My mother told me a few things in the past month that have me convinced that all upper-middle class Chinese men over age 60 are unhealthily fixated on their own demise. At least in our family.
The following story is the first of a two-story series and pertains to my mother’s sister’s husband. Here is part 2 of the series.
About six months ago, my mother’s sister’s ex-husband, Yifu, started disappearing at night several times a week. Yifu and my mother’s sister, Feifei, divorced over 10 years ago but still live in the same apartment in China and sleep in separate rooms. (Weird, I know.) Since they lived together, Feifei knew exactly when Yifu came and went. She noticed that he would leave stealthily in the evening and come back in the morning looking happy and smug and figured that he, after all these years, had found a girlfriend. When she asked him about it, he smiled mysteriously and evaded her question, so she told him that he was free to move out to be his girlfriend, if he liked.
Nothing changed, and a few weeks later, Feifei got a call from Yifu’s sister, who told her she thought Yifu was mentally ill. Yifu’s sister had cooked him lunch several times in the past week and noticed that his mannerisms were slightly off and that he complained inordinately about nonexistent odors around the apartment. As everything smelled fine to her, she was convinced there was something wrong with him.
A few days later, Yifu came home one evening with precisely the same complaint about him and Feifei’s apartment. He told Feifei he felt unsafe sleeping in the same place two nights in a row because he knew that people were out to get him–he could smell them. Luckily for him, he and Feifei owned several apartments, which made it possible for him sleep in several different places every week. Feifei, who is a neurologist, prescribed him some anti-anxiety medication, and he calmed down until they vacationed in Israel a few weeks later.
Yifu and Feifei took a trip to Israel as part of a tour group, which meant that they often had to share a bus with other tourists. Yifu felt uneasy the entire trip and refused to sit next to anyone on the bus, complaining that they were all out to get him. He was also terrified of sleeping in hotels for the same reason. His paranoia was manageable during the day but uncontrollable at night.
After they got back to China, Yifu became convinced that his sister (a notoriously nice woman, by everyone’s standard) was after his daughter’s inheritance. He told Feifei that since they weren’t married anymore, his property would go to their daughter in the event of his death, but if their daughter were to die before receiving the property, his assets would go to his sister, whom he felt was single-mindedly plotting his daughter’s death at that very moment. He hand-wrote a letter to his daughter in Toronto warning her of her aunt’s intentions. He was completely inconsolable.
To allay his anxieties, Feifei offered to re-marry him, explaining that if both he and their daughter died, his property would still be safe from his sister. (And in case you’re wondering, Feifei is well-to-do on her own and doesn’t need the money herself–in fact, she probably bought and gave Yifu most of the property that’s currently under his name. I know–it’s a legal mess.) Yifu agreed, and they obtained a marriage certificate right there and then.
So now my neurologist aunt is re-married to her medically insane ex-husband. I don’t know who’s crazier–a crazy person or someone who voluntarily marries a crazy person to cater to the crazy person’s craziness.