This is another piece of work that explores my parents’ divorce, who needs therapy when you can create works of art using your unresolved issues. The calligraphy text on scroll is lifted from the letter my dad wrote to my mum in 1997 responding to a letter she sent asking for a divorce. I read his letter initially as a child when it first arrived without my mum knowing and found this letter again amongst my father’s possessions after he passed. He typed it on a computer and must’ve printed off another copy for his own record and kept it amongst his important documents like his US citizenship papers and insurance papers.
Every aspect of this has been painstakingly done by hand, from the calligraphy to the self drafted twice-covered with delicate paper box, translation typed on a typewriter, and patterned by hand bookcloth were meant to be theraputic and hoping to arrive at some kind of conclusion with my feelings towards their divorce that were dredged up again due to his death. I cannot say whether it has helped but it was cathartic to write his words over and over and wonder how he felt at the time of writing the letter and how he would feel about me airing their dirty laundry with the world.
As I began to write this letter, I didn't know how to address you. Are you also feeling this way? I feel guilty: this is only the second time I have written you a letter, but it is also the last. I am unsure how we got here, so I don't know where to begin.
In fact, I have long wanted to ask you “Why, do you resent me so?” I also wanted to know what I did wrong? But every single time I see your callous face, all of my questions cannot be answered.
I love my friends, but that doesn't mean I don't love my family. I never felt the warmth of familial love during childhood, so naturally I didn't know how to express my feelings. Of course you don't understand what it's like to not have your parents when you were young; but I believe you don't want to know what that's like anyway.
Life is full of opportunities, I believe it rises and falls, whether it's being friends or being husband and wife, but we can't always see through the good or bad. Eventually, we'll end up hurting each other then say it's all their fault. I'm not trying to preach, and definitely not trying to win back your heart, (It is said that when a woman's heart is broken, it is irreparable even if you spend a lifetime's worth of affection trying to mend it.) In fact, even before I received your letter, I was still trying to repair this broken home; I blame being inept, unsuccessful career, incapability, plus some other trivial matters as obstacles, and so it brought us to this end, (Buddha says “You reap what you sow.”) I don't blame you, it is just as you have said, incompatibility between us, cannot communicate and definitely cannot live together, so I will sign the paper: regarding marrying again, I no longer dare. Your sister's money, I will pay it off in 1998, the beginning of next year.
I wish you a happy remarriage.
P.S. If our daughter becomes your baggage, please return her to me. Thank you. 3:43 PM 6/26/97
The translation at the end of “if our daughter…” in Chinese, he didn’t use our, but just the word daughter. It didn’t make sense grammatically so I added “our daughter” but I have a feeling using the word “our” is the last thing he would have wanted. It’s hers and his, separately, not ours and not us.
I thought about adding my response to the letter as part of the piece but I couldn’t bring myself to assert me into all this (apart from physically making the piece) since it isn’t about me. Also can’t help but feel a sense of indignation at his passive aggressive tone in the letter, my mum never remarried but he did eventually marry again after 20 years and was married at the time of his death.