Blooms in My Forest Grove by Lee Hsiu
Father and I enjoyed playing chess together. I always lost. Seeing a check-mate approaching, I would purposely dump the board.
"I don't want to play this boring game anymore." I was a spoiled child.
"Why do you get upset and angry? If you don't mend your ways, you will go nowhere. Remember, never do things halfway." Father was very concerned about me.
He set up the chess pieces, pausing briefly to touch the bandage on his head ever so lightly. My eyes filled with tears of gratitude: he was still alive, still trying to help me improve.
A man appeared at father's bedside.
"Uncle, are you feeling better?"
"Dad, this man brought you to the hospital yesterday," I explained.
"I'm okay, I guess. Why am I here?"
"You were hit by a car and received some serious head injuries. The doctors had to sew you up."
"Boy, why am I so unlucky?" He put his hand on the back of his head and sighed with despair.
Father had turned eighty. His memory was already getting worse before the accident. But after the accident, he couldn't recall anything that happened more than one minute before. We were all very worried. I decided I should speak to the doctor.
"It's been two or three days since the accident and he hasn't been vomiting," the doctor said. "He should be out of the woods. But because he had a concussion, he requires several days of observation."
As evening approached, Father demanded his keys, glasses and hat. He seemed to be in a panic to go home. We tried in vain to calm him down. Then I remembered the chessboard would calm him down.
"How about a little game of chess?” I asked. He gladly agreed. I made sure that he won every game. Playing chess seemed to bring back some of the memories of his early days with Grandma.
"You are still beating me," I told him.
"Well, you know, I have been playing chess since I was a child" he said. "I know the game inside out." He glowed with pride. As he laughed, his wrinkles got even deeper. I noticed the tree branches swaying outside and pondered the pleasure of joyful wrinkles.
Father instructed me how to move the chess pieces: "Move the horse straight", "Move the army across". He used to ride his bicycle to the public park to play chess with an old friend.
"How is Father doing?” I asked my tired husband as I quietly opened the door and walked into Father’s hospital room.
"He is always going to the toilet, but he can't seem to urinate."
"Did you ask for the doctor's help?"
"I didn't want to bother him in the middle of the night. The doctor was complaining that we all want different things. Maybe we shouldn't be so demanding."
For three days and three nights father couldn't sleep. This would be very difficult for a healthy person. How did my sick father manage to do it? I became very angry with my husband for not insisting that something be done. Noticing my husband's exhaustion, I recalled that he hadn't slept for three days either. I calmed down.
I went to the hospital where my fourth brother told me, “Last night, after you went home, Dad became more and more agitated.”
I asked him if Father had forgotten that he had already gone to the bathroom. I saw that Papa’s feet were swollen and his face looked much older then when he was brought to the hospital.
Darkness settled in around me. It was like a grey cloud that enveloped my father and me. He was continually agitated. Nothing, no one, could settle him down. Like a child woken by a clap of thunder in the middle of the night, I was shocked into action. I woke up the doctor and demanded action.
"This hospital only specializes in acute brain trauma. We suspect that he has problems due to his prostate, diabetes and skin allergies. You must transfer him to the general hospital."
We dreaded introducing more changes intoFather's life.
"Dad, we need to move you to another place," I said tearfully.
"Whatever you say, my dear. Please don't cry." His hand caressed my head.
We were amazed how cooperative he was. Just like an obedient child. He didn't even ask to go home. He had always been the family anchor. Now he needed us.
Friends asked me how many tears I cried. "First you cried because he wanted to go home; now you cry because he doesn't," they said.
Father! The years have turned your hair white. Hard work has robbed you of your youth. Autumn has passed. Winter is here. Twenty years ago, Mother died. I have always dreaded losing you too. I treasure every precious moment with you.
Death belongs to life as birth does. It means happiness and suffering co-exist.
It was impossible for me to grasp these things. I could barely conceive that everything I was or hoped to be was a gift from my dear parents. Every fiber of my being wanted both parents to live long lives so that they could be with me as long as possible.
Father stayed in the general hospital for another three weeks. During that time, family members visited faithfully. My husband never missed a day; my brothers competed with each other to be with Father; my sisters-in-law looked after every helpful detail. When you want something with all your heart, your will joins with that of the universe and becomes a positive force.
"It was a miracle, but he has recovered despite many complications. The only explanation is your love," the doctor said and then he added, “Probably your level of love could heal many illnesses.”
I thought it was not just a matter of Father enjoying our love, but, in fact, we gratefully enjoyed still having our father.
Indeed, a leaf can become a flower if it is loved. A flower turns into a fruit when it is worshiped.
Once again, father invites me over to play chess. He now loses, every time.
"My girl is quick-witted," my father says.
"Like father, like daughter," I reply.
Morning will come. Darkness will vanish. Father's health will bloom in my forest grove.