ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷 (pjammer) wrote,
ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷

Father's Day 2013

I wrote the following, and met up with my cousin on Sunday morning where he helped me translate to 繁體字 (Traditional Chinese) for my father to read for Father's Day, 2013. 

I am not a religious man, but if I prayed at all - it would be this: that I am not, as Bill Whittle paraphrased Lord of the Rings, the lesser son of greater men, in whose mighty company I am ashamed to stand. 

It's a tragedy that some of the best words about the life of our loved ones are delivered at their memorial services, when those we speak of are no longer around to hear them. I'd like to break that chain and tell you today about my father, while he's alive and can know and hear it himself.

My father's life is a story of quiet courage. Not the dramatic courage of a soldier risking his life for his country, or a firefighter running into a burning building, but the courage of making difficult choices in solitude with no fanfare, and no backup. It is this courage I wish to celebrate today.

My father's life was miracle from conception - born to a mother aged 40 at the time, a surprise baby a decade younger than his other siblings.

Orphaned at age six, he fled from China with his older brothers during the Cultural Revolution to Taiwan, where he grew up with no parents, no money, no other family. If he failed along the way, there was no parents to back him up, no one else to fall back on.

From the poorest sections of Taipei City, he rose to National Taiwan University (台大) - the Stanford of Taiwan. A steep and merciless climb that has broken hundreds of thousands of others who attempted the same ascent. How many orphan escapees in Taiwan make it to a University, let alone 台大? The odds were against him the entire time, and he prevailed, and began a career as a bank officer with bright prospects for a prosperous career.

At age 30, he married a fellow graduate of 台大 - and as a couple, their stature within Taiwanese society was all but assured, an easy life of high status and good income. Any man who started as a penniless orphan who made such a climb can look at his life with genuine pride. And I am sure he did.

But he believed in something more.

And even though I was just an infant at the time, he was willing to trade this life of certain ease and status in Taipei for the unknown promise of a better life in another nation - not a better life for himself but for the baby he was responsible for. At the age of 36, he knew that if he made that difficult choice to exile himself from this green island, he will not likely make such a climb to the top of another society again.

He forsook all the advantages and status that would have been his in Taipei, and moved to the U.S. And even though he had no parents to be role models for how to be a man, a husband or a father, he held to the belief that he could do more for the baby he had, and made that hard and irrevocable choice.

It was not an easy life, being in America as an immigrant from Taipei with an accent, and a degree from a university nobody has heard of. An outsider in a foreign land, he was as alone as any man could be; his only contact with friends in Taiwan were the occasional letters exchanged with the world he left behind.

From the top of Taiwanese society where he worked as a bank executive, my father accepted any job in America that paid, no matter how menial or humble.

I remember sleeping in the back seat of his car when he worked swing-shifts at grocery stores. I remember the burns he got on his hands when he worked the grill at a steakhouse, all to provide for his family. A man's pride is deeply wrapped into the work he does, and for a man who earned his place at the top of one society to voluntarily forsake it all to be at the bottom reflects tremendous courage and dedication.

And even though my parents tried to shield me from their arguments about our meager finances and waited until they thought I was asleep before they had strained conversations about money, I was awake more often than they realized, and overheard a lot of their tense conversations in the late hours, when finances were thin and our future uncertain.
During those years, there must have been a thousand nights when my father stared at the ceiling of our little apartment, his heart filled with self-doubt, wondering if moving to America was a terrible mistake, knowing that he's irrevocably committed to this course of action, and knowing that there is no fallback if he fails.

A thousand moments of misgivings, worry and fear, that in the end, we were strangers in a strange land. That he willingly forsook a life of comfort on a green island, for the promise of a better life here - not for himself, but for his children.

As a orphan with no parental role models, he had to learn to be a man, a husband and a father through trial and error, and though he did none of these roles perfectly, he did them with honor, with quiet courage and dedication - fulfilling his role better than many who walked into fatherhood with good role models.

He sacrificed his own comfort for the sake of his family and when faced with hard choices, quietly chose the more difficult path so that his children could face a better life. And while we may never see eye-to-eye during our time here on this Earth, I know he has more than fulfilled his duties as a man and as a father to me.

All my love ...


我爸爸的一生就是沈默勇氣的故事,這種勇氣不是戰事、士兵,那種為國家打仗的、或者 是救火員衝向火場救人的戲劇性勇氣,而是在默默獨自承受一切外在壓力、而又無助的境 界,他在人生中做出最困難的選擇,我今天就是要來慶祝這份勇者的勇氣。


媽媽在四十歲意外生下了他,哥哥年長他十歲。六歲時成為孤兒,他和哥哥在文化大革命 時逃到台灣。在台灣沒有父母、沒有錢、只有與兄長相依為命成長。在台北最貧窮的地方, 他居然考上了台大。台大,這是萬人夢想的機會,父親卻得到了。當年有多少貧窮孩子, 而誰能上大學?可是父親、這個孤兒,卻考上了最高學府。

三十歲時,他和也是台大畢業的女生結了婚,這在當年的台灣,夫妻兩個都是高學府畢業 的,這是代表了高階層的成就與無可限量的前途。

雖然成長過程,沒有父母作為父親可以學習的模範,可是他仍然盡最大心力扮演好一個完 美父親的角色,他希望讓他的孩子可以得到比別的孩子更多的一切。

在我還是一個嬰兒時,父親寧願放棄在台灣優越的生活,三十六歲那一年,他帶著全家移 民美國,來到一個完全不同的國度,只為了他的孩子。然而除了有著濃厚的口音、拿著一 個別人不認得的學歷,要在這個陌生國度生活,真的是不容易。在台灣父親原本有著高階 的職位,可是來到了美國,變成只要有人付錢,不管那是什麼樣的工作,父親都會去做, 哪怕那是多卑微的職位。

我還記得當父親在雜貨店工作,我留在他車子的後座睡覺;也還記得他在牛排店裡工作時, 手臂被燙傷。因為這樣的工作而把父親的尊嚴完全喪失了,可是他還是默默忍受、獨自吞 下去這些委屈,只為了孩子、為了家庭的未來。

父母為了家中生計常會發生爭執,可是他們絕對不在孩子面前們爭吵,總是等到孩子們睡 覺時。可是,他們從不知道,我一直沒睡著,他們說的每一句話,我都清楚地聽進耳中。

在那些年裡,許多的日子中,父親總是看著天花板想著,他們來到美國是一個錯誤嗎?然 而也無法回頭了。直到現在,我們還是一群陌生人、呆在一個陌生的土地。這一切都只是 為了一個簡單念頭:要給他孩子最好的,而放棄了他在那美麗島上享有最好的一切成就。

身為一個孤兒、沒有父母的導引、教養,他需要自己學習如何成為一個好爸爸、好先生、 好男人。雖然他在扮演這些角色時並不完美,但是他是盡全力的學習付出,他做的甚至比 其他父親都好。

他為家庭犧牲自己舒服的生活,為了給孩子更好的生活,他選擇對自己更難走的路,默默 承受一切的犧牲、挑戰,勇往直前,不退轉。雖然我們這輩子對某些事情可能永遠不會有 相同的看法,但是我知道父親他的確做到了一個好男人、好爸爸的角色。

Tags: life
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