Before me, at a little distance, reclined a lanky man, with a chiseled, wrinkled face, and a stern expression. His head was very grey; and his whiskers, which he wore only around his face, like a frame, were grey also. He was a fan of printed shirts. He was my father.
He hunched a little when he walks. He barely talks but when he does, he is warm and friendly. Father enjoyed teasing others, a trait I inherited and practices often. He was the kind of man who would drop pinches of salt if you sleep with your mouth open. He was the kind of man who would take your most feared animal and throw it on your lap.
Father was a storyteller. He was in the army before he retired. He’d fought the Communist, the Japanese and lived to tell the tale. I love his ghost stories – never fail to send me to bed with nightmares. He was also fearless. I remember a tale of how a banshee was flying over his head and instead of running for his dear life, he would chase the banshee with his bicycle. And after the banshee has landed on a tree, he would shake that tree just to make himself laugh. Yeah, crazy, ballsy daddy.
Father doesn’t speak much. He would stare at me without saying a word. I used to think that there was something wrong with me as a child – as if I was an embarrassment. I used to think that he doesn’t want me. I don’t remember ever getting a hug from him. I don’t remember ever being kissed on the cheek. And I don’t remember ever being told, “I love you, son.”
Maybe, that was the army in him. Maybe the war had damaged him in some way. But he was gentle, soft spoken. I don’t remember being beaten by him. Not even being screamed at. And although he has questionable ways of showing affection (he never fail to get me durian cracker – my favorite childhood snack – every time he comes back from town), he was always and forever will be, my father. The father who put roof over our heads, the father who put food on the table, the father who put all 7 children through school, the father who, despite having very little, has given so much for his family.
And for those sacrifice dad, I salute you. You’ve been more of a father than anyone could ever hoped for. I love you too.