It has been 12 years since I last saw my father as he lay struggling to breathe in a hospital room. So much has happened since then, and sometimes I think to tell my father about my life, knowing that he already knows. I always wanted to know more about his, but being far from extended family and the places that activate memory, those stories rarely surfaced. Recently, I returned to Bangkok, this time with my younger son. I realized that although it was the place where my father grew up, it did not hold my memory of him. I am at peace with knowing just what I know of my father and who he was to me in the years we shared together. What I long for is not what I cannot know, but what I miss of him.

 

As the plane left the runway,

hot, hazy air stretched its long limbs,

wanting to hold us to the ground.

But we lifted up, leaving Bangkok

and my father’s beginning behind.

 

I thought I might learn something.

But what I wanted from my father

was hidden in the humid air, and

lost in the maze of concrete below.

The stories I longed to hear were

caught in his raspy breath.

 

Still, he had breath, and

I was hopeful when a few weeks

before he had helped my young son

construct a Timeline of Grandpa

for a school project. In careful penmanship,

my son wrote “1941,” then under that,

“Born,” and then, “Bangkok.”

 

Instead, we visited Bangkok like tourists.

My father watched Thai dancing,

and ate the restaurant meals.

None of these were the things

of his youth. Youth was long ago,

and the memory of it evaded him

as much as he avoided our questions

by dozing in the van traveling

the streets of Bangkok.

 

The plane peeled off the ground,

and I reluctantly let go my hold

to it, to Bangkok, to knowing.

I let go the hold on me.

Advertisements