Sunday, June 25, 2006


Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of watching Justin's piano recital. All the kids who performed were great. And, I'm certain all the parents who watched were greatly anxious! As I watched the fast fingers on the grand piano and the parents' eyes fixated and intent, a dark image came to my mind.

I saw a sick man in his dying bed, next to a grand piano. The man had a life-long passion with music and the piano, and specifically, with his son performing the piano. On the one side of the bed is an oscilloscope beeping faintly as the green lifeline spikes to a dignified largo. The son sits by the grand piano and plays his magic, tears in his eyes and sweat down temple. He must play, for this is his father's final wish. He must play. He must play well.

The movement of the notes flashes a life's memories through the man's mind. Each up and each down brings a quicker and shorter breath. Each panting brings more tears to the son's eyes. He must play. He must play well.

As the music climaxes, the man's breathing crescendos to a muted forte in prestissimo. On the last note, the green lifeline rests.

The audience applauds and I'm back in the hot recital room.

More music: Sunday Scribbings

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Spaceship Bed

To spaceship bed

Destined tonight
To colour

Time comes to us
Takes us

Passes through
With all the fuss

Nothing ahead
Makes any

Gladly served
On spaceship bed

For more Bed stories visit: Sunday Scribblings

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


The nurse motioned the young woman to one of the empty cribs, in the large and dimly lit hospital room. The young woman, arms cradling her baby, walked slowly to the crib, still feeling the pain from labour. As she walked through the room, holding her baby tightly against her frail body, her physical pain was not on her mind. She could only think of what she was about to do and wished she didn't have to do it.

In front of the crib, the young woman leaned over the edge and carefully laid her new-born daughter, wrapped in a red blanket, onto the mattress inside the crib. Eyes filled with the silent tears of a heart-broken mother, she took a long look at her baby. She hoped the moment would never end. She wanted to pick the child back up and run as far as she could away from the hospital and away from the city, but she knew very well that would ruin both her and her daughter's lives, rather than saving both. An unmarried mother of a daughter who looks neither Chinese nor Vietnamese would not fair too well in a war-torn Vietnam. Both would be chastised.

The young woman turned and began to walk back to the direction of the nurse to finish off the paper work. As she did she was almost certain she heard her baby cry out for her. Little did she know, that baby would cry out for her her entire life.

I can only imagine that was what transpired when my wife was given up for adoption. The mystery of her biological roots has plagued her entire existence. Being given up by one's own mother, I imagine is very, very difficult. I find myself consoling my wife on many occasions when self-doubt, then anger at her selfish mother creeps into her system.

My wife's mystery is a fact of her life that has become a fact of my and son's lives.

If only there was a GoogleGenetics - that would redefine the phrase, "let me google myself"...

For more mysteries: Sunday Scribblings

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Earliest Memory

It is very difficult to pinpoint my earliest memory. The timeline for my earliest memories is a bit blurry, interlaced amongst the time my family spent living in my grandparents' house, living in a room in a rooming house and living in an all-metal one-bedroom bungalow.

One of the first homes I ever lived in was actually a room in a rooming house somewhere in Saigon, before the war was over. The laneway where the rooming house was located was safe enough for a small child to play, because I remember playing there. I remember playing with a table tennis paddle (probably chasing and waving off flies). A little dog came to greet me wagging his tail and barking, probably wanting to play as well. I'm not sure what was going through my mind, but at that momemt, I had the crazy urge to whack this poor little dog's behind with the paddle in my hand. I actually remember doing this. The next thing I remember however, was waking up on the counter in some shop, with my terrified mother and a few other adults standing over me. I don't remember crying or any pain, but do remember being scared, seeing the concerned adult stares.

I would later learn that the dog had bitten me in the face. I fainted. My mother instinctively carried me to the nearest Chinese medicine shop. The folks in the shop admistered a pain killer (morphine, I think) to the bite wound to stop any pain and other medicines to prevent infection. I don't think anything could have stopped my mother's pain at that moment. I can't imagine what must have gone through her mind given she had lost an earlier child (my elder brother) to illness. Sorry mom.

I will release one more unhappy memory before I move on to more happy ones. I'm not sure if it was in that rooming house or the all-metal one-bedroom bungalow my parents moved to next, because the rooms seemed similar. I remember one night being very sick and feeling very cold from high fever. I sensed my parents frantically trying to make me comfortable, with medicines, a thermostat, and wet towels to wipe me down.

The feeling I had that night was very distinctive and I will never forget it, and I've never had it ever since. I don't even know if I can properly describe it with words. I certainly have not tried to write it down until now. The feeling was as if my head was entirely engulfed by an all-encompassing sense of fullness. My mouth felt like it was filled with a large solid block, making it difficult to close. My entire body felt like it was embraced from the inside-out. I don't remember feeling any pain but I was definitely overwhelmed and possibly uncomfortable.

Looking back I can only attribute the feeling to hallucination from the fever, but who can really be certain?

I can remember some very happy memories, especially when we lived in my grandparents' house. There was no electricity to the house. So, in the evening, my parents would light oil laterns hanging from the exposed wooden ceiling beams. We obviously had no television, but my parents were equipped with a harmonica, a mandolin and their voices. Both my parents could play the harmonica and my father could play the mandolin. At times, my father would play one of the instruments and my mother would sing classic Chinese oldies from their childhood, and at other times, they would play duets. I remember slowly falling asleep on the bed that we shared, head resting on mother's lap, savouring the feeling of utter comfort, as I watched the swaying and flickering lantern and listened to my parents make music, admidst the chattering sound of bullets showering on distant rooftops and the rainless thunder of war instruments further into the distance.

If I had to guess, the very earliest memory in my mind is probably the time my parents brought me to visit my mother's elder sister, whose family was wealthy and had a black and white television. I believe I was probably about 2 years old. I remember seeing a lady with a baby and a cat sitting on a chair in the television set. The cat suddenly moved onto the ground and out of view. I remember being disappointed and moved right up to the TV screen. I tried in vain to find the cat, trying to look into the screen, thinking the moving pictures were real. My aunt's second of three daughters came up to me and asked if I could see the cat. I shook my head. She laughed.

Thanks to Sunday Scribblings for 10 writing prompts that have encouraged me to write more than I would otherwise. And, thanks to Jamie's blog for initially inspiring me to go there.