Father and daughter
My father is a storyteller and a romantic. He is ever eager to share his love of English and Chinese literature, his analysis of prose and poetry, and his jukebox of unchained melodies from different periods of his life.
As a rebellious teenager, I had no patience for his passions. Instead, I enjoyed a good debate and a good game of Chinese chess or bridge. I told my mom that I'd marry a man who could challenge my mind the way my dad could. When I became even more rebellious and intolerant, my dad remarked that I had a tongue like a sword.
For three years after college, I refused to answer his letters and speak to him. Those were the same years I did not touch the piano.
One day the prodigal daughter returned quietly. Although she was still resentful and disagreeable, she realised that she had to grow up and learn to accept him for who he was. Little did she know that she was just like him: a storyteller and a romantic.
Here is an extract from an essay my father had selected to analyse and translate in his book "Masterpieces of Modern English," one of many textbooks, now out of print, originally published by The Tan Chiang Book Company in Taipei, Taiwan.
Father and daughter by James Yaffe
When a father has a complaint to make about his son, all he has to do is take the boy aside and yell at him.
"What do you mean by getting home at three o'clock in the morning? Your mother was worried to death!"
"Twenty bucks? You want twenty bucks? My God, the way you spend my money, you could be the United States government."
"A car of your own? Listen to him, will you? He's still wet behind the ears, and he wants a car of his own!"
This is the sort of thing that goes on every day. Sarcasm, grumbling, out-and-out rage --- how else should a father in this modern world express his affection and concern for his own son?
But between a father and his daughter it isn't so easy. Because a father can't yell at his daughter, or wave his fist at her threateningly, or call her a good-for-nothing. More than one father has, of course. But he usually ends up with a terrible feeling of guilt over it. And then, when she smiles up at him and puts her hands on his shoulders and murmurs that pet name which he's always been a sucker for, the most determined father in the world is as helpless as a baby.
18 April 2004 Sunday
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