For my father and his generation who gave up their dreams to pursue the National Dream for the Chinese people
Six decades ago, there was a civil war in China. The ruling Chinese Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang, was defeated by the Chinese Communists. Chairman Chiang Kai-shek retreated with his troops to Taiwan, where he hoped to regroup quickly and retake mainland China. My father was a first lieutenant in Chiang’s military troops, and, like the majority of mainland Chinese in Taiwan, shared with him this same illusion.
When I started grade four, my father decided I was old enough to learn the good soldier's essential lesson: obey orders and don’t ask questions. But I didn’t want to be a soldier. They looked dumb to me.
One day, my father tried several times to teach me how to salute, but I couldn’t get my hand straight enough. He ordered me to stand in front of the portrait of our ancestors. He shouted at me, “Stand straight and still until our ancestors are satisfied and smile; or else you must apologize to them for failing to follow through on my words: to salute properly. Then you can go.”
I stood for hours, but they wouldn't smile at or for me. Finally, I couldn’t bear it any longer and fainted. Later, when I woke up, I saw my father's eyes brimming with tears.
into the Taiwan Strait
Father rides on my shoulders
Contemporary Haibun Online, 7:3, October 2011