Id worried a great deal that Cindys family would toss her
out when they found she was marrying a gwai loh (white man). A lot of oriental
families, (much as Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic familes, and people of different color)
frown on inter-marriage. Shed assured me her folks were quite modern in their
concepts. Having met a sister and brother at our wedding, I was beginning to relax about
the prospect of meeting the whole bunch shes one of seven children. We made
plans for a trip to Hong Kong in August.
My new mother-in-law and father-in-law dont speak a word of
English, so I signed up at UCLA for an evening course in conversational Cantonese. There
were about half a dozen young ABCs in the class (Cindy said that meant "American Born
Chinese") who wanted to learn the language so they could communicate with relatives.
My new family and I took to each other instantly. I was accepted as a
family member and have never felt in any way like an outsider. Each and every one spoils
me rotten and I reciprocate as much as possible, but they always manage to stay ahead.
Orientals do not touch each other in public, nor even when in the
company of family members, but my contribution to the family is that now we are a huggy,
kissy group. When Cindy and I arrive in Hong Kong for a visit, most of the family is there
at the airport to greet us, and Ah Ping, my eldest sister-in-law, holds out her arms and
says, in one of the few English sentences she knows, "Wheres my hug?"
I call Cindy by her Chinese name, Yui Mei (Jade Flower), her full first
English name is actually Cinderella. At family weddings in Hong Kong Ive been
introduced as Rick-san (everyone knows I am the gwai loh in the family) to aunts,
uncles, and cousins. Its a wondrous thing to attend a wedding party on one floor of
a gigantic restaurant in Hong Kong where almost two-thirds of the fifteen-hundred people
are your relatives!
I grew up as an only child whod never had to share anything, as
siblings do. Now, having so many brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, its been
a welcome revelation. If I were handed a pencil and paper and asked to list a perfect
family the one I have would be it.
A few years after we married I had to put Cappi to sleep. My beloved
bird dog was past sixteen and increasing arthritis, failing memory, and the other ills of
age were slowly destroying her. I put off the decision as long as possible. Our
veterinarian, Sheldon Altman, said to bring her to the hospital.
I said "NO! I will not say goodbye to her in that kind of sterile
environment. Thats not where she lived."
"What are you going to do, then?" he asked.
"Ill take her out into the Sepulveda basin, with a pistol,
hold her on my lap and put a 22 in her ear."
"Oh, my God," Sheldon cried, "you cant do
There was a pause on the line. Sheldon, when Cappi was fourteen and had
developed arthritis, had cured her using acupuncture. She hunted happily for another year,
and Sheldon admitted once to me that she was a very special dog, even to him.
"Rick," he said, "I dont do house calls. In this
case, Ill make an exception."
He came to our house and he and I sat on the sofa. I called Cappi to me
and she barely managed to get to her feet and limp over. As she lay on my lap, Sheldon,
painlessly injected the drug into her foreleg. She expired in ten seconds.
I opened a rare bottle of Cognac that Id been harboring for a
special occasion and poured a snifter for each of us. I wrapped Cappi in a blanket, laid
her gently aside, and saw Sheldon to his car. Then I went back to the living room. Cindy
had been there the whole time and knew what I was going through. We talked for about
until I broke down. As I sobbed, uncontrollably, she came over and
held me in her arms.
We wanted to get out of the over-crowded San Fernando Valley and, the
following year, we bought a lovely home with a spectacular view in Ventura County,
Northwest of Los Angeles. Moorpark is a small town where everyone knows everyone else by
first names and the hardware store has been in business since 1926. We wouldnt
choose to move back to the San Fernando Valley, Beverly Hills, or any part of L.A. for the
Before wed bought the house Cindy kept saying, "Well
be going to Europe." I couldnt envision how, but two months before we closed
escrow, we flew to Trieste, Italy, then were transported across the border to Yugoslavia
where I did one of the many cameos in the TV miniseries, Around The World In 80 Days.
It was produced by our good friend, Renée Valente. We had a wonderful time in Yugoslavia
where we ate the best pizza weve ever had, then back to Trieste for a look around
and a drive to Venice for a day.
I had never known the joy, the happiness, and the contentment that this
marriage has brought me. We communicate with each other. We talk, we share experiences,
and travel. And particularly, we enjoy each others company. I came to appreciate and
wonder at her superb taste in clothing, interior decoration, and particularly designing
and planning a garden, something shed never done before. A truly amazing woman. With
innumerable books, she taught herself gardening, and transformed our clay/adobe soil into
earth that will now grow anything she plants.
I continue to discover what the kind of marriage my parents had is like.