I am having a cold at the moment, an unwanted souvenir from my trip to Indonesia last week. My body finally protested after being cooped up with coughing passengers on my trip from Jakarta to Adelaide via Singapore. Besides, switching from the cold wintry air in Adelaide to the balmy tropical days in Indonesia – and back to the grey and cold winter within a week – is pretty tough on my no-longer-spring-chicken body.
It is in these moments that I think of my father. In my own mind, I could hear my father’s sneeze when I sneeze. The same sound. I thought I used to sneeze differently when I was young. When I was a young boy, I used to hate it when Dad sneezed. He grew up without being taught the western etiquette of covering your mouth when you sneeze – so I used to look at him disdainfully when I saw the aftermath of his projectiles on the floor. It was probably nothing, but in my young mind, it was enough to make me dislike my father’s sneeze.
Now as I am older, I found myself making sounds that remind me of my Dad – I don’t think I can express such sounds deliberately if asked. My siblings may disagree with me, having their own memories of the sights and sounds of our Dad when he was around. Without consciously deciding so, I take some of my father’s habits when he was still alive – like wearing sarong around the house in the evening – even in winter (they are so comfortable!) or carrying a handkerchief with me. It’s really old-fashioned as I don’t know anybody else at my age or younger who still carries a handkerchief in their pocket. I suppose it is more hygienic to carry a packet of tissues but somehow the habit sticks.
So, as I slowly try to get rid of my cold, every time I sneeze, I am reminded of Dad. Two days shy of my PhD graduation and I so wish he were here to see me walk across the stage, funny hat and all. I wish I could see his beaming face from the audience, feeling the sense of accomplishment to have a PhD in the family, and telling Mum, “That’s my son!”.
These sounds that I make – are my own comfort. To others they may sound just like any trivial sound, but to me they serve as a reminder – that I am truly, my father’s son.