When I was 4 years old, I had a near fatal accident at home. I slipped and fell and hit against the corner of a kitchen cabinet. I bled profusely. Pa fetched me to the hospital. I vaguely remembered wearing a white dress of a PJ which Ma sewn for me. The white dress was soaked in blood. Ma held me in her arms, seated at the back of Pa's car. The doctors back then told Pa and Ma that I have lost a lot of blood..and I may have memory loss. I couldn't remember things. Short term or long term stuff. Pa was devastated. Ma cried in the shadows.
It was then Pa self taught himself of many literacy skills, of which Phonics was one of them. He taught me phonics from a very young age. He would often repeat himself when he wants to tell me an important fact. And everyday, he prayed for me. *
*I never knew Pa prayed for me. Its a secret between him and God. I only found out last May 2014, when he discovered he has bone cancer. He told me he prayed for my memory everyday, without fail..*
For everything else, Pa taught me to apply logic, knowledge and understanding so I don't have to rely on my memory at all. Thus I learnt since young to try to understand how things work and if I could, I should break something up in many pieces and understand how each part is and thus form the big picture.
I was ahead of everyone at school. Not because I was smarter. But I studied differently. I saw everything in different light. If Pa wasn't there to guide me, I would have been very different now.
From that, I became an introvert, not by choice but by circumstances. Pa filled my days with literature, Music, Arts and movies. From a young age, he exposed me to all forms of literacy works. From pictorial books(Comics) to Illustrated books(stories with nice drawings) to books with larger print. As I grew up each year, he would introduced books he felt I should be reading. In many ways, he dictated what I should see, feel, touch and sense. Through these, he taught me to see things in a bigger perspective, cast a wider net so to speak. He taught me to understand simple truths, and to read a book not by its cover but to know how an author lives and how that affects his/her writings.
From as early as I can remember, Pa started telling me about Dracula and about Frankenstein. He would correct me if I say "Frankenstein" and quipped quickly saying "Its Frankenstein's Monster". When I started having friends in school, I found no one understands a single word I say. I was often quoting from books I read. In that void of friendship, I resign to my books again. Pa introduced me to poetry and prose ahead of time, ahead of my peers.
Sometimes I seemed to be in a world of my own, quoting famous lines from books or poetry. I never grew up with Barbie Dolls, but I grew up on books like the "Little Women", "The Time Machine", "The Pearl". Pa told me the best way to understand a book was to understand how an author thinks. And how an author thinks is affected by his environment, the place he grew up, the places he has been and the people he has met.
My first horror book Pa introduced to me was Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Soon after, I became immensely intrigued by Poe. I looked and read all his poetry too. Just for kicks, although Pa didn't allow me to.
Subsequently, Pa gave me Dracula by Bram Stroker, Frankenstein's Monster by Mary Shelley to read up. But I loved only Poe's works. And I would challenged myself to read Poe's Black Cat at night, with the head lights off and only a table lamp by my side.
And the next day I would jump and tell Pa the experience I had reading the Black Cat at midnight. He thought that I was brave..very brave for a kid of only 10 years old.
When my friends were reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, Pa got me into Sherlock Holmes. Pa has read all of the stories on Sherlock Holmes. His best loved story was "The Hounds of the Baskervilles". He made sure I read it and he ask me of my thoughts. And he would shared his. I could always see a spark in his eyes as he spoke of how witty he thought Sherlock Holmes was in solving this mystery.
When the first black and white Sherlock Holmes series went on TV, Pa would watch it with me. Then he would tell me that the book always tell the full story, a movie made out of it, just highlights certain portions of the book. So he says its best to always read the book first, followed by the movie, then go back and read the book again.
When the season ended with the black and white TV, Pa saved enough and we got our first colour TV. Pa and I would spend time watching "Colombo" at night. From a young age, Pa taught me to be selective in movies, in books. I don't have many books.
When I became a teenager, all my friends are reading Mills & Boon Romance collection. Pa said its poor taste in literature and instead he got me into "Rebecca" and "Wuthering Heights". He allowed me to read The Great Gatsby. Of course, when the movie came out, I went to watch it with Pa at the theatre. The Great Gatsby character was played by Robert Redford. And I think I was in love..not with the movie, but with Robert Redford of course..!
Pa thinks I have good taste in good Actors because he loved a certain group of actors/actresses. He alone introduces me to Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen(late), Julie Andrews.
You know, I can just write a whole chapter just talking about movies, books with Pa. When Omar Sharif passed away in July 10 2015(recently), Pa was in the hospital. I visited him and told him Omar Sharif has passed away. Pa paused to think, and he said this
"Remember, Ting? Remember the Lawrence of Arabia?"
"Yes, Pa, I remembered." I paused too..in my heart, I cried. I missed all the days I have spent with Pa, over books, over poetry and prose, over movies and talking about the actors, the plot and everything else.