Rangoon

 

 
He was at the station, waiting for the train to Rangoon. Perhaps he wanted to start a new life there. The war was over; he lost a brother in the war. Whether he returned home for a while or not at all, I don't know. But the story goes that he couldn't forgive his mother for what she did during his younger days.

During their childhood, he and another brother -- either a year older or a year younger -- were altar boys and their mother burned coconut husks and held them close to their sleepy eyes so that the wisps of smoke awakened them and they could fulfill their early morning duty. There were other unpleasant incidents as well not to mention the time my father was sent to live in a boarding school when he was sixteen. And perhaps there were also other incidents that have yet to be told, incidents that caused the rift between my father and his parents. Being the second oldest child and the oldest son, my father experienced more than his younger siblings as there was a wide age difference. And perhaps his sisters were more forgiving of their mother. That is how the story goes.

He wanted to get away. And Rangoon, perhaps, seemed like a good place to start life anew. And that was when he bumped into a friend of the family who told him that his mother was dying. And my father went home.

He went home to see his mother. She was very ill and everyone feared the worst. But after a while, she recovered and my father remained. He still wasn't close to his mother and even though he would contribute financially, he chose to stay out of family activities.

Did he really meet that man at the train station, the one who told him that his mother was dying? According to my mother, yes, for she met him one day and my father told her that if it were not for this man, he would never have met her. He would probably have taken that train to Rangoon and his life would have turned out differently. If not for that man, my father and mother would not have shared a life and raised five children together.

When my grandmother passed away, I remember seeing my father standing beside her casket. He was quiet and solemn. What was going through his mind? What passed silently between the two? All I remember is that he made sure that his children visited their grandmother regularly even when she chose to stay at an old folks' home. Whatever love remained, perhaps he wanted to fulfill his duty as a son.

My father passed away one year after his mother's death. Surely it was too soon. Now that I'm older, I feel that it was too soon. But who am I to say anything?

The other night, I dreamed that I was the daughter in a large family and the father came home. I felt as if I was both onlooker and participant. As he walked through the front door, I greeted him and he kissed and hugged me close to him, and I was happy to see him. It was nice. It was loving and affectionate and it was safe. It was only a dream. My father was never openly affectionate with his children. My mother was the more affectionate one. My aunts and uncles -- his siblings -- hugged and kissed us which made me wonder about my father. Again, perhaps it went back to the story that he was the second oldest child and the oldest boy. Maybe his younger siblings experienced their parents a little differently. Maybe my grandmother mellowed as she grew older and was less harsh with her younger children.

I like the story of my father waiting at the train station. Even now, it seems almost exotic to me. Perhaps that is why it has such a strong appeal.

More importantly, it relates a piece of my father's history. And I never tire of that. And I miss my father all over again.

 

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