I watched this movie tonight and throughout the movie I thought of the technical aspects of the movie – beautifully shot, good premise, but so disjointed. I was also reminded of my own relationship with my father – something that is also quite personal and something similar to the character in the movie, Blake Morrison, felt towards his. The movie is based on a true story – the memoir written by Blake Morrison, titled And When Did You Last See Your Father?.
The movie contains this wonderful quote:
And when did you last see your father?
Was it when they burnt the coffin?
Put the lid on it?
When he exhaled his last breath?
When he sat up and said something?
When he last recognised you?
When he last smiled?
When did you last see your father?
The last time he was healthy, active?
The last time you had an argument about something?
Those weeks we tried to say goodbye were like a series of depletions. Each day I thought, “he can’t get less like himself than this,” yet each day he did. So I’ve been trying to recall the last time I actually saw him, the last time he was unmistakably there, in the fullness of being … him.
At the end of the movie, I ended up crying – because I was reminded how shallow the measure of love that children have towards their father. Whilst adorations and words of love are plenty towards mothers, we tend to think of fathers quite differently – distant, authoritative, cold, and words to that effect.
I have been a well-behaved son throughout most of my life, and because I performed well at school, I have never ever felt his hand on me. Not even a smack. It’s a different story with my two brothers – I can’t remember whether my parents ever smacked them for being naughty but they were far more active and ‘boyish’ when they were younger. My younger brother would prefer to climb up to the roof and fly his kites whilst I would stay in my room reading.
Similar to Blake, I had a phase in my life when I disliked my Dad intensely. The fact that I had never been scolded by my dad was also used by some of my sisters who accused me of being the favourite son in the family – I used to resent it because I did not ask to be treated differently. That feeling morphed itself into a feeling of dislike and almost of disgust towards my Dad when I was a teenager. I used to deliberately and frantically wave my hands when we were watching TV in the evening after we finished dinner, when Dad started to smoke. I used to get disgusted when Dad ate with his mouth open, or picked some food scrap from his mouth. I used to wish that he was more like my friend’s dad who would drive to school, looking all dapper to pick his son up. My Dad didn’t fit into the image of a father that I had in my mind.
I have moved away from such feelings – admittedly, I’m still closer to my Mum than to my Dad. I have learned to accept to never expect expressive words of love from Dad because it’s not his style at all. I know that he loves me but he is only able to show it though ways that he knows – through his concerns that I’m still single and that I have nobody to take care of me, through his queries whether I’m keeping myself healthy here in Australia. It would’ve been nice to get a hug from Dad, but then again, I would probably freak out had he done that. Unfortunately, ever since he had a stroke, he can’t give a hug without assistance. Our family are not touchy feely towards each other. I remember that it felt so awkward to get a hug from my siblings at my brother’s wake because we never do that in normal circumstances. I hope I would change that with my own family …
I am thankful for having him as my father – through him I learn the value of good education and to do the best that I can do to achieve my goals. Through his and my mum’s hardship I learn to take care of my career and finance well. I also learn about boundaries and the value of my extended families. I remember that I used to cringe when my Dad boasted to the customers about my achievements – I failed to realise that he was so proud of my achievement and proud that he could achieve his own dream to have well-educated children. I have learned now to tell my Dad more about my achievements so he can feel good about himself – he has certainly done really well in raising eight well-educated and well-learned children.
There’s only one thing that I will change when I have my children – I will try my hardest not to make my children feel that they have to achieve or perform, to win my love for them.