Before You Left
Long ago, it was my father who got me onto the path to studying English. That summer when I was 12 years old, he bought a radio. Zigong People’s Radio Station was teaching English at noon every day and he needed to pass an English exam to apply for Engineer status. I thought it sounded like such a strange way to communicate that I listened along with him.
That accidental jumpstart made me a star in later English classes when I went to high school. So much so that eventually father brought his English exams home, and I was the one who finished it for him. He more than passed.
However, being a little bit dyslectic, from the beginning in studying English, my weakness was always spelling. I remember reading posthumous as “posthumourous” and seriously wondered, should before death, this physical life, be called “humourous”?
Maybe that’s why I sometimes laugh at the wrong times. Thankfully I was lucky, in my therapeutic setting, most of my clients understand the context. And often times we laugh together at the silliness of our dear human minds.
But some other times I got myself into trouble. Once when we were kids, at the dinner table, something happened, my sister and brother and I couldn’t help but laugh. It was very irritating for our serious father. He used his fatherly authority to stop us from laughing. We had to stop. But we couldn’t. I tried to bury my gaze into my rice bowl and keep my head as low as I could, knowing that even with slight peripheral eye contact with my siblings, I would lose it and burst out laughing, and knowing that exactly the same thing would happen to them as well.
At one point, the unleashed laughter hurt my stomach. I put down my rice bowl and chopsticks, and rushed outside of the house, ran as far as I could to be safely unheard, and laughed it all out before I headed back home.
Father was always serious, like the leading political party of China that he deeply respected, honoured, and followed. But rather than those couple of typical teenage years of rebellion, I kept a cordial, mind-my-own-business attitude with him. We were not best friends, but we were very friendly.
As I grew up, Father grew older, and he gradually became quieter. I often wondered how fulfilled he felt in his life, on both personal and professional levels. Mother’s constant show of dissatisfaction towards him in front of us might have silenced him further. On one of my many departures from home, family members were seeing me off at the long-distance bus station so that I could go to catch a flight from Chengdu. Father was standing to the side. A casual turn of my head caught a glimpse of a smile in his eyes, looking my way. It surprised me and instantly softened my heart. Yes, that’s my true father. My heart knew.
Father must have learned to be serious, as many things he had learned.
When hypnotherapy found me, I had a lot of my own inner work to do. When I was working on self-esteem, my subconscious mind pointed to him. When I was working on abundance issues, my scarcity mindset referred to him. My childhood memories were also dotted with him beating us.
One day, I set up a self-hypnosis session at home. After hypnotizing myself, I used a pendulum and a set of yes and no questions that I had prepared. Through the process, the innermost doorway opened, and I could see clearly: Father hated it when he hit us. Living in a big communal house full of families with young children, it was positively considered “disciplining” to beat children. Father was learning to be a father, and he had to show it. I remember I cried very loud when he raised his hand. It was so painful for me to see, and I was so scared. One day, father puzzled, “My hand has not landed on you yet!” He was right, but the scared me carried on bawling anyways.
No, I honestly never had any bruises or scars from Father’s abuse. I didn’t have to excuse him or even forgive him, but I cried with relief and insights after that self-hypnosis session.
Something was healed in me. I could see my father in a different light, the father who he tried to hide under a stern façade.
There was another time that I reclined on my couch and hypnotized myself down to a flight of stairs. I opened a door, to a cozy meeting room, in which I met the true essence of my father. I requested him to write me a letter. In that trance state, my eyes opened, and my hands picked up a pen and a pad of paper. Dictated by my “true father,” my hand started to move on paper.
The letter went on for four pages. I have kept it to this day. With all his love and encouragement, he set me free from his conditions and limitations. I was to take my business and income to a level that my hardworking father never dreamt of.
It was a strange feeling that meeting my father in my self-hypnosis brought me closer to him, even though nothing else had changed. I can’t say my genuine show of interest in him completely opened him up, but between Father and I, when alone, we were able to carry on some meaningful conversations. I eventually came to accept Father’s implicit way to express himself. That’s not a typical Sagittarius in my mind, but then how could life shape a man like him, I wondered.
COVID-19 has disrupted so many patterns on the global level. I postponed my visit to China over and over and over. My brother occasionally sent some videos when he took our wobbly and gradually-developing-dementia father out. Finally, the restrictions started to loosen. Even though everyone I knew seemed to have contracted COVID there, everyone did seem to recover. “Let’s get it and let’s get over it” seemed to be the right attitude given the long-drawn battle. “I’ll be home in October this year,” I told my brother and sister in a group WeChat as the calendar was turning into the New Year 2023. I was so looking forward to spending time sitting with Father, just being with him.
On that same New Year’s Day, at its last hour, my sister called. There were tears in her voice. She heard from our sister-in-law, even though Father was still being ICU rescued, the advice was that we needed to be prepared. I comforted her. The moment I finished the talk with my sister, my brother’s message came in: Father left.
What do you mean, Father left? I stared at the screen, simple words, I couldn’t understand. Did you love me enough? Did you encourage me enough? Did you accept me enough? Have you ever expressed yourself enough?
Father had COVID for two weeks, and like many older folks, his lungs couldn’t handle it. His departure was surprisingly fast. “Right now, I’m trying to get in, but funeral houses are fully booked,” my brother also mentioned.
I was not in a position to rush out to buy a flight ticket and go to China, which still required quarantine until January 8. “People never know how to choose a proper time to die!” A thought came to my mind. That made me laugh. And I stopped halfway. Or Father, did you stop me like you used to?
This time, I didn’t need to run out of the house to continue my laugh. You were the one who left. With tears in my eyes, I looked up to the sky. Grief is a curious thing. So many memories are rushing into my mind. I let them do their own things there, without filtering. “Posthumourously”, now I see clearly what truly mattered and what didn’t.
There is a love, that the word love doesn’t reach.
I think I will laugh now whenever I can.