Monday, July 08, 2013

My Father-in-Law and I

My FIL and I are like drake and cock. He doesn't speak my dialect and I struggled to understand his Cantonese. But because he is my wife's father it became my duty to love and honor him. He is after all 30 years older. My wife did made me promise before we marry to love her parents. I am keeping my promise.

We didn't speak much when I first introduced myself to him sometime in 1970 as his daughter's boyfriend. I don't recall his objection. Neither did he sat me down and lecture me how to conduct myself as a son-in-law and as husband. He was a man with few words, but not when he was upset. My wife was the first of his children to marry. To my FIL the wedding was a great event. I remember he 'gave' my wife away. It wasn't a church wedding, neither of us, nor my in-laws were Christians then. It was he who walked his daughter out of the house to the wedding car draped in colorful ribbons. Curious neighbors and relatives saw us off. My FIL was unsmiling. It wasn't his nature to smile but when he did you know he was proud of what he said.














I made it a point to greet him each time I visit him and I could sense he was pleased. I would too. And I attempted to converse with him in my broken Cantonese. I wished he knew Mandarin for I got along marvelously with my mother-in-law who spoke good Mandarin (she was a teacher). But I need to give equal time to my FIL. I don't want him to feel neglected. He was conscious of his low education and felt his wife got more attention and affection from the children. Deep inside I felt he was jealous and insecure. But he was a kind hearted and harmless person. He just needed to be accorded the respect, honor and love due to him.

My FIL worked with gold but he wasn't rich. He was a goldsmith and didn't earn much. He valued money. At each new year, on his birthday and on most occasions my wife and I visited him we'd give him cash gifts which he used to pay household expenses. Each time we gave him something he'd thank us, but I'd quickly stop him. It is not right for my FIL to thank us, it is our duty to give out of our heart. In response my FIL would ask me to 'wan tor tor cheen' which translate from Cantonese as make more money. To the older Chinese this invoke a blessing to the giver. It means that he will get money again later!

The one thing I'm proud I did to my FIL was elevate him to grandfather status when our first child was born end of 1974. He was 56. Every time we went back to Ipoh to stay with him, he'd without fail tell neighbors and friends about me, my work, my children. I felt a little embarrassed sometimes but I realized he is proud of us. We brought joy to his family. I was glad to give him reasons to feel proud.

One thing about my FIL that amazed me is his impeccable memory. He remember prices of groceries and would tell us which shop sell the best goods. And his direction was unerring. I could trust him to guide me when I drove into the town.

In November 2011 my FIL accidentally fell and broke his hip bone. It took more than 6 months for the joint to heal. But his battered spirit never healed and he refused to work out to strengthen his hipbone preferring to be wheel chaired and lie in bed most of the time and depend on a full time maid to care for him. His moods turned nasty as his idle mind fed upon years of bitterness and hurt of being ignored. His utterances became judgmental and divisive. He didn't know he brought disharmony to his children. In his old age he sought what he missed and picked on trivia issues, condemning the failings of certain family members in the presence of others. He was an unhappy person and I tried to comfort him as best as I can. My prayer is he will regain the smiles that he once possess and enjoy life into his centenary, God willing.














































2 comments:

Irene Yew said...

Pa, this is a very well written post about Gong Gong. Prayerfully he will find that long lost joy and smile again. No matter what a man he end up to be, happy or grouchy, he is forever my beloved Gong Gong who brought me to see pigeons during evening walks around his house.

Peter Yew said...

Gung's fault wasn't his acid remarks. He was reacting to the accumulated hurt. I believe he need closure from those who hurt him and we know who. Jesus said, He who is without sin cast the first stone. In Gung's case no one should have condemned him for everyone, his children and their spouses all stood accountable to provide him the respect and honor that are due to him. We all need to ask his forgiveness where we wronged him. If we haven't be his daily balm to soothe his hurting soul that he may find peace and solace.

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