The Fading Back
／Evelyn O. Shih
The words in lullabies sung to children are usually to the effect that Daddy is yonder and Mommy is at the child's side.
Furthermore, when a child says grace before supper, he or she may say, "Dear God, please protect Daddy and lead him home safely."
Thus, home seems to be the combination of a mother and her children while the father is merely a figure of their thinking and yearning. Years ago, a Chinese author wrote an article about this situation such that all he remembered of his father was the father's back. All of us familiar with this essay were touched by the author's sense of loss and longing.
Nowadays, the combined factors of high technology and low job security have pushed the father's back even farther from the home. Yes, it is true that the earth has become smaller not unlike a village, yet the father is always hidden in the forest outside the village. We can only catch a glimpse of his back as he goes to the forest to work.
Human relationships are becoming less personal in other ways. If you call a friend at her home, you usually get a cold recorder asking you to leave a message. If you call your friend at work, the recorder is even more complicated and distant, "Press this number", "Press that number". Even after all that, all you may get is her pager number.
As an editor, I am truly glad that my writers now all use computers to type their articles. They are so much easier to edit and I have saved a lot of my time and my eyesight, however, I greatly miss their personal handwriting. I used to recognize each one's handwriting, now I see only the writer's back hiding behind the computer.
I have no intention of turning back our civilization; likewise, I fully understand a father's difficulty in balancing his career and his family. Furthermore, the children are often obsessed with computers, too, so perhaps they also don't care about their father's back or face. Sadly, when the day comes in which everyone realizes that they miss their family relationships, it is usually too late.
Fathers! Be close to your children while they are still at home. We would like to hear new words sung in lullaby. Even more than that, we wish that children could say this grace before their supper,"Thank you, God, for giving us the whole family to enjoy Your blessings together".