On this particular July day

(2009-07-27 15:13:57) 下一个

On this particular July day, I sat on backyard deck, sipping my favourite green tea. High staked vegetable garden and grape vines nearly enveloped me. The air was crispy fresh and moist after a brisk shower and the temperature was at a soothing 24 degree. As minutes went by, all my adult’s worries began to fade and I began to feel almost as fresh and nurtured as a newborn baby, like when it actually happened 48 years ago.

Yes, this was my 48 years birthday. I thought for nearly the entire year on how to celebrate this special day in the Year of Ox, then, in the end, I found nothing would truly excite me, not throwing a big party or traveling to an exotic place. So I stayed in on this special day, my birthday.

Hours later, I decided to pay a visit to the nearest Reno Depot store, a place that was meaningful to me that others may find it hard to understand. A store like Home Depot or Reno Depot that sells home renovation materials holds a special place in my heart. It is the place where I could feel my connection to my father. It is the place where I could sense his love for me and my renewed love and respect for him. It is the place where I gain a strong sense that life is in the memory and life goes on.

My beloved father passed away 6 years ago, on the exact same month and day as my birthday.

It says that the strength of a bond between a parent to a child may naturally vary among given pairs. My connection with my father could be a passionate love and hate relationship. I inherited most of my father’s physical and emotional traits and then his special attention or expectation to me, often critical as most Chinese parents were, created a lot of anguish tension and disappointment between us during my childhood and adult life.

Father came from a wealthy landlord family. All young men in the family were educated. Before the Liberation, most of these young ‘intellectuals’ of the family joined the communism movement. My father, only a high school graduate, joined the liberation movement as a messenger: he would, riding on a bicycle or horse, send letters to the neighbouring counties and towns. After the liberation, he was sent to a college where he studied finance and accounting. He was a talented person in art and sport. Once he recalled to us, a rare moment when I was a teenager, that while at the college, he was approached by a famous film director, after seeing his performance in a school play, who tried to recruit him for the newly established ChangChun Film Studio. He declined the offer since being an entertainer was lowly in traditional Chinese value. Father was also good at field sport and basket ball when he was young. I remember he would ‘baby-sit’ us, while my mom was in those meetings, by letting us watching basket ball games, that either he played or coached.

Father was a family man. He drank and smoked a little, like all other men, but his first concerns were always for our kids just to make sure that we ate enough, dressed warm and did well at school. He was especially interested in making our humble home a more comfortable and tasteful place to live. There were constant home improvement projects at home: installing home heating system when I was little, building different sections so older kids would have their private quarters, a lot of small upgrading and decorating here and there; building shed and garden outside, etc. These are fun memories and have given us a strong sense of family and home life. Decades later, in a different land where I called home, I have been doing the same thing with endless home improvement projects. In my current modest home, we have upgraded nearly everything both inside and outside (actually we did the second round improvement to our bathrooms). Shopping at a depot store became one of my favourite pastime. While walking through different isles at the store, I would imagine how happy he would be if he was by my side seeing the vast selections of all the building materials and tools and convenience to do various home projects. While planning different home renovations, how I wished he was by my side and I knew he would be very happy to organize and budget for the whole thing.

I guess I just miss him.

Then my memory with my father was not all fun and happy.

Father was often moody and volatile. What had greatly affected our family relationship were his often critical or sarcastic remarks and sometimes physical violence. I understand now that our family, in this regard, was like millions other Chinese families at the time that being critical was a mean to reminding you to stay humble and beating a child was a part of parental discipline. Then it took me almost a lifetime to truly understand, accept and forgive my father for these destructive acts. I saw my older brother’s spirit broken by years’ physical discipline (who, as an older boy, got the most beatings). I remember vividly the last time I was beaten around 16 for no wrong doing from my part. I thought I was dying. And that’s the moment I lost all my respects for him. Up to this day, I see abusive parents as a total failure as parents. One could say that they are bullies and unloving. To be more forgiving, they are immature and inept in parenting skills.

Then when we grew older, physical violence turned to criticism and ridicules. It was new time and young people were experiencing new things. Then nothing could be discussed and shared at home since he had tons of unpleasant phrases waiting to put you down, to tell you that you had nothing of value or to be proud of. Father was particularly critical to me as I was his ‘favourite’ and ventured the farthest. The negativity at home was even more detrimental to the relationship among my siblings. Everyone were easily offended and walked in tiptoes. To this day, my adult siblings still approach each other very cautiously and often choose to stay distant, leaving us all feel yearning and unfulfilled.

As for me, with understanding of a loving father he was, I still choose to stay away from him and took time to unlearn and grow up myself. I choose to become a truly loving, kind and supportive parent and would never imagine raising my hands to another person, not mentioning a child, my child.

Over the years, I have also better known him and learnt to appreciate him. I learned how he became a ‘rightist’ and suffered punishment for about twenty years (I only knew that he was not appropriately recognized and respected at work those year when I was a child). I learned how he lost his father at young age and grew up with certain anger. I also gradually observed and understood the incompatibility between my parents and an unhappy marriage they had that could rightfully contribute to his frustration. (By the way, for all my father’s life, he wanted to be a party member like his brothers. It was a desire never fulfilled.)

So I learnt to love him again. My childhood memory of him as a loving father and family man came back to remind me a respectable father and Chinese man he actually was. As I grew older, I see him in myself: a person who loves his/her family and his/her home and loves comfort and tasteful things in life.

I never had a chance to say to him that I loved him and thought he was a good father. But I knew he knew it. Like the time I was walking through the isles at Reno Depot, he must knew up there that I was remembering him, celebrating his life and carrying all those good qualities passed on from him to the end of my life and perhaps generations to come.

Maybe as his ‘favourite’ daughter, he gave his life to me. So while I celebrate my birthdays, I would always remember him, remember his love and remember what a long way we have both come.

Written on July 27, 2009
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