I've never had an easy relationship with my Dad.
In fact, most times I just hate him.
I think it started from when I was a kid and everyone told me not to grow up to become like him.
You see, I resemble my Dad greatly. We look the same. We walk the same way. We share certain undesirable traits like talking faster than we think, a tendency to make fools of ourselves in public, indecisiveness and being overly happy-go-lucky.
But no doubt about it, my Dad is a deeply flawed person. A flawed Dad as well. Hence, I was conditioned to never follow his footsteps. To become a better person. And in my young mind, this equated to not respecting him.
In my early schooling years, I hated it even when he touched me. It just felt awfully disconcerting. Almost as though he had no right to do so.
His inability to communicate in a proper and dignified manner also made me want to tear my hair out. He was always a hit among coffee shop apeks and sundry shop ah sohs, but he wasn't exactly someone you would bring to a Parent-Teacher conference.
And of course, there was his embarrassingly loud booming voice. No matter what time of the day it was, whatever occasion, he would speak in the same crass volume.
In fact, if you've been reading my stories for some time, you'll realise that I never mention Dad. My characters always have Moms.
I've never truly, personally understood the concept of a Dad.
So fast forward 20 years later, and here we are still. I've mellowed somewhat, but he still irritates me when he asks me to do a few things.
One, logging on to the Internet.
Two, reloading his handphone credit.
Three, writing cheques for him.
It frustrates me that he's almost into his sixties and he still can't do simple things like these. Granted, he only studied till Standard Six and has never worked in the corporate world before. But still. It makes me feel like he doesn't appreciate my time.
I know, I'm a sorry excuse for a son.
I tried teaching him many times, but he's not very keen on learning. Over time, I realised that we're both happier if I just do it for him instead. And the worst part is when he says "Thank you" with this extremely dumb grin, like a child who just escaped passing up his homework.
I really hate that.
This past Monday, I went to meet a client near my house. We met at a mamak stall.
After the immensely boring meeting, we walked back to our cars together.
"Where did you park?" I asked him.
"There." He pointed to some car just 10 metres in front of us.
Then he pointed to a car in front of his. "Whose car is this ah...never turn off the lights one."
I gulped. It was mine!
The utter stupidity.
After some fiddling around and triggering the alarm system umpteen times, we came to the obvious-from-the-start conclusion that the battery was dead. I decided that I needed help. I told my client to go back first. I would call my Mom.
So I did. And Mom said, "I'll call your Dad."
He's the only one in my household who has an inkling about cars.
So I waited for 15-ish minutes by the roadside, each passing car making me feel more foolish.
Finally he came. Coincidentally, the same time as my Mom.
I was expecting him to berate me for wasting everyone's time with my carelessness. But he only chided me gently for parking in such a deserted spot. "It's dangerous... sometimes there're people fighting in these back alleys."
As the orange streetlights washed over him bent over my car bonnet, I couldn't help but feel... small.
I could use the computer, reload handphone credit and write cheques. But I was clueless when it came to changing car batteries.
Dad could've been rude at me, like how I usually acted when he needed my help. But here he was, patiently fixing my problem.
On that starless night, in the silent back lane of Restoran BRJ Kuchai Lama, I uttered a prayer.
Lord, forgive me for dishonouring my father. Grant me patience and strength to love as You loved.
"OK, done. You check and see whether it's working."
I think I caught a glimpse of the dumb grin.
Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. The car started perfectly fine.
I sunk into my driver's seat, relieved.
And guess what? He asked me reload his handphone credit AND write a cheque the next morning. I did it, with a smile...somewhat.