Friday, June 14, 2013

A Father's Wish

It will be Father's Day again and over dining and gifting with perhaps some hugging, kissing and maybe a holiday for him and mom, the event will become another day gone. I was a son, a son-in-law, a father, a father-in-law, and now a grandfather ( hopefully to live long enough to be a grandfather-in-law one day ). And I look upon Father's Day not just as a recognition from a son or daughter to his or her dad, but also how he hope they and their children will turn up to be.

First of all I must confess I wasn't the best of son. I know from mom and dad's eyes and hearts I was and still am a good son. I provided, I repaid the love they gave by giving them money as a son would. But I wish I had done more to make them really really glad to have such a son. They never asked much, neither did they demanded. I think what they asked was a sensitive heart to know what they desired and to quietly provide for them. It required a great deal of empathy to know your parents well. Because we are caught up with our own lives we may be careless in our remarks or insistent in our ways. I guess the right thing to do is put ourselves in their shoes.

I cannot speak of the relationship of other people. I can only share how I feel and deal with my own father and father-in-law. In age comes a fair amount of wisdom and in looking back a fair amount of regret too in having less wisdom then than now. I wish I had understood my dad better before he died. I wish I could do much more although in his heart this son had brought him pride and joy. Yet this feeling that if he still lives today I would surely made his life more comfortable and our father-son relationship closer. Maybe that's because I am now where he was 15 years ago. At about the same age I could think like him then. And born of him I too inherited the character of not asking or demanding.

I think the best thing I really did for him and mother was accompany them to the States in 1991 to visit their unmarried son, my 3rd brother. It was the first and only trip they made including my mother who at 88 now is in no condition nor desire to travel. I helped them realize their dream. And I could do so because my other father, my heavenly Father, enabled me to be financially ready to make the trip. It shall remain a journey forever etched in my memory. I believe he was grateful that I brought him there although he never openly told me. He was a quiet person. Throughout our stay he was happy and enjoyed himself. That made my day as a son.

I married my wife in 1973 and got to know her father to be a difficult dad but he wasn't like that to me. He wasn't abusive nor violent but he could be divisive and quarrelsome. He sometimes made life a little unhappy for people around him including his wife. But he wasn't a bad guy. In my mind, he was a father and husband in need of recognition and physical love. Born in China he carried the belief that he ought to be the head of the family in all situations and therefore respected for whatever instructions he said or views he carried. Sadly he didn't have a career he was proud of, even my mother-in-law was better qualified career wise as a teacher. I guess he felt inferior, unappreciated, unrecognized as the father figure, and ignored. These made him more bitter and difficult. I can empathize with him and felt his pain and deep seated unresolved anger and frustrations. In these 40 years I tried to be a good son-in-law both in term of providing monetary gifts and wishing him as well as holding simple conversations with my limited Cantonese. I knew he wanted to be noticed and valued as a person. He didn't demand much but his past made him harder to love. Only by understanding his past and making a patient effort to draw closer into him can anyone restore his inner peace and quietened his bruised spirit. My father-in-law is now 94, coming to 95 soon. I love him as my own father because he had unfulfilled needs and he cried out in unabated anger many misunderstood as divisive and destructive. He is not an easy father or grandfather. Yet he is also a child of God. And he has his fears too. Being of simple mind he fears death although he was baptized. He needs closure with all his past hurts so that he can leave this world in peace. The other weekend I just held his head in my chest and cradled him for a long while. He wants to be understood but don't know how. I want to be to my father-in-law now what I couldn't be to my own dad because I was in different circumstances and level of maturity and wisdom. I wish he can smile again, a gift he lost many years ago.

To him and to my late dad, what counts isn't a happy Father's Day. What they, and I believe all fathers, including me, wish for is to understand that we are imperfect, we need love and respect, and we need to be heard, given space and time, and encouragement to continue leading the life and role as fathers and grandfathers.

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