It is with great pleasure that I announce my intention to fly to Shanghai in September for the purpose of, in person, proposing to the lady with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life. I look forward to introducing all of my friends to Helen Yang (or, to my Chinese friends, 杨姝).
I think every girl deserves a romantic proposal in person if she wants one (and I fairly early ascertained that Helen does in fact strongly prefer to be proposed to in person); so I have not formally proposed. But thanks to United States immigration policy (don't get me started), all of the logistics have to start early and require a great deal of advance cooperation; so romantic surprise is, sadly, not an option (though believe me, I put in a LOT of time trying to figure out how to pull that off before having to give up). The upshot is that while I haven’t officially proposed to Helen, I have told her that I’m coming to Shanghai in September intending to propose to her and marry her and take her on a honeymoon. And she has not accepted my proposal, not having yet received it; but she has told me that, when she is proposed to, she intends to accept, and that she’ll have the preacher and the church ready and the honeymoon booked. This makes her, as best as I can figure, my fiancée-to-be.
But the point is that, assuming I can work out the finances and the logistics, 我要九月去上海和姝结婚 – I’ll go to Shanghai in September to marry Helen.
This will also make me a stepfather to Helen’s cheerful and irrepressible seven-year-old son Kevin (凯程).
A couple of years back
Kai was chosen to be MC at his kindergarten graduation
If you have several hours to spare, swing by and invite me to tell you about the lady. If you do NOT have several hours to spare, then here’s the short version:
- She walks around wearing joy the way other people wear clothing – it’s the first thing you notice about her, it seems to me. I don’t know how else to put it.
- She has exactly the kind of simple, yet inquisitive, vibrant and deeply pragmatic faith in Christ, and love for God, that my parents have.
- If there’s a kinder, sweeter, gentler person alive than Helen, then whoever it is I haven’t met ’em.
- She is transparent and honest; what you see is what you get. (Oddly, she seems to think that this is both common and not particularly valuable; I have done my best to explain to her that it is actually not at all common and is very valuable indeed.)
- She has the gift my mother has, of finding natural joy in serving and loving other people, whether it’s her kids, or the people at her church, or the children in the school where she teaches English once a week.
- She couldn’t be selfish or manipulative if you held a gun to her head.
- She has a habitually positive attitude and does not indulge in self-pity.
- She is very, very smart; very, very prudent; very, very hard-working; and very, very practical. I strongly suspect that I will never, ever have to ask her to be more careful or less foolish with money, and if anybody gets lazy and tries to get away without carrying their fair share of the load it’ll probably be me, not her.
- Here’s what I’ve learned about her just from getting her to explain to me why Kevin’s father doesn’t seem interested in being part of Kevin’s life, an explanation that involved her having to tell me about when her ex-husband walked out to be with his new mistress and left her with no job, no money and a newborn child:
- She can pray the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” in perfect safety – I’ve never heard even a shade of anger or bitterness in her voice when she talks about the past.
- Although she hurts for Kevin and knows she can’t make up for his lack of a father, and although she was completely betrayed by her husband, she has never allowed herself or any member of her family or friends to ever say anything bad about Kevin’s father in front of him, because that’s Kevin’s dad. That means that she understands children well enough to know what it does to them to hear that kind of crap, and that even when she herself was furious with her ex-husband she had enough self-control not to allow herself to relieve her own suffering by passing her own pain on down to her child.
- Despite the soft voice and the sweet disposition and the tiny (five-foot-two, 97 pound) frame, she has enormous emotional resources and resiliency – her heart may be as soft as warm butter in its compassion and concern for others, but it’s indomitable in its strength and courage.
- She is hilariously bad at being sneaky – no talent for dishonesty whatsoever. (This is a good thing, I assure you. She was telling me one story about how she tried to avoid conflict with her ex-husband by saving up some money for her grandfather without telling her husband, but she hid the money so clumsily that her husband figured it out right away. She kept saying, “I was so stupid,” under the apparent impression that she was making herself look bad. But I was thinking, “Okay, so if that was the best you could do then you have absolutely NO talent or experience at being underhanded…um, this is a very very GOOD thing…”)
- She keeps her word.
- She has a very sweet and pure singing voice (which is at its best when singing Chinese folk songs a capella), but oddly enough a very rich chuckle with a lot of texture and timbre to it. Wouldn’t have expected both of those out of the same set of pipes but I like them both very much.
- She has a lively and sneaky sense of humor (this is the only form of sneakiness she seems to be good at).
- She’s very good at business, but is interested in business only as a means to seeing to it that the people she loves have all that they need in order to be happy – and is literally incapable of carrying on business in a dishonest or unethical manner.
- She’s rather absurdly modest.
- She has an extremely robust sense of responsibility, and whatever she considers her responsibility to be, she does whatever it takes to fulfill it (including staying up late on a second date on a Saturday night…not out singing karaoke and dancing as originally planned, but instead working through a new song for church the next morning, because the church worship leader ignored her pleas and sent along a new song late Saturday evening to be sung for the next morning’s service, despite the fact that he knows perfectly well that Helen, who is the worship team’s lead singer, hasn’t had a chance to learn to read Western musical scores yet…but then you already know that story).
- She has just enough occasional air-headedness about her to make her empathize with my habitual absent-mindedness and disorganization, and to be amused by it (but she has a far less advanced case than I do).
- She is of an astonishing even temper and calm disposition.
- When she smiles at me the world wobbles and my blood catches on fire. Especially if she’s wearing a ponytail. And anything very bright and very red.
There’s much more than that to say but I promised that this would be the short version.
So now you can pray that the BG stock price stays high enough for my stock options to close in the money in September, since that’s how I hope to pay for the plane tickets and the honeymoon and the spousal visa application.