After reading my last post, I expect many people are wondering how Yuni could get away with threatening to not support his parents and escape being censured for his own lack of filial piety. That is an art in Chinese family negotiations. I never heard Yuni threaten his parents outright. And yet, his parents felt that he had delivered an ultimatum regarding his support of them in their old age.
How did he do this? He talked around an issue until his point was taken.
Yuni couched everything in terms of how the older generations must be patterns of filial piety so that the younger generations will learn from them and continue on in the proper traditions. Yuni never mentioned himself. Instead, he talked about how our young daughters would be corrupted from the proper practice of filial piety, if they were to be allowed any contact with my father, especially unsupervised contact. He waxed eloquent about his fears of not being supported or cared for in his old age because he had allowed his children to be infected by the germs of American disregard for filial piety.
The most he said about himself was that he could not understand how a college professor like my father would not realize that his actions could corrupt his son-in-law, who might then follow in his footsteps.
Yuni used this line of discourse whenever my father was mentioned until finally, everyone in our household gave up broaching the subject to him. And when he failed to give his parents their usual fat red envelopes for the next Chinese New Year, he just said that we did not have the money. He gave them something but much less than usual, and much less than we had given them when we were really poor after just arriving in America. Those years he had taken extra work on the weekends to make sure his parents had enough. From what Ma told me later, those thin red envelopes spoke volumes and really frightened her.
After this experience Pa and Ma no longer supported me as much in the family for fear of losing their security in old age. I had passed a test with the clan in helping out Elder Sister, and now Yuni wanted me to be treated as if I were really Chinese. There would be much less slack cut for me because I am white. Even though we were living in America, I actually sank deeper into the family’s Chinese culture.