Three simple words – Breaking Barriers – The Borneo Post – 29 March, 2014

Three simple words
by Peter Tan. Posted on March 29, 2014, Saturday

THE living room was a haphazard mess of mismatched furniture. The previous owner of the house had them custom-made by inmates from the prison nearby. My parents did not see it fit to have them replaced since they were still in good condition. A microcomputer connected to a 16-inch colour television occupied a work desk that an uncle left behind when he moved to another state.

My father was standing beside me in a Pagoda T-shirt and a pair of loose striped cotton shorts that men of his generation usually wore. My mother made these shorts for him by the dozens. Those were the only shorts I ever saw him wear.

I was showing him something on the television. It was such a long time ago. I cannot remember what it was any more. All I know is that I had wanted to tell him one thing that I had great difficulty in coaxing out of my lips. The display on the television was just a way to get his attention while I mustered my courage.

Ours was a family that did not speak openly about matters of the heart. Expressing our inner feelings was not a forte that was cultivated. My parents, ever cautious, also always discussed sensitive issues like the Communist insurgency and the May 13 incident in hushed tones and out of earshot of us children. We were never allowed to ask why those issues happened. That was how we were brought up. Children were to be seen, not heard.

“I love you,” I finally blurted out as I held on to his arm tightly.

A chill ran down the entire length of my spine.

He was taken unaware. There was a stunned look on his face.

“Why?” he asked, partly confused, partly amused and mostly delighted.

“Because you are my father. Thank you for everything.”

I had meant to say more, to say I was sorry for making him spend so much money for my treatments, for having to take care of me even in his old age and for breaking his heart when I dashed his dreams for me but those were all the words I could manage.

His eyes were wet. He tried hard to contain his emotions.

“There is no need to thank me,” he said softly, his voice almost inaudible.

There was long silence after that as we both pondered over the brief exchanges. There was never a more awkward moment for the two of us. A sense of liberation and relief overwhelmed me, nonetheless. I ultimately told him what I had wanted to tell him for the longest time.
I was proud of myself for having broken that invisible barrier that had repressed my true feelings when it came to my parents, even just for that one time. Our subsequent conversations neither moved beyond that nor did we speak about what happened that day.

One sentence. Three simple words. How often do we tell our loved ones that we love them? In our busyness to climb the career ladder, to put food on the table and to provide all the creature comforts for our family, we frequently neglect to bear in mind why we are doing what we are doing in the first place.

The tragedies in the recent weeks have clearly reminded us once again of the fragility of life. We or our loved ones could be here today but gone tomorrow. Sometimes, we get to say our poignant goodbyes. Other times, we are unknowingly parted without any indication.
For one reason or another, we tend to procrastinate when it comes to things like spilling out what is in our hearts. There are always other priorities that require our undivided attention. What we fail to realise is that there is always more money that can be made, more mountains to be climbed and more business deals to be sealed.

Our loved ones on the other hand are each unique and the only ones we will ever be blessed with in our lifetime. Spending quality time with them is a goal we must strive for at all costs. Life is short. There are times when opportunities missed can never be regained.
The failure for us to share our feelings with them is one regret many of us have had to live with for the rest of our lives, wishing we could have one more chance at it. Unfortunately, regrets can not be be use to buy back time, missed opportunities nor loved ones.

Let us not wait. It does not cost us anything to tell our parents, spouse and children how much they mean to us. Before this day is over, however busy we may be, make it a point tell them how much we love them and how much they have made our life more meaningful. Give them a hug. Give them many hugs. They are worth it. They are worth our time. They are worth the only thing money cannot buy — our love.
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Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.