We’re sitting near the window, and I’m watching an overweight lady with glazed eyes smoke a cigarette after her curry mee as we wait for our koay teow.
He is silently contemplating our surroundings, and lost in my own thoughts, it takes me awhile to realize that we’ve been silent too long, all the way in the jam, and then now. Somehow, I don’t know what to say. His tiredness hangs like a cloud over me. So we talk about the crazy jam, food, the place, and he tells me a businessman friend brought me here before to eat the famous noodle soup when I was still a little girl. I don’t remember.
The years have really just flown by. Today, more than ever, he looks tired. : ( He’s not feeling well.
He looks older than I remember, and I can even see a glimpse of my late grandfather appear behind his still sturdy frame that carries him on 5km jogs three times a week. I’ve not known anyone as disciplined, steady and consistent as my dad.
So I start talking about my job, dealing with crafty people (when I’m so stupid), and about doing people favours (somehow these things are more interesting than college). I become so acutely aware than I have so, so much more to learn to survive in the working world. To not get treated like a doormat. He says I need to ‘figure out what I’m worth’ and don’t let people treat me for less. He says I’m too young and too naive and…sigh, my father is always the half-empty glass. : )
And then I asked him when, when is it OK to oblige and do people favours, and when he will not, and why he did this particular person a favour by doing business with him.
Him: It’s a win-win situation, he just lost his job.
Me: But he’s so rich he doesn’t even need to work for the rest of his life.
And then he said something, something I’m still thinking about. He said you don’t know what a father is made of.
And something just welled up deep within me.
Do I know? Hmm, maybe not. If not for my grandfather’s hard earned money he so wisely and generously left for us for our education, how would I even go to Australia? Do I see the feverishness with which my dad attacks his job? Do I understand the urgency that makes him ‘want’, no, not just want, but NEED to do well, to provide for us as a family? Can I really appreciate all of that, the work of a father and mother shaped by a difficult background?
Do I see the sacrifice, or do I see a jaded individual with his life and energy sapped out of him by his job such that he has no time to really get to know me?
Tomorrow are you free, he asks me. I’m not. I’ve got class the whole day, and then I’ve got to go learn choreography from Nai Lin because she’s only free tomorrow–so I’ll have to skip one lecture, and then I’m going to Pasar Malam with Chrystin, her bro, and Cheryl, because Chrystin is really fun and I’ve not been to one since Form 4.
If you’re free I can bring you to go and eat, he says. I realize that if I listen carefully, I can actually hear him whisper, I want to spend time with you.
Hmm. Do I know what a father is made of.