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Friday, January 9, 2015

A Father's Love

Taciturn and largely expressionless, The Husband has a rather limited range for emotional expression. I know him well so I can see Joy, Anger, Frustration in a seemingly inscrutable face. I also have other information that I have grown to interpret. I can smell The Husband's emotional state.

All I need to do when he comes home at the end of the day is to go near and catch a whiff of him, to know if he had had a good day, or a bad one. So ummm... if I smell this, I tiptoe away. If I smell the other smell, it is safe to bowl him over with a hug. As the years pass and I get heavier, it is much easier to bowl him over.

Children, in general, are not adept at interpreting adult emotion. Toddlers and such respond to overt demonstrations of emotion like smiles, frowns and tones of voice. When the children were small, I put The Husband through speech training to help him say...

- "Good job"
- "Yay"
- "Well done!'
- " I am so proud of you!"
- "Wow!"

Now, you can imagine that when Petunia says the above, there would be something of an exaggerated intonation punctuated by a squeal or two, a smile and a huge hug that would be my excuse for burying my head in my toddlers' bellies just to breathe in their lovely baby smells.

The Husband, before I trained him, said, "It is not bad" in a flat tone of voice, with nary a smile. If you looked carefully you would see his eyes sparkle but the sparkle is so dim and his mouth set in such a sombre line that you would have thought he was praising a funeral.

When The Daughter was a tiny one, she gravitated towards The Husband whenever she felt fear. She somehow instinctively felt that The Husband would better be able to protect her from bad things of every sort from loud noises, to strange people to big dogs. She would come to me if she felt sad because you know, mending broken hearts... that is my specialty.

As The Daughter grew into teenagerhood, I could see (because I knew what to look for) The Husband's love for his daughter. However, he fled the vagaries of her teenage years. Her emotional tantrums scared him silly and his way was to leave her alone and wait for peace to descend upon us again. They spent little time together in her teenage years. He did not want to deal with all that teenage angst you see.

His way of caring was to ask me questions,
- Does she have enough money?
- When will she be home?
- Where has she gone?

And then, too quickly, The Daughter left home.

The Husband has fairly driven me up the wall since October 2014. He did not know how to connect with The Daughter emotionally in the way I always do. So, he drove me nuts with his incessant questions about her.

- Is she back for X'mas?
- Does she have money to spend?
- Shall I send some money?
- How much money does she need?
- Will she run out of money?

Unfortunately for him, The Daughter is financially independent. She has a scholarship that pays for everything and she has been able to find well paying part-time jobs during holidays, weekends... and before university started. She not only doesn't need our money, she also has saved enough to think about investing.

So, The Husband felt emotionally constipated. He had a lot of love to express with his money and she would not allow him to do so. Eventually, The Daughter confessed that it would be a strain on her own financial resources to fly home from Europe just for X'mas 2014 and then fly back again to start school in Geneva, in February 2015. At these words, The Husband swung into action.

"Money? Money? I have money! I will pay your airfare back!" said he, looking no longer constipated.

Now that The Daughter is back, the Husband is overjoyed (inasmuch as a taciturn and expressionless man can be overjoyed). He actually came back home for lunch twice this week. Each time, he would ask "Where is she?" Where he usually spends his evenings clearing work emails, he has been proposing to watch movies with his daughter every night... and then stays up till 1 a.m. to clear his work emails.

The Husband begins to look tired and has panda eyes, but you know, like those toddlers who are tired, he absolutely does not want to go and sleep. You see, he wants to be with his daughter as much as he can before she leaves for Geneva.


Serene said...

Am a new follower of your writing and this post is particularly emotional to me as I ponder upon my strikingly similar relationship with my own father. Sending love and blessings to you and your family Dr Pet!

Petunia Lee said...

Thanks you very much for your kind words, Mommy Serene.