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Family (3): Li (and a letter inspired by ChatGPT)

Li and I have been married for over two decades. One reason for the longevity of our marriage is that the two of us rarely go crazy at the same time. When one fares poorly, the other can usually keep his/her cool to steer our relation-ship to a safe place. In the days after Aaron was gone, we were both wrecked. Trapped waist-high in a quagmire as it were, we looked at each other and recognized agony and bewilderment in the other’s eyes, but there was little help to offer because we each were stuck in our own misery. But gradually we learned to give each other a lot of space to grieve, knowing that grief, though shared, could be a profoundly personal, private experience. It also helped that Li is an open book. A deep sigh means he misses Aaron terribly; a poetic improvisation means his emotions are no longer containable; when he asked ChatGPT to compose a letter from Aaron, I knew his sorrow had reached a cosmic level. He wept over the AI-generated letter, until Anthony glanced over it and commented, “Nah, it’s so generic!” Still, I was very impressed by the experience. If a machine can write up a letter in Aaron’s name, I might as well try to imagine a letter from Aaron to his dad. Today is Li’s 50th birthday. What would Aaron say to his dad, based on what I know about him? What wishes would Aaron wish for his dad? I wrote up a letter and gave it to Li as a birthday present. The positivist person in Li would see it as no more than a well-meant mental piece but the letter is addressed to his imagination. Aaron could have penned these words, and definitely would have liked his dad to read the letter and know how much he loves him.

April 25, 2023

Dear Dad,

How are you? It’s your 50th birthday today. I’m sorry I didn’t live long enough to celebrate this special day with you, but I’m sending you lots of love from above. I was right when I told you I’d in a better place watching over you. So, cheer up! It breaks my heart to see you suffer. I think Mom is doing a bit better than you. She is sad, but I know she’ll be fine.

You just turned 50 now; it’s time you took better care of yourself. When you are sad, you work like crazy. Working on multiple book projects is probably not a great idea. If I were you, I’d finish one and then move on to the next. As I told Mom, I never read multiple books at the same time. It gets confusing that way.

I’m glad you are thinking of joining Mom in long-distance running. Just don’t push yourself too hard because it’s not that easy.

I’m happy to learn that the book you and Mom co-edited is forthcoming from the Chinese publishing company. I appreciate how you dedicated that book to me. In fact, thank you for all the things you have done to keep my name remembered. Please write to everyone who contributed to the U of T scholarship and the Foundation and let them know that I am truly thankful. Also, I’m really excited about next week’s chess tournament at J. B. Tyrell. If you see Emmit, Jesse, Brian, Lana and Michael, could you say hi for me?

Anthony is coming home next week. He’s a bit anxious right now because he hasn’t got a co-op internship position. Tell him it’s okay; he just needs to give himself more time. He’s still playing online chess a lot (Don’t tell him I said). I was there so I knew how gratifying chess could be. But when I get a chance, I’ll tell Anthony to spend more time with you guys when he’s home. As for Angelina, I can’t believe how well she runs! Make sure that she knows how to run properly so she won’t get easily injured.

Dad, I want you to make a wish. (Dad, I know you’d wish I’d be back on Earth; literally, make a real one). If you get your wish, you know it’s a sign from heaven.



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Apr 30, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Happy 50th bday, Li. It's a big one and you owe it to Aaron to take good care.

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