My Father’s Sweet Olive

Translated…

Based off of that sense of duty and curiosity, I’d returned to my father’s hometown across the strait.

Actually, I shouldn’t use the term, “returned”, because that, was only a place I’d heard often mentioned as a child. My home which I’d come to identify with is Taipei, and, only toward that thirteen-year old residence I lived in, which is now already, demolished.

I was invited by my older half-brother, at the end of autumn last year, I’d taken my mother along, back to my father’s hometown.

老樹默然不答,讓我想起了總是在沉思的哥哥。 圖/倩picture from the papers…

My older half-brother is twenty-six years my senior, as my father came to Taiwan with the army, he’d feared that there may be some trials, so he’d left my eight-year-old older half brother there; but, being labeled as the “black five”, he can only become a beggar, and needed to care for my older cousin’s mother and his young sister. As my older brother talked with me on the trials of the past, along with how before my father made his escape, how his mother died in childbirth, and they couldn’t even afford to give her a proper burial, we all shook in disbelief. The turns of this heartless era had, made my father stay away from his homeland for many decades, until five years ago, he’d finally, made his visit back to China again.

With the economics taking off, going back to my father’s hometown was, easier, we’d no longer needed to trek the muddied paths. There were construction sites all over the places, with the buildings started getting build, the countryside scene was, completely gone, and, there was that chaos from the urbanization.

There were new houses being built, very out-of-place compared to the older mud-brick houses. The old home which was built by my older brother brick by brick, had the significance of what the local looked like: the corresponding quarters, the protruding roofs, the ancient doorways, the miniature of the strips. But, this small space can no longer keep the big family, so, it’d gone to waste now. And now, my older brother’s six children all moved in to the apartment complexes, like the tall buildings in Taiwan.

the flowers, photo from online…

The even more deserted house was my father’s childhood home, it’d become so broken down that there was but one wall left standing. That, was probably my father’s “home”, I’d thought. There was a cinnamon tree planted by my father himself, already over seventy years old now, over four, five stories tall, it’d stood tall, on the slow slope with the bushes. It was like those large trees by the campus of N.T.U. in Gongguan, but, more flourishing.

Such aromas from the sweet olive when it’d bloomed! All of the relatives and friends told me. I’d gently patted its trunk, told it, “I’m the child of the person who’d planted you down, a sort of a brother, I suppose, I have, come to see you.”

That old tree remained silent, it’d reminded of my older brother who’s always, lost in deep thought. The suppressed feelings he had for my dad for decades’ time, is probably thick like the bark of this tree, covered up the rings, and, only when the sentiments of missing him overflowed, will it bloom out like the scented sweet olive.

So, this, the journey back to one’s father’s roots, and, by visiting his father’s home, this man had, fulfilled his own father’s wishes, gave closure to his own older half-brother, and gained a little more knowledge on the histories of the family too.

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