There was once I did not speak to my dad for six years even though we were staying together. It was a cold war to show that I meant business — stop borrowing money from loansharks or risk losing your family.
But two years ago, we started talking again, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I felt a great sense of relief like a rock was removed from my shoulder. We had beer at a coffeeshop and talked about politics. All taxi drivers loved to kao bei (hokkien for complain) about the government = p
The road to forgiveness wasn’t easy.
In 2007, when my dad suffered a crippling stroke, I asked him how much money did he owed. My dad, lying on the hospital bed, said: “These are all that I owed, I will not borrow again.”
It was money that I didn’t have as I was still studying. I had to take out my savings and borrow money from friends to pay the debts. The reason I paid was because I wanted dad to focus on recovering. It hurt me to see him tearing when he couldn’t move his left arm and leg. He later recovered, regaining the use of his limbs.
Alas, the peace only lasted a while. More loansharks laid siege at my doorstep again. I felt betrayed that dad never kept his promise. Could you imagine how angry and disappointed I was?
But I had to let go of the anger so that I could focus my energy on improving our lives. When you are setting sail for your life journey, doesn’t it make sense to let go of your anchor? I could drag my anchor along, but it’s going to take a lot of energy and pain for me.
How did I forgive?
I asked myself, what was his highest, positive intention? Why did he get himself into such a financial mess? Surely, he didn’t want it.
I put myself into his shoes, and got the answer. Imagine a lorry driver with little education, became a father at only 25 years old, and trying to earn more money for his family.
All my dad ever wanted was to provide a better life for the family. He took risk by taking huge loans to buy a fleet of lorries to start a construction material transportation business. He was successful, and went from driving a lorry, to a pick-up, and later a saloon car. Really fantastic for a lorry driver who dropped out in Secondary Two.
With more income, he began to buy TV, sofas, and bookshelf for our two-room flat. Those years during my secondary school were great. The only problem was that he never saved up. He spent two dollars for every single dollar he earned, on unnecessary things. He had too much debt. When rainy day came during the Asian financial crisis, he was hit hard and lost everything.
My dad went through the stress that every father would have to deal with. Back then, I couldn’t understand. I kept blaming him for bringing us pain by borrowing from loansharks. Now, having taken on the role as the head of the household for over ten years, I fully appreciated the challenges he went through.
Yes, there were dark times when the loan sharks would splash paint on our house door, lock it up with chain. Sometimes, there was no electricity in the house. But on most days, the light was on, there was pocket money for school and books.
It’s really amazing that my dad was able to provide all of these single-handedly. My dad was a great father. I was able to forgive when I remembered what he had done for me.
The same goes for my mum.
When I was a kid, there were times I had to shoplift for instant noodles and canned food. Mum, for some reasons, would become angry whenever I asked for food. She would scream at me: “Go away! Go find your dad, and stop bothering me, I don’t have any money. Why do you have to eat so much?”
I would later discover that her mental health was poor, and had to see a psychiatrist for treatment when she was young. She was always depressed and a reclusive person who had never worked for almost 30 years. Even till today, she refuses to go out with me, or see the doctor or dentist.
But like my dad, although she was not perfect, she did her very best. Yes, there were days she would scold or cane me for asking for food, but on most days, she put food on the table. When we couldn’t afford a washing machine, she painstakingly washed our clothes for over ten years.
My parents were imperfect, but they did their best under the circumstances they were in. Like everyone else, they had their own issues and challenges.
In the last two year, my dad and I often had coffee and beer together at the kopitiam. These were little moments of happiness. Before I left Singapore, when he was driving me to the airport on his taxi, I told him we should go overseas together soon. I think he’s excited, so do I.
As for my mum, I am looking forward to celebrating with her the upcoming Mother’s Day in May. I will be back in Singapore for the special occasion.
– In times of hurt and anger, we may forget the good things that our loved ones have done for us. Find forgiveness by remembering their positives.
– When you set sail for your life journey, you have to let go of your anchor and the emotional baggage. You can drag your anchor along, but it’s going to take a lot of energy and it’s going to be more painful for you. Letting go of anger frees you to focus your energy on improving your life.
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How can you apply these lessons in your life?
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