Luther Vandross' "Dance with My Father" is a beautiful and heartfelt song. It makes my eyes well up with tears almost every time I listen to it.
It reminds me of my father, who has been through so much hardship in his life; who has always lived a simple and frugal life and never enjoyed material things; who had worked so hard to support a family of three generations; who had been subjected to prosecutions during the Culture Revolution which permanently damaged his health; who had lived separately from his wife for almost half of his marriage because of my mom could not obtain the Beijing residency...
Yet I am so proud of him. He has always maintained his integrity as a human being even during the toughest times. He dedicated his entire life to teaching and research and achieved so much. His students are all over the world and I could tell how proud he was when he showed me the video clip of him and his colleagues being received by the prime minister at a National Science and Technology award ceremony.
One day a couple of years ago, during my visit back home, I was surprised at first that he insisted on my keeping a CD of the video clip I mentioned above and a copy of his resume which was truly impressive. But then I realized that this is his pride of being a scholar for his entire life. It is his legacy.
My father has never enjoyed the happiness of leisure. By the time he finally retired and got a chance to enjoy his life without the hassle, he was diagnosed with cancer. This was especially hard for me to take. I remember crying myself to sleep the night after he broke the news to me during a walk. I thought about everything he went through and couldn't help but think how unfair life has been to him, to the people of his generation.
Since he was diagnosed, I have brought the kids or entire family back home every year to visit him. That's the least I can do - to let him enjoy some time with his daughter and his grandchildren whom he does not have the luxury to see often, even though it is only three weeks a year. The content smile he had on his face at the dinner table, when we strolled together for a walk, when he played with my children meant so much to me, and I believe to him as well.
My father is a person who does not verbally express his love to others or express his feelings in general including his love to his children even though he does so more often now with my children. He had been very strict with me and my sister. He would spank us when we were little if we did something wrong especially for things like lying. And believe me, you don't want to be spanked by my father. Even now, my heart still trembles with fear when I recall those scenes when I was disciplined.
But I know he loves us (even though he never says it), especially during these years since I have been abroad and after I became a mother. I have been feeling closer and closer to him every time I went back to visit. I could feel his love from the tone he talks to me, the way he looks at me and my children, from his seemingly thoughtless pat on my shoulder or head, from his anxious voice on my answer machine when I forgot my routine weekly call…
I am sure my father had spun me around, lifted me up high and danced with me when I was little just like how my husband danced with my daughter. Unfortunately I don’t remember any of that. But I feel so lucky that I do have the memory, the only memory of me dancing with my father on my wedding day to cherish for the rest of my life.
My father flew all the way from
Dancing with my father for the first time, I couldn’t say that I didn’t feel a little awkward at the beginning as we had never done that before. But then it went natural, as if we had always danced like that (he is a good dancer). I looked up into his eyes and I could see so much emotion inside them. I felt his happiness, I felt his worries, I felt the strong connection between us, and this picture of me dancing with my father under the rainbow of a beautiful fall sky was forever imprinted in my mind.