A couple of weeks ago, my dad stopped by our house on a busy school night. He was supposed to be passing through, maybe to help drop one of the kids off at his/her after-school activity, but it happened that we were sitting down to a taco dinner when he arrived.
Oh I don't need a plate. I'm not eating, I'll have something when I get home.
I had a hunch it was because he'd never had a taco.
So I made him one, while the kids began to giggle and clamour from their seats for a closer view of his very first taste.
He liked it, and we had a good laugh about the punchy taste of the salsa.
It's not that he's picky or wary of new foods; that couldn't be further from the truth. Even though he was raised on a farm in Ireland, he jumped chopsticks-first into authentic Chinese cuisine when he fell in love with my mom.
My dad will try anything, my mom raised her family on primarily Chinese meals. He shocked the monks on Yellow Mountain in China, by accepting their traditional food. He has dined from the road side carts all over rural Asia. He and my mom have travelled to the corners of the world together, and food has never been an issue.
But here's the kicker. He'll try anything that my mom says he should and not much else—which means her tastesbuds have become his tastebuds.
When we joined the two of them for dim sum, a few days after the taco-eating incident, my sister and I were prepared to give them a good ribbing about their five taco-free trips to Mexico.
He doesn't eat tacos, because I don't eat tacos, our mom said while placing a bean curd dumpling into his bowl.
We know, but don't you think it's ridiculous?
No. It's just the way we are.
There was no apology or sheepishness written on either of their faces.
We dropped it and went back to sharing our meal.
I keep thinking about it though.
The differences in their marriage, when I compare it to mine.
Though I would never think to tell JB what he should eat, we've made decisions my parents would never make for their own relationship.
My memory takes me to the pots and pan aisle of a department store, soon after I found out where I'd be going to graduate school. It was the same university that my boyfriend of two years was headed. We never pretended it was a coincidence.
We stood side-by-side, and she reached for a wok big enough for one, while I let my eyes fall on one with room for two.
You don't need anything too big. It's just you.
I didn't tell her there, even though I knew she was looking for my reassurance. But I did soon after.
We were moving in together: no marriage, no engagement.
All we had was the certainty that it was the right to move forward together. It was enough for me. It wasn't for her.
There were weeks of cold silence.
There were phone calls that ended in hang ups.
At the three week mark, I was headed into the shower when I saw her number come up on the call display. I turned the water off and focused on the tiled wall, waiting for her to speak.
I just don't know why you're doing this to me.
She went right to my weak spot and struck hard.
The expectation that I should make my decisions so they fit other people's expectations of me.
We both knew it had always been my way.
I wanted her to want more for me. I wanted her to be ready for me to leave that behind.
I am not doing this to you. I am doing it for me.
And finally, we both cried.
She never came into the house we shared, we always went to her. But still, she let herself fall in love with the boy who is now her son-in-law. She loved us around our choice to conduct our relationship in a way she wouldn't.
I've thought a lot about the reason my mom decides what my dad should eat—she worries about his heartburn or thinks he won't like the taste of something new—and decided I don't have to.
I can have my ideas about why it's something I wouldn't do, but it's not my place to suggest they change their minds, anymore than it was her place to change my mind all those years ago.
There is so much value in navigating my marriage alongside and in the wake of my parents' marriage.
They never waver in doing what works for them, and they make no apologies for the choices they make together.
That mindset has served me well, especially in recent months. And I'm very grateful for it.
Maybe we'll have tacos again together, maybe we won't.
It doesn't really matter.