Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dad!!

Dad at Keenan Air Force BaseI called my dad this afternoon to wish him happy birthday and as soon as I said this, he paused...which got me confused and so I asked, "Today IS your birthday, isn't it?" He chuckled and laughed, "It is! I forgot".

So we continued to have this long conversation as I drove home from work. I don't think my dad has been this talky before. Perhaps he was trying to impress relatives who were visiting from Laos with his ability to speak English.

My dad was the first in our family to speak English. He knew the language before all of us did. Partly from his days in the military. He traveled to many air force bases throughout the U.S. I never pried much into the details of his service as he was willing to talk about his military days. I only knew that he was a sergeant thought I jokingly suspected that he was a spy for the U.S. during the Vietnam war.

After the war ended, family escaped from Laos to seek refuge in Thailand when I was 3 years old. We lived in several refugee camps in Thailand and the Phillipines while we went through the immigration process. (If only it was so easy to come to America by boat).

From what I could remember, my dad gave much to our family. He had a habit of picking the scraps from our meals and eating the leftovers so we could have the "meat" of the meal. I always warned him about getting food poisoning until the day he finally did. I don't think that slowed him down one bit.

When I was young, I always feared my dad. He seemed big and strong to me. He was the enforcer of the last resort, when my mom couldn't control us kids anymore. She would set my dad to discipline us. So it was rare that he ever laid a hand on us--or boot as I once (deservingly) received.

He use to be a passionate man with a fiery temper but in his old days, he's just quiet, observing, cheerful and mellow. Doesn't say much--only smile and blink his squinty Asian eyes. But some things remained the same in that he's always been a family man. A romantic and sentimentalist. I think I share these traits with him.

When he gave me away on my wedding day, it seems he didn't want to let me go. And when we had our first dance, that's when I realized how fragile he was. Daly and Dad's first danceArms so tiny when I clung to it as we walked down the aisle, body so little--like a little boy when I hugged him during our first dance.

Dad can't take care of me anymore, and that's okay, but I realized I must take care of him like he did for me through my days of sports, clubs and school trips.

And so our conversation ended on a happy note when I called him on his birthday. Though everytime I leave my dad, I cry as he chokes back tears. I always tell him that I love him.
But to this day, I have yet to hear him say, "I love you". But that's okay because I know my dad loved me. I also know when he's ready to say it, I'll be the first to hear it.

I like not only to be loved, but to be told that I am loved. --George Elliot

1 comment:

Dano said...

That was a beautiful piece on pappa Sorvongsavanh. I hope your sisters check your site every now and then. Nicely done.