A student of mine, Ted, came over today . . . he was so scared that he couldn't come alone . . . he had to bring a friend with him. He wasn't sure of what I would be like and he wasn't sure what we would talk about. We had a wonderful visit, filled with lots of laughter and joy. I knew his friend quite well (in fact, she had already visited me), so the three of us had a nice time.
Ted told me more of his story.
Thirty years ago, Ted's dad was married to another woman and had a daughter. Ted's dad decided that married life with a baby wasn't for him, so he left. He was a building contractor and there was money to be made as the open door policy provided massive opportunities for him. He disappeared from that marriage, never letting his wife and daughter know where he was.
His wife, believing she was an abandoned woman, started dating someone else and made plans to get a divorce (no easy feat for a woman at that time). When her daughter was ten, dad showed up again. Mom dropped her plans for divorce, causing her boyfriend to fly into a rage. She died an "accidental death" at his hands. Since this was considered a domestic dispute, nothing was done and the boyfriend was not held responsible.
Ted's dad took the law into his own hands. Remember, he had not seen his wife for close to ten years . . . but he still wanted revenge. He and his brother paid a visit to the boyfriend and beat him up. Dad and brother were jailed for a few months and then released.
During that time period, Ted's mom was happily living her life, making plans for her own marriage. Her family funded the tuition of her boyfriend to attend college and to receive subsequent medical training. Upon the completion of his training, the young man promptly married someone else! To his credit, his family did refund all the money that Ted's mother's family had provided, but that did little to heal her broken heart.
Ted's mom was 28-years-old . . . and considered to be "old" for a single woman. The shame of being "dumped at the alter" also haunted her and her family. Her mother arranged her marriage to Ted's dad. Ted's mom met her husband on her wedding day.
A short time later, Ted was born. He recalls happy times with his dad, but that changed when he was six years old. The call of "making money" was too strong and Dad disappeared again. That was fourteen years ago. He and his mom occasionally hear of him (he's a somewhat well-known building contractor and their city is a rapidly growing one), but never anything "from" him. They know he has had several other "wives" and Ted knows of at least one other half-sibling.
Both Ted and his mom live in fear of the possible return of this man into their lives. In February, his mom bought an apartment home of her own because she is still living in the same home that Dad bought twenty years ago when they got married. She has no real plans to live in her new home, but she wants a back-up in case her husband shows up again. However, she's also quite panicked over the fact that she now has a ten-year mortgage. Debt is not an easy thing for the older generation to take on.
Ted's story is one of many. He doesn't feel close to his mom and doesn't really know his older half-sister because his mom doesn't want him to have anything to do with her. He feels the closest to his grandmother who laments the fast pace of modern life. Ted feels lost among his high school classmates as many of them didn't go to college; yet, they are doing quite well with their trade professions. He has yet to graduate, but knows that he already will need to get a master's degree at best in order to get a "decent" job. In other words, he and his mom keep spending money for his education and it will be years before there is a return on their investment.
Ted also struggles with the idea of "change for change's sake" versus "status quo." Many of his high school classmates married people they've known all their lives. It's against the law to get married before age 20, so many of them merely lived together in "fake" marriages because they couldn't wait for the age requirement. They had children who aren't registered because illegitimate children have no "rights" under the law. At some point, they may register their marriages, but they will not be able to register their children.
Ted understands his classmates' decisions, but gets angry with them at the same time. Simultaneously, his classmates ask him, "What are *you* doing that is so great or that is so different from us?"
And that, is the true question. What is the future for the young people of China?