I remember my father as a very devoted son to his parents and a caring brother to his siblings. He likes to chat with our friends when they visit and both my sister Soo’s and my friends enjoy talking to him.
I remember my father’s devotion to his daughters especially when I was young and always demanded to be carried. The only time that he was angry with me was when I once refused to walk and wanted to be carried. When he did not do so, I insulted his mother and was given a tight slap on my face.
I remember the day when my grandfather passed away and Dad was sobbing silently while a long line of mucus emerged from his nostrils which he did not wipe away.
Once when we dropped a ping pong ball outside the window and it landed on the parapet. Without thinking, Dad jumped out of the window with his clogs on, to retrieve the ball. He landed one storey down and landed on the ground floor, dazed and only recovered sufficiently to return to the apartment miraculously unharmed.
Dad had a checkered childhood which mum never failed to share with us. He was always into some kind of trouble and was constantly punished by my stern grandfather.
Once a monk came for a visit and was having tea with Grandpa in the visitors’ hall downstairs. From the floor above, my father could see the monk’s head as he looked down through a peep hole. He found it so irresistible that he spat right on target at the bald head of the poor unsuspecting Holy One deep in conversation with Grandpa.
On another occasion, he passed by some wonderfully washed and gleaming white linens hung out in the warm sunlight. Using his water gun which he filled with black ink, he aimed at the gleaming sheets and formed his creative patterns on those canvases.
Once he took me to my night class and to his dismay and horror,discovered that the English teacher in the classroom had been his deadliest childhood enemy. Without hesitation, he bid a hasty retreat, leaving the clueless man wonder why my father took off so quickly as though some mysterious powers had driven him!
Later, my father disclosed to me that he had many combats with the man who spoke only in English, something deserving of my father’s disdain.
Dad was the eldest son by my second grandmother when the first grandmother passed away leaving two sons behind. My father began a long line of brothers and sisters after him.
One evening, my grandfather was invited to attend a birthday dinner and before he left, he reminded his errant son, my father, to keep out of trouble as he was always into some mischief or another. No sooner, had the old man left, that my father could not resist the opportunity to go out to have some fun of his own. The billiard hall was just five minutes down the road and magnetic to the hot-blooded teenager.
My grandfather happened to return early that evening because of a stomach upset and on his return, was aggrieved to know that his wayward son had disobeyed his strict order and gone into the forbidden billiard room. My father was summoned back immediately with the old man bristling with fury. He lay out the butcher knife used for cutting meat and would have chopped off my father’s two hands had not for the pleas of grandmother and his younger siblings.
I remember how devoted Dad was to his almost religious fervour for mainland China whom he called his motherland.
Every evening at six pm sharp, the noisily and poorly tuned radio would rasp and come to life with the Chinese national anthems in bursts of loud and soft sounds.
Dad would not miss a single of those broadcasts, singing praises of Chairman Mao, the steer hand that steers the great Motherland. Father was drunk by the propagandas.
When the day came for Dad to visit his village in Swatow and also to get cures for his arthritis, he was filled with hopes and exhilaration.
Yet, a month later, when he returned to Singapore, he brought home a pair of stone lions silently,without much enthusiasm to share the experience of his long-dreamt for trip.
Dad had great hopes for his two daughters as Mum had not given him a son.
He longed for the day when I could be the prestigious lawyer as he believes what boys can do, so can the girls. Alas, I did not take up that honorable profession envisioned by Dad, only to end up as a school teacher.
However, Dad was still proud of me and wished that one day I would become a school principal.
I did not fulfill even that hope of my Dad, but dearest Dad, I did become a good teacher. By the way, my daughter Sarah has just completed law school and she is now the deputy public prosecutor/ state counsel in the government chamber of law. May your soul rest in peace, Dad.