My Relationship with Dad
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
My Relationship with Dad
Dad was lying there in the hospital, his eyes staring at the white ceiling. His face was particularly red because of apoplexy. I was left to take care of him. It was my turn. I walked close to him, scared. I didn't know what to say. I never knew what to say. "Your great-grandmother had been lying in bed for ten years before she died," Dad suddenly began, his thick tongue moving slowly and with difficulty. It was the first time in thirty years that I had talked with Dad for an hour.
In my childhood, Dad and I had a cat-and-mouse relationship. He was always a powerful big cat who liked to control the whole situation. Dad worked in another city and came home only on weekends. When he was home, there was never peace in the family. Since Mum worked eight hours a day and took care of three daughters, Dad thought it important for all of us to help finish the housework on the weekends. The first thing he did was to inspect every corner of the house to check whether his daughters had done something wrong. Then he gave orders to the three of us. His voice was so loud that our neighbors probably thought we were all lazy girls. We had to stand by. No one had a chance to take a break. Of course, Dad worked the hardest. He never stopped with the endless housework. Later, at the dinner table, we were required to shut up. This was one of his rules. Dad would be extremely angry if we talked while eating. I never had a chance to tell Dad that I was frightened of his returning home on weekends. I was so scared of his powerful, sharp eyes that I felt just like a tiny mouse.
There is an old Chinese saying: "A tiger-like father will never have a dog-like son." In other words, a domineering father will never have a cowardly son. When I was a teenager, my character was somewhat like Dad's. My relationship with Dad had changed from a cat-and-mouse one to a competitive one. We quarreled. We disagreed with each other. I was no longer a mouse. I was a little tiger ready to challenge while he was a big one protecting his own land. Both of us wanted to be the boss. It annoyed him that I was out of his control. As he realized this, he tried to maintain his authority, and I went on challenging. When I gave him my test papers to sign, he usually teased me, saying that I was poor in my studies. But I would never be defeated. I questioned him, "Have you ever been the top student in your studies?" When he checked my homework, he laughed at my poor handwriting. I would blame him for my penmanship, saying it was caused by his bad genes. There was always a smell of gunpowder in our short dialogues. I knew Dad's handwriting was wonderful. But he never thought of teaching me. He just went on laughing at my poor attempts to write. That was his way of keeping something from me. He wanted to be better than I in order to beat me down. He felt that was his privilege as a father.
Though our relationship was distant, I never denied Dad's love for me. But his way of showing his love for me was so frustrating that I had to think about it before I noticed it was there. When I was studying in a famous university far away, I wrote my first letter home. Dad didn't write a single word to me. However, he spent a weekend making an especially big mailbox that he painted silver. It was twice as big as our ordinary blue one. My sister wrote to me and said, "All our neighbors are astonished at that stupid mailbox. Dad is making a fool of himself." That mid-autumn festival I was absent from the gathering when everyone in the family shared moon-cakes together. So when I came home from school during the winter vacation, he took out a freezing, cold moon-cake from the fridge and "ordered" me to finish it. God knows! He had saved it for three months! If these were hints about Dad's love, they were difficult to understand. It took me some time to consider his ridiculous behavior as a kind of love.
My relationship with Dad made me upset. I had changed from a mouse to a little tiger. He was still so overbearing. I regarded his special love as nonsensical. Now, Dad is in the hospital. He is getting old and sick. He is losing his power while I am gaining my maturity. Isn't it time for us to sit down and try to understand each other? If there is another thirty years, shall we begin from the very beginning, Dad?