(Original Twitter sequence has been edited slightly)
"@ramblinglib: As a kid, being canned by pa almost every day. For slightest thing. Didn't know why but resolved not to show emotions #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: The caning was so bad I had obvious welt marks. One day in Pri Sch a nurse asked how I got it. I kept quiet #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: In pri sch, when pa came home I'd pretend to be asleep. So that he won't have any excuse to cane me #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: After some time, my strategy was to remain still & let pa cane me. I discovered in doing so, he relented faster #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: One time the caning got so bad I imagined myself going to the tallest block in AMK and jumping #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: Obviously I didn't jump. My left brain got the better of my right #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: I remember being scorned by pa as a kid. He said I was fat and lazy. That hurt. #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: As a teen, I refused to speak to my pa unless i had to. I started to defy & rebel in silent ways #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: Strangely my pa mellowed & took in all my teen defiance with stride. He took it in & gave me space #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: After NS I asked my pa if we had money to send me to study overseas. He asked how much. I told him. He said don't have that money #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: Pa asked if there was another way. I told him how much for local external degree. He wrote me the cheque immediately #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: In spite of being canned by pa & hating him then, one thing he never did was abandon his family responsibilities. Thanks pa #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: Decades later, after i got married, my pa said sorry. Said he also didn't know why he took out his anger on me #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: The day I saw my pa lying in the hospital bed, after a stroke, was the day I couldn't hate him anymore #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: My pa http://t.co/LB9WVUNa He's now 77 #sgMemory”
“@ramblinglib: My pa will probably never get to read these tweets. I'll never have courage to say it to him F2F. This is my catharsis #sgMemory”
I suppose it was this tweet that made me remember a particular childhood episode, when I was around 10 years old. Remembering about my father and a period where he seemed to viciously cane me for the slightest reason.
My father used the thin rattan cane (the defacto tool of corporal discipline Asian parents used at that generation). It wasn't just "tough parental love", for the frequency of me being caned was almost daily. My younger brother and sister were spared mostly, I recalled.
I can't remember how long that caning went. I'm not sure when it stopped. I still recall pretending to be asleep when I heard my father come home. So that he won't find an excuse to cane me.
The caning was serious enough to break skin, result in bleeding and noticeable welts. Bad enough that my mum had to apply some ointment to cover up the broken skin. I would go to school with visible cane marks.
When I was 10, my father was in his 40s (he was considered to have married late, for his generation). My father was a strong man. And it didn't help that I was an emotionally sensitive child. At 10 years old, I once even thought of ending my life just to spite him.
My father seemed to have focused his anger on me. I was not naughty as a child at all. I attended school, came straight home, did my homework, never talked back to my elders (kids my generation were spoken of, but not spoken to). OK I cant say I was a perfect child, but I was far from being a bad one.
In truth, my father was not a cruel man. He was generous to his friends, our neighbours, and our relatives. Maybe that was why it hurt me, in more than the physical sense. The 10 year old me never understood why he couldn't be generous and forgiving to his own firstborn.
There were negative consequences, in that I deliberately became a very morose and serious child. I remember "experimenting" with not saying anything to my father for days. Days became weeks. And then it became natural.
In my teenage years, that refusal to talk to my father (other than functional statements) became little rebellious acts. Part of it was the teen angst and the onset of hormonal changes. One time, it occured to me why young lions were chased out of the pride. They would otherwise kill the top male lion, their sire, because there was no room to maneuvour.
My father and I didn't have a destructive relationship but we were never close. I knew he tried to be better towards me, and there was an episode where I was very gateful to him for supporting my contiuning education. But even so, my feelings towards him never quite swung completely towards the good. There was always that shadow of resentment.
It took decades before those childhood scars could truly start healing. One poignant point was when my father said something close to an apology for that childhood caning episode. A self-admission.
I was with my wife and my parents, at a hawker centre eating desserts. My parents were in their 60s by then. I had moved out of my parent's apartment after getting married. It was a home visit with my wife.
We talked about how some things had changed, or remained the same, in the neighbourhood. My father started sharing, with my wife, how I was as a child: that I liked to draw and read. He remembered that I was a good boy, even as a toddler.
Out of the blue, he said how at one point he would come home and cane me for any reason. He was not sure why he was that angry. A part of him knew he had been too harsh. And yet he could not stop himself and he continued to take his anger out on me. He recalled not caning me only when he saw me asleep (when I heard that, I had goosebumps -- and I also secretly congratulated myself for displaying some smarts as a 10 year old).
With his relevation, or confession even, there came an awkward pause.
There was my father, sounding apologetic. All my life, I've not seen that side of him. I looked at my wife. I looked anywhere except at my father. I said nothing then, or after.
I guess this is my way of saying it now.
P.S. Perhaps to you reading this, I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. Strange that I cannot speak of this with my father now. All I can say is that the resentment has been real for much of my life.
It's not so traumatic that I can't talk about it. I just can't talk to my father of it. Or won't. In truth, there is cowardice and irrational fear at work. I fear that I would cry, and he would cry. Or maybe it all doesn't matter now, and I'm merely post this to share a (good) story.
Whatever it is, it's been enough that I know my father knows. And vice versa. That's as good as I wish for things to be.