At the same time, I know that other words from my parents, teachers, and others have shaped me: “You can do it”, “Don’t be like me. Make something of yourself.”
Words are powerful. Recall the sayings that you have to be careful with your words; you cannot take them back. The school time rhyme that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is untrue – words can hurt someone. (Someone said that rhyme to me in 2nd grade…so I went to gather sticks and stones to break her bones based on the tip. She still beat me up.) Unfortunately, Asian parents, especially of the “Tiger Mom” genre, also use words such as “Why are you so dumb?”, “Your cousin XXX is way smarter than you”, “How are you going to amount to anything?” (I really don’t care for Tiger moms.)
I will forever remember the most important words that I said were to my father, perhaps a year before he passed away. T think about it often and thankful. My father had Parkinsons Disease, a terrible affliction which can put a person in a frozen, expressionless shell. He wasn’t very cooperative and prone to falling. All the other family members had caregiver’s fatigue from watching and caring for him 24 hours a day. I would return from Boston to NYC to relieve my mother when possible and felt the guilt of not being there for them when they needed me most. At times, the family vented our frustration to him. A friend encouraged me to act otherwise. After a long day of struggling to watch and care for my father, he laid in his bed. I pleaded with father to be more cooperative so that he would not hurt himself and for my mother’s sake. There was no response or change in expression. I finally said what I always wanted to say: “Dad, you know that I love you and care about you.” My father slowly nodded and tears trickled from his eyes as I reached over to touch him.