Bob, My Amer­i­can Fa­ther


Special Focus - - Contents - Sheng Lin 盛林

My fa­therin- law Bob re­cently passed away.

Af­ter get­ting mar­ried in Amer­ica, I al­ways told my hus­band Philip that I liked his fa­ther Bob the most and that he was my Amer­i­can fa­ther.

Bob suf­fered from can­cer and Parkin­son’s disease for five years be­fore he left us at 70 years of age. The can­cer cell spread all over his body to his bones, brain, and blood. He had to walk with crutches and couldn’t ex­press him­self clearly be­cause of the Parkin­son’s disease. The doctor said he couldn’t find a bet­ter treat­ment for him and he had only two years left to live.

When you saw Bob’s smile, you would never be­lieve that he was se­ri­ously ill. When we went to his house, I re­mem­bered he was al­ways wear­ing a hat and over­alls, usu­ally ei­ther cut­ting the grass with mower, or gardening, or mend­ing some­thing on the roof. He would al­ways wave to us in the dis­tance.

Hous­ton is of­ten hit by hur­ri­canes that up­root big trees. In the two years I’ve lived in Hous­ton, more than a dozen trees in his yard have fallen down.Bob would al­ways cut down the fallen trees into seg­mentsseg and make fire­wood for win­­ter It costs over five dol­lars for a small bun­dle of wood at the su­per­mar­ket,su­per­marke which is quite ex­pen­sive.

Chop­ping firewo fire­wood is not an easy job, but Bob never asks his chil­dren to help him. OnceOnc when we vis­ited him, we saw him car­ry­ing a hu huge trunk on his sh shoul­der, with a wa walk­ing stick in one ha hand and an­other han hand rested on his waist, ghastly pale and stream­ing with h sweats. Philip said to me, “Look at him! A tough guy!”

Usu­ally Philip would not give Bob a hand im­me­di­ately. In­stead, he would stand and watch for a while, rub­bing his hands, and say some­thing like “I sud­denly had the urge to work with you. Do you mind?” Bob would nod and they would start to work to­gether. He did this be­cause he didn’t want Bob to be em­bar­rassed for need­ing help. . Dig­nity is so im­por­tant for an old man, a man and a pa­tient. nt.

I re­mem­bered once a tree in front of our ur house fell on the drive­way in a hur­ri­cane. It was a mess. Philip was work­ing over­time for sev­eral days and came home very late. There was no time for him to clean up the mess. One morn­ing when I was still lay­ing in bed, there came a sound from the yard. I was fright­ened and afraid that some­one might be break­ing in. When I ran to the yard, I saw an old man chop­ping the wood with a chain­saw.

It was Bob. I went to him and wanted to help. Bob shouted, “Dan­ger­ous! Don’t touch the chain­saw. It’s not a lady’s job.” So I went back into the kitchen and pre­pared one pot of green tea and boiled sev­eral eggs. I gave him the eggs and a cup of tea, which he had while he was chop­ping the wood with sweat all over the back.

Four hours later, the big tree was chopped into seg­ments and moved to the road­side. I cleaned the bro­ken

branches and twigs. Our clean drive­way was back again. Bob smiled and said to me be­fore leav­ing, “Lin, It’s our se­cret. Don’t tell Philip on the phone. Give him a sur­prise. He’ll think it was aliens… E.T.’s work!”

Philip was shocked when he came home, but he knew it was Bob and called to thank him. Bob praised me on the phone and said, “Lin helped me a lot! Sweet girl!”

We now had a huge pile of wood in the yard, plus what we had chopped be­fore. Philip al­ways said that he would clear the branches, oth­er­wise snakes would make nests in­side. Un­for­tu­nately, Philip was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal be­fore he started the work. When he came home from hos­pi­tal, all the branches were cut into fire­wood and piled up neatly. This time, Bob did this with Philip’s fu­ture son-in-law Alan. They rented a log split­ter and cut all the branches.

Look­ing at the wood­pile, Philip cried. He talked to me about how his fa­ther’s health was so weak, and how Bob suf­fered so much from can­cer and fail­ing mus­cles. Phillip thought he should be at home and be looked af­ter by oth­ers. I said, “Honey. I know him. He just wants to do more for us. If it were you, you would do the same and en­joy do­ing it.”

Bob’s health wors­ened last au­tumn and he couldn’t even walk with sticks. He had to use a wheel­chair. Even though he couldn’t move freely, he still had a lot of plans. He said to Philip, “It’s em­bar­rass­ing, but I need your help.” He just wanted to do the triv­i­al­i­ties in daily life. For ex­am­ple, he filled a small pit in case Anne, his wife, might slip; he cut down a small tree so that Anne wouldn’t worry about an­other po­ten­tial fallen tree; he moved the wood­pile near the house so that it was eas­ier for Anne to fetch wood, be­cause Anne likes to use the fire­place in win­ter; he changed the old elec­tric wires, so Anne wouldn’t get hurt; and he re­placed the bro­ken light bulbs be­cause Anne is afraid of the dark. All these triv­i­al­i­ties were im­por­tant things for him. He was anx­ious to do them all.

Bob left us, and even though the time he shared his love with us is short, the love would be with us for­ever.

(From Marry Amer­ica, Yilin Press)

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