When my mother died, she told my father to get married again. She knew that Dad needed to share his life with a partner who would adore him and be adored in return. That was the kind of relationship Mum and Dad had, and they both thrived in it. After Mum died, Dad was gutted, but he managed to keep up a full life, writing, teaching and traveling and met women who he liked and who were interested in him. But it wasn’t until he met Jacqui that he found someone with whom he could settle down and begin a new partnership.
Dad met Jacqui at a conference in Hong Kong about 20 years ago, where she was assigned the role of looking after him. They hit it off right away and began a relationship that connected Dad’s world in Cambridge, England and Jacqui’s in Hong Kong. They were married in Cambridge, and since then have lived in both China and the UK. When they first met, Jacqui taught technical English to science and technology students at a university in Hong Kong, and Dad was working as an independent scholar specializing in English as a world language. Since he could be based anywhere, he moved to Hong Kong for a few years to live with Jacqui. Though Chinese was not one of the several languages he knows well, he greatly enjoyed his life there learning more about China, Hong Kong and the richness of language in that part of the world. David and I visited them there in 2002, a memorable trip not only because David proposed to me there, but also because it was great to see Dad so happy in his new life with Jacqui.
A few years on, Dad and Jacqui moved back to Cambridge, where they live now. The move was a big adjustment for Jacqui, as she had given up an academic position in Hong Kong and was now an independent scholar living in the UK. As Dad has become older and more dependent, Jacqui has arranged her days so that she is both a loving and caring wife to him while at the same challenging herself intellectually and socially as an official tour guide in Cambridge, touring in English, Madarin and Cantonese. Over the years, geography has prevented Jacqui and me from getting to know each other well, but I know she is a kind and thoughtful woman who cares deeply for Dad, and I have appreciated her keeping me up-to-date with how Dad is doing over the years. What’s more, I know that Mum would have approved of Dad’s choice for a partner for the rest of his life. Strangely enough, I can even imagine the two women sitting together in the flats in Cambridge drinking tea and chatting about their experiences living in a culture so different from their own.
Jacqui has been in Dad’s life for about 20 years now. I haven’t had the opportunity to tell her how glad I am that Dad went to that conference in Hong Kong many years ago. Today I sent her a ring that I bought in boutique at the 798 Art Zone, a contemporary arts district in Beijing when we visited in 2008. It’s an elegant and interesting enameled ring, but I have hardly worn over the years. I hope that Jacqui likes its simple, contemporary design, and when she wears it she will be reminded that thousands of miles away in LA, I am appreciating her and her deep, generous love for my father.