Father Knows Best

One of the things I had to do for my classics class was to watch Ben-Hur. I remember as a child I harboured a strong dislike for the movie. My dad would be watching it on television, either a borrowed videotape (back when our VCR was still working) or one of the umpteen telecasts celebrating a public holiday. I'd sit beside him for a while, before walking away in disinterest. There was once I asked him what Ben-Hur was about. He began to tell me laboriously about how Ben-Hur's name was Judah, and that he was a Jew living in the time of Jesus. He also told me that Jesus would eventually appear near the end of the movie. I remember being totally confused. Why would the movie, titled after the main character, have the main character assume another name? Also knowing the Jesus was always the main character, why did someone make a movie about a peripheral character? If I wanted to watch a movie it had to be about the main character, and not the sidekick right?
It is many years later when I am forced to watch the movie for a class where I begin to understand my dad's fascination. The movie based on Lew Wallace's story is without a doubt a cinematic masterpiece, garnering more academy awards than any other movie ever made. The only one ever to achieve the same number of academy awards thus far is Titanic, an almost laughable comparison. The scriptwriter ought to be shot for writing the whole "you jump I jump sequence". Back to Ben-Hur. The story of one man's personal struggle and that of his people were so powerfully portrayed in the movie. The little nuances gave the movie a depth hardly found in today's movies. The foreshadowing of things to come and the subtle gestures of the actors as they wielded personal power back and forth in friendly debate.
It was today I saw my father in a new light. I had always known him to a man of great knowledge, no doubt. In my mind, he was one who'd walk in a forest and rather than complain about the inconveniences, find such beauty and fascination in the colours of the fruits, the trees and the animals around him. He'd be the one I'd go to if I wanted to learn how to spin a top or fly a kite. But today I was taught not to think my father's tastes as backdated or irrelevant to today's times. I learnt how foolish I was many years ago not to take time to listen to him, and how the story of Judah Ben-Hur (I now understand the concept of first and last name) touched him. There is so much I have to learn from this man my father. I only hope his humility and gentleness can be developed in my own life.
There are times when Min (my sister here with me in Arizona) would ask me to take her to the mall, or some small favour, and I would find agitation rising up within me if her timing was bad. I would then remember my father and the things he did for my mother. He would deshell crab, and rather than eating it, give it to my mother. Almost <strong>all</strong> of it. Of course my youngest sister Louelle would hijack a rather large portion of the loot. He was never resentful or dissatisfied. He was never one to complain about sending me to school early in the morning. I've never heard him complain about how he had to take the bus because his son wanted to use the car. Fact is, many a time he never even communicated to me his need to travel to the other side of Singapore and give me use of the car. He does his things in his own quiet manner, never holding it as leverage.
Sometimes I'm afraid America will change the person I am for the worse. That I'll be robbed of whatever innocence I possess and develop the aggression "necessary" for survival in society. I do not know if my father prays for me while I am here. My lack of knowledge does not lie in his inaction, but the quiet and stealthy assertiveness in which he shows he cares.
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