My father looks at the baby and something inside him seems to melt.
There are many good things about my father, but he is not a soft man. He doesn't gurgle or coo over babies in the street. My father is a good man, but the things that he has gone through in his life means that he is also a hard man. Today some ice deep inside him begins to crack and I can tell he feels it too.
.. And I know today that I have become more like him. Today I am a father too. All the supposed landmarks of of manhood - losing my virginity, getting my driving license, voting for the first time - were all just the outer suburbs of my youth. I went through all those things and came out the other side fundamentally unchanged, still a boy.
.. Today I became what my father has been forever.
Today I became a man.
His youth may have been marred by the efforts of the German army to murder him, but at least in his day a father's role was set in stone. He always knew exactly what was expected of him. My dad was a brilliant father and - here's the killer - he didn't even have to be there to be a brilliant father. Wait until your father gets home was enough to get me to behave. His name just had to be evoked by my mother and suddenly I understood all I needed to know about being a good boy. Wait until your father gets home, she told me. And the mere mention of my father was enough to make everything in the universe fall into place.
When I first heard ahgong was sick, man and boy popped into my head.
I first bought the book when I was around 13. I had done well on a test, and my parents had decided to reward me with RM100 worth of books of my choice.
I read it and liked it, although I was devastated that love and marriage 'can't always be a honeymoon, you know'. Why not? Why not?
But Fann, strangely, loved it. He read it and reread it and reread it again a hundred times over.
However, the story and the characters stuck in my head, and when ahgong left, it seemed fitting to reread man and boy again. Because ahgong was so much like the grandfather in the book - except for his addiction.
Reading man and boy as a 25-year-old is a different experience compared to my first read. Back then I thought, Poor Harry, but I will be different. Now it's more like, I know what you're saying.. and I'm afraid I shall understand you even more in the future.
So far my life has felt like a journey of proof - proof that everything my parents ever said is the truth.
But man and boy is still wonderful, as wonderful as Eleanor and Park, which I practically inhaled within 3 days. Reading is so therapeutic, sometimes it is the only way I feel understood - I dream of vacations where I can sit somewhere pretty and read. But I'm trying to moderate my reading - it can be as addictive as TV, and I shun all addictions.