I still remember how his voice would boom through the walls of our 2 storey house, putting emphasis on the word lady, the “eeeeeee” dragging into oblivion as a thousand birds flock to safer skies. There are few ways to decipher his tone of voice, especially when he doesn’t call me by my name. Other terms of enragement include “Miss Goh”. That’s when I know I’m knee deep. Grab a bottle of water, run like Forest.
If you ever walk pass my father, you would first notice the ache on your neck as you strain to look up at him. He is, for a Chinese man, unusually tall. His expressionless face is intimidating, taking big long strides, his eyes focused on a destination, walking in a straight line with the gait of an authoritative sergeant . He seldom walks around people, they would walk around him. I guess he’s used to the path being cleared for him, much like how how a herd would avoid a trudging rhino.
In my early toddler days, I was taught to revere my parents, especially my father since mum was never really around. My grandmother taught me well by example. It used to amuse me how such a petite Nonya gave life to a giant of a man. How she, this small and round lady in permed white hair, wearing a dainty sarong with powdered white face could be a dragon lady to this burly, masculine and formidable son, who ironically, in turn feared her well-meaning berates and uncontrollable bouts of farts. Bless.
Having said that, my grandmother taught me many things but fearing my father however, wasn’t one of them. That, I learned on my own by seeing how my father treated her.
- By the way he so thankfully ate each meal she cooked for him, as if it would be the last.
- By how highly he spoke of her, a kind-hearted God loving woman who would sooner crawl into a drain to save a family of kittens, than think twice of her own brittle bones.
- By how he would visit her every Sunday after church, even though it must have been painful for him to watch her slowly slip away to the wretchedness of Alzheimer.
- By how a busy no-nonsense businessman, easily sent into a fit of broiling rage by the mere waste of his precious seconds would patiently lean into his mothers ailing perception to make small conversation, holding her delicate and creased hands as she lay in bed mumbling.
- By how a man of pride and ego, humbled his existence in crediting her for being the man he came to be. Never once did he speak ill of her (unless you consider endearing comments of her loud and sporadic flatulence as a sign of disrespect? Hardly).
I guess its true what they say. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his mother. So what does it have to do with why I fear my father? Yes I do shiver at the mere vibrations of his stern voice and intimidating stature. But above it all, I fear my father because:
- Despite coming from such humble beginnings, he never once complained about the struggles he had to go through to provide all he could for his family. I fear that I will never be able to achieve all that he has, despite all that he has given me.
- After all that I have put him through, my teenage years of misdemeanour, my indecisive and stubborn nature, he has never once lifted a hand on me or made me feel less of a person. I fear I do not have his forgiving and understanding nature.
- He is a man of perfection. I fear that despite him reassuring me that there is no such thing as perfection, I will continue to seek it in myself because my father is a testimony of a perfect father and I can’t take being less of a daughter.
- Often I am shocked by stories of how irresponsible some parents can be. Be it gambling away their children’s future, abusing them or abandoning them. But not my father, he is such a good caretaker. The way he cared for grandma, how he continues to provide for all of us in any way he can, beyond his means at times. I always assumed that children are born into the right of a parents love. How naive of me to demand it, let alone take it for granted. I fear I would go before him, or not have the financial means and opportunity to take care of him in return.
- But most of all, I fear my father will never know how much I love him. All the years of being apart, studying and working away from him and my family has built a wall of emotional distance, at which I am slowly trying to chip away at. I only get to spend an accumulated month with him every 12 months or so when either one of us hops on an 8 hour flight. All other communication is via sms, Facebook comments and forward emails. I fear a life without technology. Thank God for it!
This is why I fear my father, and you should too.
Dad, if I ever made you feel disrespected when I rolled my eyes at your back-in-the-days “Oliver Twist” stories, made you feel guilty for the choices you made on my behalf that might have caused a chain of events (who could have known?), or inadequate for the advice I didn’t take – I want to assure you that everything turned out the way it is meant to be, which is thankfully quite well. You did good Dad and this is why I love you.