A friend posted on his FB status about his relationship with his father. It is not a smooth sailing one. There are more downs than ups dealing with his father all his life. Somehow as both of them grow older, my friend finds that his father truly loves him very much eventhough his father doesn’t show it or like most Asian fathers, they find difficulty expressing their affections.
He remembers vividly how alarmed his dad was when he travelled to US for his first job and his flight got delayed. In those days, we didn’t have the luxury of Internet or WhatsApp so news travel a few days later. His father was working in Sabah at that time, flew back to Kuala Lumpur to call his office repeatedly to find out about whereabout of his son. He thought his son went missing. This incident proved one thing, his stoic father cares a lot about him and like any responsible parents fuss over their offsprings a lot.
This story stirred every nook and cranny of my heart. It’s Father’s Day yesterday and I realised throughout my life, we probably never celebrated Father’s Day in our household. My father being an army was away on duty most of the time. His return home was never met with enthusiasm. In fact, we loathed it whenever he’s around. The children were expected to behave as my father needed his sleep. So the children were expected to keep quiet and not make a sound. My sister being the youngest was a cry baby. She would cry at everything and anything. So my mom would have to bear the brunt of wrath from my father. While he never laid his hands on my mother, he would break everything in the house. Once, he even shoved all dishes just cooked by mom to the floor after a heated argument.
Even our neighbours sympathised with my mother and at times, my mom would sent us to our neighbours while she calmed the furious beast at home.
I remembered once I forgot to bring my watercolors kit to school for art class so I asked my father to turn back home to collect it. The art teacher was a very stern person and would punished the students by sitting under the desk throughout the period.
I begged and pleaded for him to go home to fetch my things only to be shouted at. After scolding me till my tears ran dry, he relented by sending me to the nearby bazaar to buy a new watercolors kit. He went on and on shouting and belittling me till I reached school. I arrived at school with dried tear marks on my cheeks, I was full of anguish and frustration. I swore to myself that day itself, I will make him “pay” when I grow up.
Once, he sent me to school riding his Vespa scooter. As I got down from the scooter, a mini school van hit the scooter and I fell to the road. It was a lucky thing the collision was not too serious and I didn’t get injured. I picked myself up quickly and assured my father that I was okay.
He wouldn’t listen to me and confronted the mini van driver. Instead of apologising, the mini van driver nonchalantly dismissed that I was not injured. My father couldn’t take it and punched the driver till his nose bleed. Imagine my child’s mentality and agony. I prayed hard not to be detected by the mini van driver whenever school is over. I had to hide behind the bushes whenever I saw the van arrived in school, and the man brought along a younger guy and both were on the lookout for my father to pay vengeance. It was truly a harrowing experience for a 9 or 10 year old me. Thank God my father came in a car and didn’t manage to bump into the menacing looking men.
There are plenty more ridiculous and tragic stories involving my dad but I guess I will try to forget them.. As bygones are bygones.
I will remember the good things about him from now on… The kisses he planted on our foreheads as we slept or pretending to sleep when he got home late at night, with breath smelling of mixture of cigarettes and mint. How he toiled everyday as a lorry driver and gave half of his salary to my mother without fail. He didn’t take a single day of vacation as far as I can remember and worked even when he fell sick, which is rare but he worked till he suffered his first stroke at age 59. How he defended my sister when our gossipy relatives said bad things or ridiculous superstitious stuff about her and refusing to step foot into his mahjong kaki house after that. How he came to teach a bully in my rented house. After all, he is still my father and I am his daughter, even if I don’t agree with his actions most of the time.
As we were having breakfast yesterday morning, he struggled to get out of bed and reached out for his walking cane. He slowly walked and staggered to the bathroom. He sat down on a stool to brush his teeth and shaved. I was suddenly overwhelmed with grief at the thought of how weak he has become. No more Mr Egoistic Macho Chauvinist maniac.
His hands turned shaky when he broke a pao into two and offered the balance to us. He sometimes soiled himself unwittingly. Eventhough he insisted that he’s in pink of health, I highly doubt it.
He just turned 74 in May. It was like every year, a non event. His birthday just passed without us wishing him happy birthday. Sometimes, my sister would get him a cake. But most of the times, it’s just like other ordinary day.
I feel so guilty that sometimes I don’t even bother to wish him or sing birthday song whenever my sis bought him a cake. I didn’t even show up. I just stayed in my room and shut the door.
I think I finally had it. How long more can one remain angry? Especially angry at your own flesh and blood. He might not be the best example of a father in this world but he did play his part in ensuring we are all educated, well fed and be safe.
I was conflicted last night. Whether or not to give him an angpow for father’s day and give him sincerest wishes.
As the clock past midnight, I heard his cough outside my door. He was up to watch the world Cup. I slipped a few RM50 notes into an angpow packet with the word “fook” on it. I opened the door and gave him the angpow and probably for the first time in our lives, I muttered “Happy Father’s Day” to him.
Then I went inside my room and wept.