Friday, October 01, 2010

To a Child, Love is Spelled T-I-M-E

An excerpt from
To a Child, Love is Spelled T-I-M-E
by Mac Anderson

In the faint light of the attic, an old man, tall and stooped, bent his great frame and made his way to a stack of boxes that sat near one of the little half-windows. Brushing aside a wisp of cobwebs, he tilted the top box toward the light and began to carefully lift out one old photograph album after another. Eyes once bright but now dim searched longingly for the source that had drawn him here.

It began with the fond recollection of the love of his life, long gone, and somewhere in these albums was a photo of her he hoped to rediscover. Silent as a mouse, he patiently opened the long buried treasures and soon was lost in a sea of memories. Although his world had not stopped spinning when his wife left it, the past was more alive in his heart than his present loneliness.

Setting aside one of the dusty albums, he pulled from the box what appeared to be a journal from his grown son's childhood. He could not recall ever having seen it before, or that his son had ever kept a journal. Why did Elizabeth always save the children's old junk? he wondered, shaking his white head.

Opening the yellowed pages, he glanced over a short reading, and his lips curved in an unconscious smile. Even his eyes brightened as he read the words that spoke clear and sweet to his soul. It was the voice of the little boy who had grown up far too fast in this very house, and whose voice had grown fainter and fainter over the years. In the utter silence of the attic, the words of a guileless six-year-old worked their magic and carried the old man back to a time almost totally forgotten.

Entry after entry stirred a sentimental hunger in his heart like the longing a gardener feels in the winter for the fragrance of spring flowers. But it was accompanied by the painful memory that his son's simple recollections of those days were far different from his own. But how different?

Reminded that he had kept a daily journal of his business activities over the years, he closed his son's journal and turned to leave, having forgotten the cherished photo that originally triggered his search. Hunched over to keep from bumping his head on the rafters, the old man stepped to the wooden stairway and made his descent, then headed down a carpeted stairway that led to the den.

Opening a glass cabinet door, he reached in and pulled out an old business journal. Turning, he sat down at his desk and placed the two journals beside each other. His was leather-bound and engraved neatly with his name in gold, while his son's was tattered and the name Jimmy had been nearly scuffed from its surface. He ran a long skinny finger over the letters, as though he could restore what had been worn away with time and use.

As he opened his journal, the old man's eyes fell upon an inscription that stood out because it was so brief in comparison to other days. In his own neat handwriting were these words:

"Wasted the whole day fishing with Jimmy.
Didn't catch a thing."

With a deep sigh and a shaking hand, he took Jimmy's journal and found the boy's entry for the same day, June 4. Large scrawling letters, pressed deeply into the paper, read:

"Went fishing with my Dad. Best day of my life."

The above article reminded me of the ex-students in my class. Many of them came from
well-to-do homes. Most of them were good kids, except for very few troublesome ones. I could still remember my colleague sharing with me about one of the boys from a very wealthy home. By the time, he came to her class, he already had a record of mischiefs. His parents had no alternative but to have him sent to a boys' home because of his age.

My colleague visited him at the boys' home with his parents. Their chauffeur drove them in a huge black Mercedes Benz. During the journey, the father lamented that he had given his son everything that anyone could dream of. He was utterly disappointed with the way his son had turned out. He turned to blame his wife for not taking good care of their son.

"You're always away on business, dear. Why, you hardly see your son.!" retorted his wife.

"Am working very hard to give you both a good life, and you're complaining!"

When the group reached the boys' home, my colleague was surprised when the father said to him, "Ah Boy, if you decide to turn over a new leaf and be good, pa will promise to buy you a Rolex watch."

"Don't you understand pa...I don't want any Rolex watch.....I only want your time!"
the boy almost yelled out of bitterness and frustration.

My colleague had a hard time, fighting the tears in her eyes. On the journey back to school, my colleague tried to ask the father to spend more time with his family.

"My biz is so big now! How to let go? Ah Boy will be the death of me!"

Gan Cao

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