by Father Cao Xuan Hung
WE ALL ARE BORN in debt. I don’t mean owing money. I mean the debt of gratitude to our parents.
That debt cannot be repaid, no matter how rich, powerful, successful, graceful and thoughtful we are. So we try to do some little things for our parents, such as giving them money and gifts, celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and caring and praying for them, remembering that we are always children of our parents.
It’s easy to feel thankful to our mothers, because motherly love and care are usually shown to us closely and clearly. It’s somehow harder to acknowledge the debt of gratitude to our fathers. I didn’t deeply realize that my dad loves and cares for me so much until the day I left my home country of Vietnam to study abroad in the United States.
Before leaving my home, I told my parents that they didn’t have to go to the airport, because it was very far and my parents get carsick.
About three hours before my plane was scheduled to depart, however, my parents suddenly appeared at the airport, saying that they went to see me off. When I asked them why and how they did so without telling me, they looked at me with loving eyes and said nothing. They had taken a night bus to the airport without, miraculously, getting carsick.
Because that was my first time to travel overseas, I was excited and joyful, which is why during my last hours at the airport, I made jokes and laughed with my relatives and friends who were there.
I didn’t notice how quiet and sad my parents were. As I was about to leave, my mom hurriedly held my hand and pulled me to a far corner where no one could see us. I thought that she did so to give me some extra money or a gift.
Surprisingly, however, without saying anything, my mom suddenly stole a quick kiss on one of my cheeks. That was the first kiss my mom had given me in about 20 years. Being Vietnamese, my mom was very reserved. She didn’t often show her sentiment and love with kisses or hugs. How about my dad?
When I finally had to leave, I just simply said goodbye to everyone and walked away without turning my head back as the cold and resolute man I was. Still, I remember that my dad didn’t even say a word of farewell to me. He seemed to be much colder than I was.
That didn’t surprise me, because I knew that my dad was a stern and cold man. I never saw him cry. My impression was that he was a hardworking and quiet and yet hot-tempered and strict.
He never said a kind word to me. He even bitterly beat me up by rods many times and punished me harshly if I misbehaved or made mistakes.
As I landed in the United States, I tried to call my mom right away to let her know that I had arrived safely. My mom was greatly happy upon hearing that. Then, she disclosed that my dad was crying the whole night, saying that he missed me so much, after just about 20 hours seeing me off. When I hung up the phone, my eyes were filled with tears.
Celebrating Father’s Day away from home, I feel thankful for my dad’s hard work, sweat and silent sacrifices. Yet what I feel the most grateful for are his sternness and harshness, because without that, I would not be a kind, gentle and compassionate man.