It might sound fictitious writing this, but my father came to my dream last night. It was a blurry vision of him; he was in his early 20s donning a pair of black slacks and a white folded-sleeve dress shirt. That photo was in black and white, matte finishes, and taken at a photo studio back in the 60s.
It was probably on a rare occasion, as studio photo was out of reach for young people of his age and social status. In that photo, he was sitting on a folded ladder, a studio prop, body at a 45-degree angle camera right, and face turned towards the camera, left leg bended up and foot on the last step of the ladder, and the other dropped down bearing his weight. He looked relaxed, and happy, his eyes lit up behind the rimmed glasses. My dad was nearsighted at a very young age, and he once told me the cause of it was reading with light from kerosene lamp, when electricity was a luxury in his youth.
I wish mom didn’t have to act on her impulses raging anger for dad by destroying those photos. I would love to have these photos now.
In my dream, he just came and smile, then vanished. Perhaps his soul could only travel this far across the Pacific Ocean to see me, and then he has to transport back to Vietnam.
Wherever he or his soul is, I think of him all day.
Here is another excerpt that I wrote about my father on June 24, 2013, Being vulnerable.
On hot summer days like we had today, and during my summer break from college, Dad and I would trek through the neighborhood in his old jaded green Jeep to go fishing at Lake Calhoun. The boys refused to be his companions at that time, giving up the opportunities to be with Dad so that they could be with their friends, or girlfriends. I was a loner, and a homebody; he would ask me first before calling my siblings. Unless I had other reasons to not be home when he wanted to go fishing, I would always agree to be his buddy.
He would pay a dollar for two hours of parking, and bring the fishing rod out to the dock, with his small cooler holding a couple cans of Coca-Cola, some sweet and savory snacks for us, and a pack of cigarettes. (I have forgotten what brand of cigarettes he smoked. It’s been that long and my memory quits on me.)
I would sit at the fishing dock with him for a while, mostly at the beginning, he would help me hook the live worm as baits, and I’d throw the line out as far as I could once he’d done. While waiting for the fish to take the bait, he sipped on his soda, lighted up a cigarette, take a few deep draws, and blew out the smoke as his stream of thoughts drift off elsewhere. I would sit there, chat with him, or just observe his manners, his facial movement and expressions, his wrinkles, and the age spots that seemed to gather as collection of constellation on his cheeks.
Sometimes he would tell me stories of his youth, a fatherless and motherless child, abandoned by his own uncles and aunts after his parents passed away. Sometimes he shared stories of war, how he and Mom were constantly on the move around during the time he was in the army, dodging bullets and bombs. Sometimes he just sat there, drawing in endless heaps of smoke, sipping his coke, and pulling himself into a zone of deep thoughts. I know for sure that he did a lot of self reflection whenever he was out fishing.
I treasure those little moments with him. He was a very caring and loving father when he was not drinking, drunk, and intoxicated. Alcohol took my loving and caring father further away from his children. He became uninhibited, although never violent towards Mom and us, but he lost his sense of self. I wished that he could have made himself more emotionally available to us, and given us the father whom we shared thoughts or would come for guidance. All of that was provided by Mom; Dad failed.