ˈCHaptər 2 : Dad’s Operating System


My dad is a focused man and perhaps a little obsessive I assumed. Like any serious engineer type-A person, he loves economic, stocks, and flips housing prices. I bet the reason behind that is his obsession with numbers and math in the most logical mind and he was the most serious person I’ve ever met. As a child, I was bored of all the predictable chooses he made every single time.

As a family, we would go to the same Korean restaurant for our annual birthday treats, and we would order the exact same dishes every single time. Every birthday is the same rainbow fruit birthday cake from that bakery and the exact same Korean restaurant near our home.

At least the cake was colorful, just like my sweet and colorful thoughts.

Sometimes I think my dad is a robot that his mind is a giant computer and has an operating system ruled by stubborn and precise rules. It wired in a very organized way —from A to Z and listed categories folders; and within each folder only contain one solution, no more and no less. He is a very particular in what he loves and hates. A very black and white mindset with no grey speculum in between. Most of the time, you would find him holding his best friend— cigarette and puff away in deep thoughts. Sometimes you would hear him whispering the details of the mental trauma from his divorce and his suffering from schizophrenia. He rarely shows any sign of happiness on his face and often get mad on things that is injustice or not fair to him.

Remembered the moment I changed the television channel from stock market news to Japanese anime. Like any children, I love colorful visuals and anime is my all time favorite and this obsession of mine often set up fired argument in our home.

There is no doubt my dad is a serious person, without the idea of pleasure and leisure. My brother and my childhood from his extreme tough love treated us well, and we became the most creative yet with high self-control human beings.

There were many summer vacation when we finished the summer classwork the first day of summer vacation, and we plan to chill out the whole summer. Our dad would point his finger at the pile of new books for next semester and tell us to prepare ourselves, and no entertainment.

‘Study is your full-time job at your age.’ Dad lectured me all the time, and this thought stays in my mind forever.

I once argue with him and called him lunatic in Chinese, he cut my Gameboy’s electric cord. He was mad with a loud voice.

‘You are not allowed to have any pleasure in life, and study is the only pleasure you will get in life.’ Dad yelled.

I was frightened and speechless. In my mind, I thought Dad went crazy again. I can’t express how much I respect and look up to my dad’s action, but I was very sad when we have conflict, and that happened a lot in my childhood. Perhaps because we both were stubborn and crazy in our unique way.

My dad was a serious male figure to me, so serious and strict regarding morality and kindred actions with extreme ups and downs. No grey shade of lossy fuzzy but extreme strict childhood, packaged with his physical absence when he disappeared to travel to places I didn’t know. Sometimes he disappeared for days, weeks and I think the longest is a month. We can’t reach him most of the time if he was not in the mahjong house.

Remember this happened in the 80s when portable cellar phone wasn’t popular in Hong Kong, and we didn’t have a clue how to reach him when he walked out the door with a bang.

I never found out his deep thoughts behind the grey colored smokes from his cigarette. And now I looked back, I am grateful that he hidden his dark thoughts and control inside his mind without spread the darkness to my childhood. His secret of mental illness sealed inside his brain and that kind action let me have the most creative and imaginative childhood I can ever have.