My eldest sister called me a few nights ago. She was in a bit of a panic. Our father had called her to arrange mum’s 80th birthday party next month. He told her to make sure everyone in the family attended…as this would be his last time…! She was worried that something was terminally wrong with him. As she lives in another state, she wanted to check with me what was happening.
OK before you think this is going to be some melodramatic post and reach for that box of tissues, let me tell you about my father’s health.
He is 85 years of age, needs assistance to get around and care for his personal hygiene. He has the usual illnesses brought about due to old age and the tons of chili, deep fried food, salted fish, sambal, petai and other unmentionables he has happily consumed over his 8 and a half decades. Thankfully, he does not have cancer or any other terminal disease. In other words, he is quite healthy for his age.
So, why did he say that this would be his last chance to attend mum’s birthday and get my sister all panicky?
You see, my father likes to get his way. He likes to do stuff. He likes to go on outings or jalan jalan. He likes to have the whole family around him. The problem is he never tells you what he wants in a simple and direct manner.
An example, would be a family trip to Japan that we organized about 6 years ago. The trip was in October. In November of the year before the trip, he started planning.
He dropped hints first of how much he missed Japan, the food, the people and what happened to so and so san? Since I was not aware of his long term plan, I would partitipate in this conversation naively thinking that i was humoring an old man thinking back on the good old days.
Come February, he suggested we go to the seasonal travel fair organised by Malaysian Airlines (MATTA). Just to look see, said he. Again being unaware of the long term plan, I thought why not? After all I did not have anything else to do that weekend. Good opportunity to get the old man out of the house and let him stretch his legs. Might also be some dirt cheap bargains for a family holiday.
The seed had been planted.
After the fair,my father gets to work on that seed. Hey son, did you notice the prices for Japan return? Do you think its a good deal son? So again I participate in the conversation. Humor him, I thought. After all, at this juncture he has NEVER said, “I think I’d like to go to Japan for a holiday this year, what do you think?”. It’s just, “Oh, how nice”, “Oh, great bargain” kind of stuff.
The first time I got any inkling of what he was planning was when my mum called a few weeks later. “Son, please talk to your father. He’s planning on going to Japan end of this year and I don’t want to go. He still thinks he’s young. You have to walk a lot in Japan…”. (At that time, my father could still walk unassisted with a cane but for shortr distances.)
So my mum is pissed and has asked me to speak to my father toimpart some sense unto him. My mum is banking on my experience of living in Japan for 7 years to dissuade my father.
Still at this stage, there has NOT been any mention that this would be a family holiday, ie my 2 kids, my wife and I going with my parents to Japan.
I call my father to talk sense to him. I plan to say, “Dad although you can walk around with a cane, people in Japan walk fast and there are so many people. It is not a good idea. Listen to mum. If you want to travel, go to KL and visit your son there.”
When he picks up the phone, I say what I had planned to say. Obviously, since he has been planning this for a while, he is prepared. He says, “Son, this will be my last chance, the last time to travel, to see Japan. I don’t think I’ll be able to go if not now.”
Reread what he said. Does it sound a bit similar to what he said to my sister in regards to my mums birthday party? The use of the words “…last time…”?
I don’t know why but my father prefers this form of persuasion rather than simply asking, “Son, I’d like to go to Japan and I’d like your family to come along. Why don’t we check out the travel fair together for the best price. What say you?” or say to my sister “it’s your mum’s 80th birthday in April, it would be great if we could get the whole family together, let’s see how we can do that…”.
Instead he tugs at our heartstrings. Yes, it might be his last time to Japan, what kind of son would I be if I deny him this one last wish? I will rearrange my impossibly tight work schedue. I will deny my children a weeks worth of essential education. We must get him to Japan… And fast…we are on a mission to grant him his last desire. It may be his…last time.
I managed to calm my sister down that night by explaining to her that this was his way of getting what he wanted. He could have just told her that he wished all could attend the party and find out how that could happen, instead of telling her it could be his…last time. I suggested to my sister that we just set a date and whoever can come, comes. We can’t plan for everyone, especially when our family is spread from here to KL to London.
I may sound heartless but, you see, after 6 years and several more missionsto grant him his last wish, I am now smarter..smart enough to smell out my father’s manipulating …and my father, well as I said, he’s still around…scheming. After all..it may be his…last time!