Bob, My American Father
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.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)