,那只是一个再见的问题,但现在Betty不在了,Tom又有了这样的想法,倒很让我有恻隐之心。我忘了我后来是怎么向他解释的。

I knew Tom was sincere. However, before Betty passed away, I had already chosen another place to settle down (where I am still residing now). If Betty hadn't died, it would have been a farewell, but now that Betty is gone, and Tom has such thoughts, it makes me feel sympathetic. I forgot how I later explained it to him.

两年以后,一个风和日丽的中午,我去那边办事,于是拐一下去看看,希望Tom还在。然而,院子大变。房子的侧边已经架起了秋千和儿童滑梯。一位年轻的母亲正与她的孩子一起玩耍。见我伫立在路边,她微笑着问我找谁。我告诉她,我曾在这幢房子里住过整整三年呢……

Two years later, on a sunny and breezy noon, I went to that town for some business and turned to the house to take a look, hoping Tom was still there. However, the yard had changed a lot. A swing and a children's slide had been set up on the side of the house. A young mother was playing with her child. Seeing me standing on the roadside, she smiled and asked who I was looking for. I told her that I had lived in this house for a full three years...

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