When was the last time you looked at someone ?
I mean really watched someone..?
The last couple of days dad and me have been spending most of the time at home. It's the lunar new year period so not much is going on, and the weather seems to be getting colder by the day.
Everyday seems to follow the same rigid routine. I would wake up, and dad would be up already, sitting in the living room, reading his paper. After a quick breakfast, I would sit diagonally opposite him and read the paper too. Close to lunch time I would fix a meal-- something not too heavy, not too salty, not too greasy, not too much, not too sweet, not too meaty, for dad's health cannot take any of that. Then he would take his afternoon rest, usually until five or so. During that time, I creep and tip-toe around the house, hushed in all activities and thoughts, afraid to wake him from his sleep. In the evenings, when dad's up to it, he would suggest going out for dinner. Usually this is followed by a slow wander around the supermarket and shops, admiring the goods and prices. Then we head home, prepare for bed, for another 'new' day...
Basically, dad would do his stuff, and I would keep myself busy either reading or in front of the computer. The whole day we wouldn't say much, and even when we did, it was usually small talk, or 'daily-life talk'.
Dad continues to smoke, sometimes close to one packet a day. Old habits die hard. When he lits up one cigarette, I feel a little pain and unease inside. Not so much because of the choking second-hand smoke, but because in his condition he simply cannot afford to smoke at all. But he has to know that himself, and he has to stop himself. At times, he coughs incessantly. It's more like a dry wheezing cough, as if his insides were gasping for long-gone cleansiness and purity. Each cough in my ear seems to echo inevitable, dreadful thoughts.
Some moments, I would look at dad. Really take a close look at him. At a restaurant last night, I sat opposite him. I looked at dad...his face has become darker, with no glow of health at all. And dad's yellowish eyes are locked behind darkened eye sockets, surrounded by spores of visible canal-like wrinkles. And how thin his face has become, his cheeks bony and covered with dry skin. This is my dad.
The other day we went walking around yet another supermarket. Dad went to the powdered milk section, and stayed there for a while. It's rare that dad wants to buy anything for himself, so I as glad he was shopping for his own well-being. We looked around, he compared prices and brands. Perhaps he was calculating those few dollars he could save if he bought one instead of another...perhaps in his mind he mulled over those dollars if saved could be remitted for my use abroad...
I watched him, squatted down, looking at the cans of powdered milk. I seemed to tower above him. The top of his hair had in a matter of months become so gray. Did dad realise that? I remember many nights watching him pick and cut his white hairs with a small hand-held mirror, and proudly boasting how age hadn't caught up with him yet. That was some years ago. Now before me is a small, thin, frail-looking man with slouched shoulders and old clothes.
This too is my dad.
Not sure why I wanted to write this. Perhaps it's out of pity, or regret, for those things I said to him sometime ago. While travelling in Thailand, my friend reminded me of how fortunate I really am, and how I seem to take everything for granted, without appreciation. Perhaps that has prompted me to really think about what I've been doing and saying.
It's a strange relationship I had with dad... at times I see faults in him and feel angry at him for his actions and words, his thoughtlessness and seemingly uncaring attitude toward this family....then, I remember, and I treasure dearly, the many times and moments he has provide us, provided me, a financially worry-free life. Where would I be without his giving, his hard-work, his toil and misery throughout the years which has cost him his health and happiness? That's selfless love and care, unexpressed in words, but just as deep and genuine. And I see before me a small, thin, frail and ill man, and cannot but think about how much longer I can contine to love and/or hate him.
And I realise, why spend time in regret and remorse, why live in misery and with hatred...when time is so precious together?
May my dear dad be happy,
May he be free from grief and pain,
May he be free from conflict, with himself and others,
And may he be free from all kinds of suffering...