Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thanks, Dad

Yesterday, I finished reading Benjamin Law's book "The Family Law". Yes, I finished a book! I feel proud of myself. The book is like a memoir on Law's childhood and his Chinese background and parents. The book was funny and moving, and to be honest, I felt like I could relate to a lot of it.

For those of you who don't know, I'm Chinese. I was born in China but I came to Australia in 1992 with my mum. My dad came to Australia before I was born (and yes, I went through a period thinking my mum might have had an affair with some other dude, but the dates work out and I actually look like my dad so all is OK). Law talks about how his own father had only met his dad once, and in a weird way, that story is almost similar to mine.

I didn't meet my father until I was 2. I actually don't remember too much about it but I remember the plane ride to Australia fairly vividly. It was the first time I saw a Caucasian person and I was, I have to admit, a bit terrified. He had orange hair with a beard and he was wearing a pale blue suit. I also remember the lights on the plane had suddenly turned off at one stage and that freaked me out. I was probably sobbing, being scared and unable to bury my face in my mum's chest for solace.

When I met my dad I wasn't really sure what was happening. I don't really remember it to be honest. When I think back now, it's like I'm looking back at the memory as an intruder. It's like I'm watching a young Chinese family reunite at the airport. My dad picked me up and must have said hello some how. Mum tells me to call this man my dad and I say it shyly back, probably unaware what "dad" even meant.

My parents have friends who have recently had a cute little boy, and when I watch my dad carry the baby, it chokes me up a bit – my dad had never carried me like that before. I say that to him but he dismissively says, "Yes, I have!". My mum chimes in to my defense saying, "Of course you haven't!" I don't know if I am sad about this. I don't think it bothers me too much. Especially when my dad talks about how he came to Australia to study English and how he's still very good friends with the dude he roomed with during that period.

I think my dad is very similar to Law's father. My dad is impossible to buy gifts for. He works all the time (through almost all the public holidays). When my brother and I ask him what he wants for his birthday, he always says, "I want you to do well in school. Your good marks are my present". It was sweet, but it was kind of awkward for us.

Every year we'd try to buy my dad something other kids bought their dads. I bought him licorice once. I ended up eating it. Another year mum said it would be a good idea to buy him some shaving products. He's never touched it. Two years ago, I bought him single malt whiskey. I was getting better.

I think last year I hit the jackpot though. My friend Karmen once gave me a picture of us in a photo frame for Christmas. I bawled my eyes out, ever so touched by this sentiment. I decided to give my dad a photo of the family in a picture frame. But when I looked through the pictures of the family on my computer, there was this hilarious photo of my dad at one of his birthdays. His face is perched over his birthday cake, mouth open wide, about to devour his cake. I thought I'd put that photo in as a joke, and include other family photos behind it so he can choose which one he wanted in his picture frame.

My dad smiled. That photo frame is on his bedside table. He decided he liked the picture of himself more than the ones of us.

Thanks, Dad.

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