If you ask me when I've seen my parents show physical affection to each other, I don't think I can answer you. I remember the first time I saw how my father's eyes sparkled when he held my newly born little brother, and how my mother's mouth curves as she calls me out by my Chinese name, which she and my grandfather chose for me. But if you ask me, 'When did you last see your dad hold your mom's hand?', I'd hesitate to answer, because one of the only times I've seen him take her hand was four long years ago in the crisp air of Nami Island in Korea.
Yet, I remember that for the last four Sundays, my dad drove my mum to Changi Beach at 6.30 am to walk with her because he wanted to hear her talk about her project launch before the rest of the world awoke. I remember how my mother allocates time every few weeks to bake my father's favourite egg tarts because she wants him to have a sweet treat throughout the workweek. When you grow up, you don't model 'love' through Disney movies; you look first to your parents to see how people do it. No crowns or frogs to kiss, just kitchen table bills and grocery lists on fridges. With this, I'd like to introduce you to three episodes of my new favourite podcast: Modern Love -- giving you a glimpse into the complicated love lives of real people.
1) What I Got Wrong About My Parents' Marriage by Natasha Singh
"The space between my parents’ bodies is large like a vacant room, a vast tract of barren land."
As she grew up under the family roof, Natasha formed the opinion that her mother was limited by her father in the traditional, arranged marriage. Watching her parents' marriage for most of her life originally convinced her that marriage and also men were just not for her. However, in the last years of their lives together, she recalls how her late father would bow his head to her mother's feet, in the wee hours of the morning. It was only then that Natasha realised that she had overlooked the affection her parents had showered each other with in their marriage. The tender moments were simply theirs to share, alone and private.
This episode left me quiet for the whole car ride to my grandmother's house after my father picked me up from work. As I thought through what Natasha spoke about, I took notice of how his car's playlist was filled with my mother's favourite songs despite my mother driving her own car on weekdays. Perhaps my dad didn't need to always be reaching for my mum's hand to show his affection, after all.
2) Encore: A Lifetime of Good Living by Bette Ann Moskowitz
"It had taken us 56 years to perfect the ordinary in this extraordinary marriage. He died just short of his 85th birthday, and a month before the pandemic that has landed me in the house alone, (...)"
On the eve of the pandemic, Bette Ann Moskowitz lost the love of her life. Despite their differences, they had a harmonious marriage, settling into a quiet routine in their retirement years. But after his heart attack, he tried to prepare Bette for independence, but she resisted, clinging to their routine. The pandemic distracted Bette from her loss. But instead of thinking that she would rather die than live without him, she now hopes that she won't die. She wants to see what comes next, and she strongly believes that is what a lifetime of good loving can do.
When I got home after hearing this episode, I sat down and had a long chat with my grandmother. My grandfather passed away nearly 2 and a half years ago after a year-long battle against cancer. In that time, my grandmother had to learn how to do things by herself, especially when her children weren't around to help her. I've heard a saying once, that the family of those in long-term care don't grieve as much when the person passes because you were already grieving all that time. It's interesting that they never mentioned how by the time you realise you're on your own, you know what to do now.
3) The Day My Family Changed Forever
"And I think at that moment, I — all of a sudden, the problems of the adults became my problem. And I can remember losing my breath and my stomach just dropping, thinking, if I choose him, my mother will be so hurt, and if I choose my mother, this man — I’m going to hurt his feelings."
This is an odd episode for me to suggest to you readers, I know. You probably weren't expecting to listen to a podcast episode about divorce with your partner. But hearing personal stories of individuals who experienced their parents' divorce can in fact help couples gain empathy and understanding for each other's past experiences. It can be a way to develop greater compassion and sensitivity towards any unresolved emotions or traumas related to their own parents' divorce.
Understanding the impact of divorce on individuals' lives can also prompt couples to discuss how they would handle potential challenges in their relationship. It can serve as a catalyst for important discussions about communication, conflict resolution, and support systems. It's important to note that listening to such content should be done with sensitivity and respect, as these stories may evoke strong emotions. Couples should be mindful of each other's feelings and use this as an opportunity to support and understand one another better. Additionally, if listening to such content triggers distressing emotions, it may be beneficial to seek professional counselling or therapy to navigate these feelings effectively.
Last semester, I took a class called Home because the very concept of home revolving around something intrigued me. The humanist approach places people at the core of a space to examine home by considering interactions and experiences with a space. As I listen to Modern Love, I ponder if the approach can really be so simple.
In an episode, I hear the widow's voice crackling as she takes her call through a telephone; in another, a man's breathy chuckle. Perhaps home and love don't just live in the heart, after all. They live in our voices, in our stories amongst the lilted accents and the warmth of our laughs. Modern Love is a beautiful compilation of such stories, and love flows from through them, to us.