Mother’s Day 2012
Since 2003, I have taken 7 long road tours called the Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions (CARE tours), always executed solo except for the 44-states-in-7-months CARE-1 tour (Sep 03 – Apr 04), which was conducted with vegan author Brenda Davis and her the 15 year-old son Cory Davis. No matter how long the route, and however heavy the schedule, and regardless of blown engines and dangerous weather, I have always finished a tour as planned. Except CARE-5 in 2008, which I did cut short, and that was for my mother.
First, let me say that she and I were very close. By the 2000s, my father had passed away (2000), she was already in her 80s and staying in a care home. Because of her ready smile and thankful attitude, she was the darling of the staff, but what she lived for was the once per 2-3 days visitations from me and my brother Matthew (since my sister Wendy was in Hong Kong and had sustained debilitating brain injury). So obviously, for me to be on the road for 5-7 months every year was hard for her, so much so that I always dreaded the day of my departure, when she would always cry. But never once did she say one word to try to dissuade me from my “travelling man’s” way of life. On the contrary, she would give her blessing to me and the animals I had set out to save. So, every time I returned to Vancouver, our “mother-and-child-reunion” was extra sweet.
But in September 2008, when she was 89, I was in the US NE, Maryland as I recall, I received news from the care home that she was not doing well, in fact going downhill fast. The tour was scheduled to end in mid-November, and my first impulse was to finish it as planned, as always. But to a person, my friends urged to cut the tour short and go home. Still, I doggedly carried on with the tour until mid-October, cancelled several late-October events, and made a beeline for Vancouver, arriving home on Oct. 18. After crossing the US/CDN boarder, I drove straight for the care home, and was duly devastated to see how weak she had become. She did not have any life-threatening disease; she just ran out of gas. As of that day, for 3 weeks, I went to see her every day, until November 8, when she (1919-2008) passed away peacefully in her sleep. I saw her for the last time on November 7, and we did not even say good-bye.
Had I completed the tour before heading home, I would not have forgiven myself. So, I thank all my friends for their wise and caring counsel.
Let me do a little retro-story-telling. My ancestry was supposed to be northern Chinese, though I was born in Guang Dong, the southernmost province of China. The reason was that when Genghis Khan invaded China, destroyed the Sung Dynasty (960-1279) and established the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), the most enterprising and mobile of the northern Han Chinese moved south to continue the resistance, which made the “Southern people” the lowest in the Yuan’s 8-tier hierarchy. After the Yuan Dynasty had been overthrown by the succeeding Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the northern Chinese who traveled south had taken root, and were there to stay.
Both sides of my family were accomplished and prosperous. My father’s line was urban and government oriented. My father had a law degree, a rarity of the time, which placed him high in the Nationalist government. My mother’s line was rural. Her father owned a small local bank, and her mother’s side had an inland aquaculture business complete with irrigated fish ponds and motorized junks. I was born in 1944, the first male child of the family, and heir-apparent to inherit all these substantial edifices and profitable enterprises.
In 1937, Japan invaded China with unspeakable cruelty. Other than the notorious Nanking Massacre, the invaders went into the rural areas to sack villages for food, for blood, for pain, for screams, for lives, and for women. One day, a troop of Japanese soldiers entered my mother’s village, and broke into the first house they sawed, where they did find a girl for the taking, a very plain girl, but a girl nonetheless. That girl’s mother pulled the traitorous Chinese interpreter aside and told him that if they would spare her daughter, she would tell him where the most beautiful girl in the village was, and that was my mother. The traitor led the Japanese soldiers to my grandmother’s house – without sparing the plain girl – but could not find my mother, because a couple of days prior, she, then age 19, had gone to Shanghai, on her own, to volunteer for the International Red Cross. Were she there to be captured, she would have become one of the thousands of “comfort women” – disposable sex slave, often killed after use. Had she not escaped that horrendous fate, I would not be here to write about it.
In 1949, the Communists overran China. Due to my father’s high position in the old governmental, my entire family was slated for extermination, even 5 year-old me would be shot to forestall any possible future vengeance. My family escaped down the Pearl River under the cover of darkness in of one of my maternal grandmother’s motorized junks. There too, if they were caught, there would be no prisoners. But they made it to the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong not far from the mouth of the Pearl River.
Due to the volume of refugees influx, residential space was at a premium. All we could find was a 3 bedroom suit on the fourth floor of a decrepit wood-frame row-building for our 15 member extended family. Since most of our wealth was in real estate, and since we couldn’t take it with us, the prince became a pauper overnight.
My father, though highly capable and experienced, was illiterate in English – the official language of Hong Kong – which doomed him to a job unworthy of his education. So, he poured all his aspirations into his three children. He had wanted to start his own business, but he did not want to risk our education. He kept his 24/7/362 job and slaved away. It was not until I had entered university before he and my mother started their own company, and they were successful.
So here is a toast to you, Mom and Dad, wherever you are, whoever, whatever you have become. More next Father’s and Mother’s Day.
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)