You will celebrate your fifth birthday by the sea
A tender tickle burst in me
I shiver, I quiver?
Surely each day he made me shimmer
So much food, so many friends
Crowd of cheers, flood of joys
Sky above in perfect blue
Waters warm and true
Big sun is pink, orange and red
So round, so near, our rounded heads
While everyone’s busy, with all the revelry
Told my little friend to come “walk with me”
Would it not be so much fun if we could catch the setting sun?
So from the shore, off we ran
Braved the seas like men
I felt the water rise over my neck
I panicked, so I ran back instead
Then suddenly a throbbing pain
Must be both my feet, I can’t explain
So I raised each foot to check and see
My overflowing blood was drowning me
I shouted Father! Father! Father!
I don’t care where you are, far or near
You are my father
You better be here
I lost consciousness as I reached the shore. Then I began to hear a voice: “Wake up, my son, wake up! We are in a hospital. You stepped on broken bottles; about twenty or thirty broken pieces of glass are inside your feet, maybe more, we don’t exactly know. Please be still and never fall asleep.”
These were my father’s worried but persistent voice. As I gained full consciousness, I felt a thunder of indescribable pain, coming from my feet flowing up to my brains. Shouting and crying, crying and shouting, my bones piercing and pricking, pricking and piercing, a pandemonium exploding.
His firm and large hands wrapped around me, he leaned closer to my face, and whispered to my ears, “there is no time for the doctor to apply anesthesia to your body. Each piece of glass has to be taken out one at a time — as soon as possible. It will hurt you, like no other; but I will be here always beside you.”
I held my father’s face, his chest, his body so very tightly, crying and begging: “It’s so painful Papa. Stop this pain now.” He turned his head to the frantic doctor who firmly said: “If we don’t operate now, he would lose his two feet, or run out of blood and die.”
I saw my father’s face turned pale as if seeing the shadow from the valley of death. He feigns he fears not — he better not. For I was too young to think of dying, all I wanted was to kill him for the pain he’s supposed to stop — which he doesn’t. I can’t understand why he doesn’t. I knew him as someone who had protected me in the past and had always kept me from harm. How come, this time, he could not do anything ?
I was shouting my voice to high heavens, while cursing him with words from hell. Burning with inexplicable anger inside, I summoned my remaining energy, then to his face I roared: “I hate you, I hate you. You are the worst father in the universe.
“Selfish father of men
Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!
Chain’d at night
The virgins of youth and morning bear?”
These poignant words of William Blake in “Earth’s Answer” demonstrate the wrath of an innocent child whose first brush with human suffering came in the company of his father, the only one he has, the only one he trusts, the only one he blames.
Back at the operating room, I remember my father was showing his smiles, big wide smiles, on his face. He was creating sounds as if he was laughing, acting as if everything was alright. He assured me and said, “There is nothing to worry about, my son. Everything would be alright.”
With blood all over me and my tears all over him, his voice trembled while he whispered gently: “I don’t believe you hate me, because you always said you love me, you love me, many times over.” These horrifying moments, when terror brings the imminence of death, the grown-up, not the the child, yearns desperately for a mutual love; anything less would not redeem the brokenness from within. William Blake approximates this kind of haunting:
“Does spring hide its joy
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower
Sow by night,
Or the plowman in darkness plow?”
I survived this accident that happened forty six years ago. My feet were not cut and they are still strong, still with me, now. About four months after the operation, I was back on my feet, first walking around the house, then playing and running with my friends again.
My father, on the other hand, began a debilitating disease called optic nerve atrophy. His left eye became blind three years after; his right eye followed ten years later. Then he became totally blind; since then, he has always been under my care.
Our special bond makes each of us, a father, and a son, to the other.
But in the face of utter unbearable pain, I can not be as stoic as him. He feigned contentment and happiness by putting up that familiar smiling face, the one that cushioned me on the operating table from the harshness of hell, the same that makes him hide the deepening sadness inside, and the continuing suffering of being silently, sightlessly, alive.
But last May he died, how I wish I had asked him this:
Let’s go back to the sea, Father.
There is something I must know.
Did you offer your sight?
So I could walk and stand tall?
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