Hidden Tears

Estelle Wu (+Video)


I landed in Calgary on September 21, 2016. The cold wind was blowing. It felt like winter. I was so nervous my body was shaking. About 17 hours earlier, while wearing my white sneakers, I was saying goodbye to my parents in the airport in China. I was trying to be calm and act like I was just going to Calgary for a vacation, like I would be back soon. My parents were acting the same way. We didn’t want to make it sad. With a big smile and a wave, I turned around while holding a deep breath and walked to the departure lounge. When my parents couldn’t see me anymore, my tears came like a flood.     

My husband was already living in Canada. He picked me up from the airport and we drove to Fernie, British Columbia, where my in-laws owned a family restaurant. A few months later, my mother-in-law passed away and my father-in-law decided to retire. So, my husband took over the business and I helped him. We didn’t have experience running a restaurant, so we had to learn quickly. We worked more than ten hours every day. My husband always worked until three in the morning.

In 2018, I was pregnant. On the day I went into labour, my husband was busy at the restaurant. Since we worked all the time, I didn’t know many people in the town. Wearing my white sneakers, I walked to the hospital from our restaurant by myself. I was alone in the hospital for the whole day. How I wished my parents were there with me so I could share my feelings and my pain with them. My husband arrived half an hour before our baby was born. I ended up having a C-section. 

When the narcotics from the surgery wore off, the first thing I did was call my parents, share my happiness and let them know I was okay. After the call, my tears welled from deep inside and ran down my cheeks. I closed my eyes and imagined my parents were wiping away my tears.

There was no room in the hospital for my husband to stay overnight, so he had to go home. As a new mother, I didn’t know why my baby was crying or what I could do to comfort him. My body was tired and in pain. I felt lonely and helpless. The next morning, my husband came and said that in Chinese culture there is one kind of fish called snakehead that could help me heal. He went to Calgary to get that fish for me. 

I didn’t have any other shoes at the hospital except my sneakers. But I couldn’t bend down to pull them on. Sometimes I just walked in my bare feet. The floor in the hospital felt very cold. I wished my parents were there and could bring me a pair of slippers. I called them again that day, without revealing I was alone. I told them everything was good, that my baby was healthy and looked like his father. After the call, my tears came again like a flood.

My husband stopped by for a few hours after work every night with the fish soup in a thermos bottle. He always came in with a big smile, but I could see his fatigue. The happiest time I had in the hospital was when he was there. 

In 2021, we found a buyer for our restaurant and moved to Calgary. I joined a program at the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association which helped me gain professional skills. I got a job in a company called Robert Half where I had done my practicum. I am thankful and blessed. My son and I FaceTime with my parents every week. I know the best gift for them is to be a part of his life as he grows up. I see they are getting more grey hair and signs of ageing on their faces. I wish we could share every moment and not be so far away from each other, but life is good.

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