Cross the road must be careful
(guo ma lu yao xiao xin.)
Every time I left the house, my father would never say “Bye!” or “Have fun”. Instead, he would always ask me to be careful when crossing the road. This continued even after I had become a grown adult, and I always thought it was just a weird habit he forgot to unlearn over the years.
After he passed away two years ago, I never got to find out his reason. But his words continued to echo in my mind whenever I stepped outside my house.
Recently, when I found myself saying the same thing to my boyfriend, it finally hit me. When you love someone, you want the person to be safe. Maybe you fear for their safety, sometimes unnecessarily. But when you love someone, their life becomes as precious as their presence in yours.
When my dad asked me to cross the road safely, he was simply trying to say, “Be safe, I would hate to see you hurt, because I love you.”
Maybe I’d grown up too fast, and he missed holding my little hand and leading me across the road.
(chi bao le mei you?)
There was a time in my life when I treated my house like a hotel, and came home only past midnight. The whole family would be asleep, but I always saw my father sitting there playing games on his iPad. Now when I think about it, I wonder if he was staying up to make sure I got home safe.
When I open the door and greet him “Hi Daddy,” he would always ask the same question, whether it was dinnertime or midnight.
I used to laugh at him, “Of course I eat already, now midnight leh! Why you think I haven’t eat?”
Now, when he is no longer around to make sure I don’t go to bed hungry, I suddenly miss it, the casual way he asked, in a deceivingly absent-minded way.
When my dad asked me if I’ve had dinner when I come home at midnight, he was simply trying to say, “How are you? Are you feeling ok?”
Maybe he just wanted to make sure his daughter was well before going to bed, because he hardly saw her throughout the day.
What you want to eat? I buy for you.
(yao chi shen me? wo mai gei ni.)
Which brings me to the point: Food is the Asian father’s love language.
When our house phone rang, we all knew it would be Dad. Picking up the phone and saying hello, the first thing we would always hear, as though a default greeting, was “What you want for dinner? I buy back for you.”
Even when I said I wasn’t hungry, he would insist on buying me food.
“You must eat something, at least a little bit.”
Without an appetite, I would always tell him “Anything, you choose ok?”, when all I wanted was to eat breakfast cereal for dinner.
Dad never allowed that. He believed in three proper meals a day, and eating breakfast like a king.
He would come back with plastic packets of wanton mee or mixed veg rice, and whatever appetite I had lost would magically come back.
On weekends, he drove all the way from Jurong to Telok Blangah, just to bring back four packets of Hainanese curry rice wrapped in brown paper for lunch. It was the food of my childhood, because that was where I grew up before we moved.
Dad never said “I love you”, but he asked me to cross the road carefully, and made sure I had eaten. But now I realise, aren’t these the important things?
Image credits: Jcomp on freepik , Steven Van Loy on Unsplash, SG Food on Foot