In the summer of June 1990, I quitted my job at a Travel Agency who I had been working for since I finished Upper Sixth. I packed my bags headed to Sydney, Australia to further my studies hopefully to get a degree, maybe? It was a hasty decision, and there wasn’t any particular reason that I chose Australia. During those years in the late 80s, everything fell apart in my family. Mum & Dad got divorced, his business folded, and I lost my sister – let alone my total failure at A-Level. All I had in mind during those years was to get away from reality to a place where I knew nothing about, and nobody knew me.
Despite losing his factories, Dad gave me some money to help me out for the first year of my adventure. We were never close as far as I remember. Mum told me before that he had never held me in his arms even when I was a baby. Perhaps he thought to show affections to children was Mum’s job, not his. His primary and the only responsibility was to put bread on the table, which he did. We never really talked. The only moments that we would have some forms of communications were during dinner time. That one sentence from me, “Dad, enjoy your dinner”, as a respect to your parents or elderlies. He would nod to acknowledge, without saying a word. His impression to me during my childhood could be summarised in one word, “violence”, which I am not going to go into details, but one could easily guess what I mean.
I didn’t bring a lot with me as I remember. Two huge bags, all clothes and necessities, and a hand-carry, as I would be staying with a family, to begin with, sharing a room with the Grandpa of a friend who was one of my brother’s ex-girlfriend. She left Hong Kong for Sydney with her family since Junior High. The airport of Hong Kong back then was called Kai Tak, at where you could easily touch the aeroplanes flying by if you were living on the top floor of a building – just kidding. It was a night flight with Qantas if I am not wrong. My family were with me at the airport to bid farewell – Dad, mum, one of my brothers, as the other one was in Vancouver, my mum’s closest sister and her husband. There weren’t much conversations but only a sense of sadness. We just stood there looking at each other before the entrance through to immigrations. “Well, I’m off,” I said, and started walking towards the entrance. But I stopped and returned. Pretty dramatic, isn’t it? Just like scenes we see on telly. Facing them again, I walked up to Dad and gave him a big hug with tears in my eyes. He looked at me, with no expression on his face, and just nodded his head to acknowledge. That was the first time that we had any physical contact. I think it’s a culture thing, as many are saying, especially for older generations, touching each other to show affections just seems odd.
Since Dad and Mum got divorced, Dad spent most of his time in China. He bought a piece of land and built a house for my “extended family”. That needs no explanation, I suppose. He only came back to Hong Kong when it was necessary to replenish whatever that he might need. I remember he had a small business up there, but I have no idea what he was selling, still. Somehow, he would always let Mum know when he was in town, although they would not see each other in person. There was not much contact between us, at most a phone call. Our relationship seemed to have become even more distant as if he belonged to another family. His visits were never a pleasant surprise to anyone of us, and none would take the initiative to get together – until one day.
From a distance along the hallway into the male’s ward at a public hospital, I saw his figure walking towards me. He didn’t know I was coming to see him, I guess, but just on his way to the bathroom. He greeted me, looking solemn and frail, by nodding his head. “This is it,” he said. I immediately knew what he meant which got to be something bad. An uncle and his wife were there by his bed. I removed my jacket and tie when Dad was settling on his bed. Immediately I got criticised by my uncle for visiting late and being extravagant on clothes. When I was just about to defend myself, I chose not to say a word and just focused on Dad. What I was wearing was just a suit which I got for work when it was on sale, and I wasn’t late for the visiting hours. While sitting up, “It’s cancer,” said Dad. There was a complete silence among us for seconds. I didn’t cry nor try to think of what to say. I just wanted to hug him. Moving closer, I held him so tight in my arms with my face on his head, as if that was the last chance to show him that I do love him. There, he cried. That was the second time that I ever saw him cry. The first was when my sister passed away. He was going to go through a surgery to remove part of his stomach, hoping that would heal him – well, temporarily. He’s tired. Through his eyes he was telling me that he’s ready. I didn’t say anything like “You are gonna be alright” to comfort him. I just wanted to touch him as I knew that there’s not much time left. Resting my hand on his forehead, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Dad,” I said.
The other day when I visited mum, she showed me a precious photo of Dad that she has been keeping. A photo of him taken just before they met, probably in 1960. He looked so cool in there, didn’t he? Loving his socks.