“I wish I could celebrate Chinese New Year with my father,” she uttered, barely audible. The scene of my friend tearing in class when we skipped a seminar on cancer kept replaying in my head that night. I remembered it was a Tuesday, January 15 when she finally broke down.
I had thought convalescence was on daddy’s side. Mummy and the rest of us knew it was a little too late when we found out daddy was sick but we never stopped hoping. Ever since daddy had been admitted into the hospital, Ah Pui (my plump brother) and I took turns to watch over him after school. I was burnt out most of the time, tired of the journey to and fro the hospital daily, but it was then that I started to learn that I really do love being by daddy’s side.
Being the tough old man that he was, daddy told Ah Pui that he was not afraid of death. Though I knew it was inevitable, my heart was shattered to pieces. I was angry, frustrated at daddy for giving up. Mummy worked so hard to pay off the medical bill yet, he was ready to die! Fatigue had gotten the best of me. It was too heavy a burden to bear.
I had been trying to ask her about her father but too often, she refused to talk much. I did not make her talk because I knew it would hurt. I figured I could only help by praying every night for her father and her family.
Day after day, I watched daddy suffer from the cruel attack of the notorious colon cancer. I did not understand why it had to be my daddy and not somebody else’s daddy! I tried to take it all in as what people would call ‘life’, but when I watched my friends smile or fool around, laughing at the lamest jokes, I could not help but envy them. At that point of time I had forgotten how to smile, let alone laugh.
I noticed daddy’s tummy was expanding beyond its capacity, as if it were on the verge of explosion and his now scrawny face lost its glow which I had been staring upon for the past 19 years. Daddy could not eat. Food only brought pain. The doctors had to resolve to use the feeding tube to insert liquefied food into the stomach. I knew nothing much about medicine, but by watching, I could tell daddy was not getting any better. It did not seem like we had much time left with him.
When she finally poured everything out, I was relieved that she did not keep it all inside. I told her Chinese New Year was just around the corner and that her father would be able to wait. I knew it would mean so much to her and her family if her father was with them during the much awaited ‘ang pau’ season.
I watched daddy as he was sleeping in serenity. I realized he had grown so much older. If I was being specific, the word would be decaying. When I looked at the pair of dirty-looking well-worn hands, I could literally vision how much daddy had had to toil and sweat to give me all that I had. As if to make a statement, the veins in his hands were more discernible than ever.
I took a glance at my own pair of hands only to feel guilt bludgeoning me. Nails were in shape, fingertips were even and smooth, leaving no sign of hard work whatsoever. I teared. I regretted. I wish I had done more.
The big white clock on the wall had the short hand pointed at five. Daddy left the television on, as usual, on discovery channel which he had been watching every night since we got the Astro service fixed. The fruits and flowers our relatives brought were left untouched on the wooden table leaning against the pearl white partition which separated daddy from the uncle suffering from AIDS. Uncle had not been enjoying life either. Nevertheless, he kept daddy company all round the clock.
The hospital was like a second home to me. I could just make my way to daddy’s ward with my eyes closed. I glimpse through the all too familiar surroundings and decided I needed to rest, I needed strength. I turned off the 21-inch Sony television before I shifted my white plastic chair closer to daddy and gently placed my head on daddy’s right shoulder.
She told me about the options her family was left with; they had to either let the father undergo an operation and he would have a 50 percent chance to live, and if it fails, he would die in two months, or they could just choose not to do anything. Her mother chose the latter as she was too afraid. My friend and her siblings were told to ‘be prepared’.
The notion of daddy leaving us was daunting. I tried my best to be optimistic but I just could not hold on any longer. That fateful night, daddy received a call from my long distant cousin in
I was told my friend was at home when she was suddenly asked to go to the hospital for the last time. I only hoped she was ready and was strong enough to accept what was happening.
My aunty called. We rushed to see daddy. This time, I did not feel tired. I knew what was happening yet the little voice inside of me just kept telling me that daddy was fine. My steps were quick at first. As I started to look left and right, and saw the patients, some who looked very sick and others who were sleeping soundly, my pace slowed. I had wish I could turn back and run away. I practically could not catch my breath.
The finely crafted white door was opened. I stood aside and followed after everybody else went in. Daddy was there, smiling as he spoke to Ah Pui. I was trying to fight back the tears. I knew daddy wanted us to be strong.
Then he looked at me. I went and sat on the bed right next to him. He spoke to me nonchalantly; it was like a friendly chat. Daddy never stopped smiling. Even when he was talking, I could read the words ‘I love you’ in his eyes. I would never forget those moments spent with daddy. There was no where else that I would rather be.
“You will forever be daddy’s little girl, daddy’s pride,” he whispered as he pinched my nose gently with his right index finger and thumb. He was weak; daddy never pinched me so lightly even when he was sick.
“Daddy, do not worry, you can go now, I will take care of mummy and Ah Pui.” I forced a slight smile. I caught Ah Pui crying but when he noticed me looking, he turned away. Ego, even at this point of time. I scoffed at him, and daddy who was looking on let out a short laugh.
“Do you want to join us for lunch tomorrow?” I asked nonchalantly.
“I’m sorry, but I just want to spend time with my father, it is the only place I would want to be,” she whispered in reply. I did not persuade her to change her mind.
We were told to take daddy home. The short hand of the clock was a quarter pass eleven. Mummy and Ah Pui helped daddy with the wheelchair. For one last time, I took in the nostalgic surroundings as we made our way through to the lobby. I was ready.
I did wish mummy would have chosen to let daddy undergo the operation. Even if it failed, I could have another two months with daddy; at least we could celebrate Chinese New Year. Yet, I knew daddy would not have regretted or blamed mummy. Mummy always knew what was best for daddy and vice-versa.
We were informed of her father’s death at about on January 16. We decided that it was only right for us to pay our last respect to her father at the wake.
“Daddy, my friends are here to see you.” I knew daddy was listening and he must have been overwhelmed.
Each time I saw the Lam Wah Ee hospital, I remembered the best place in the world. It was neither the building nor the charming men doctors that attracted me; it was the quality time spent with daddy which made the place all too memorable. I was not a rich man’s daughter. I had no luxurious car to drive; neither did I have a castle to live in. But my daddy gave me all the wealth that I could ever wish for and more.
I believe nobody at the tender age of nineteen would learn what it means to be next to a father who loves them beyond comprehension. As for me, it took me my one and only father to learn how true ‘love is spelled T.I.M.E’ was.
*This story was written in loving memory of a good friend’s father who died of colon cancer on
No matter how many million times i read this piece of work, i will definitely cry. Its been a tough one and i really do appreciate Denise for taking all the efforts to work on this essay. thanks a lot.Her story has made my dad 'alive'. Although
Everytime when i sing, it reminds me of my dad. He used to love singing a lot too & he even planned to go for voice training with me after his retirement but.......................