By SARUN SAELEE
It is 7 a.m. on a day in early 1998. A middle-aged man is slowly walking down the stairs in his three-floor building in the heart of Bangkok. Once he reaches the ground, he sees his 11-year-old youngest son rushing his homework with his pen sprinting on his notebook.
Somnich Saelee is staring at his busy son as if he would like to lecture him for being irresponsible again but he is too weak to say anything because of the aching stomach. The boy immediately senses the dissatisfaction and feels uncomfortable. He shies away from meeting eye contact and leaves for a private school, Sitabutr Bamrung, with his unfinished assignment.
Somnich is 41 years old when he is diagnosed as having the final stage of liver cancer although he neither drinks nor smokes. A medical examination at Saint Louis Hospital, found the cancerous tumor covering almost the entire organ after he suffered from severe stomach ache for some time.
“If it is found in the early stage, we will have a chance to get rid of it,” the doctor said to Somnich’s wife, Wannee Saetang. “He would have no more than three months left. You should tell him the truth because he is still young.”
Amid desperation, Somnich is advised to receive the cancer treatment in Shanghai. They waste no time and fly to China hastily, hoping that Chinese traditional medicine can eliminate the monster from his body.
After a two-month treatment, their three children come to pick up their parents at Don Muang Airport. The boy expects his father to recover, but Somnich sitting on a wheelchair clearly looks bony and worse. He looks at his father sadly without uttering a word while Somnich himself reacts similarly.
The cancer patient then is admitted to another hospital in the capital city, Hua Chiew Hospital for further treatment. Despite a dim hope, his cousins do not give up to the Grim Reaper. They invite a psychic, who is said to have strong healing power, to see Somnich at the hospital.
Sessions of supernatural treatment, cost 500 baht ($16.22) each, seem ineffective. His stomach is getting bigger and harder day-by-day along with his pain.
On Thursday, April 2 in the evening, while the boy is at his aunt’s home, there is a phone call.
His aunt picks up the call from Wannee and briefly says, “Ok sister, I’ll bring him there.”
She then suddenly turns off the TV and asks her nephew to leave for the hospital with her immediately.
On the way to the Hua Chiew Hospital at 9 p.m., the boy sits in the rear seat of a taxi with his aunt. He looks nervous and depressed though no one has told him what exactly is going on. The tears have started dropping from his two little eyes for no reason. When the taxi has stopped at the entrance to the hospital, he quickly jumps from the vehicle and heads to his father’s room.
The room is full of woe and crowded by Somnich’s family and relatives. Like a candle in the wind, his skinny father with unusually swelling stomach is on the bed with a respirator and tongue protector in his mouth. His eyes are still open but no irises can be seen. The boy is stunned by what he sees. He bursts into tears again and moves swiftly to stay beside his father.
He says while tightly holding his father’s hand, “I’m here, dad. I’m here.”
Realizing the appearance of his son, Somnich, with medical tools in his mouth, is trying to say something, but no voice is out. The boy somehow understands what his father wants to tell him. Lessons on the importance of responsibility that his father always nags about when he does not finish his homework spring to his mind.
He answers, “Don’t worry, dad. Don’t worry. I’ll be a good kid.”
The long night has gone with Somnich who has left forever. His image and last non-verbal lesson remain imprinted in memory of his youngest son. Not just homework, the boy has been upholding the responsibility in whatever he does. He has been keeping his promise to be a good child for his mother, the breadwinner who has been raising all three children until graduation.
It has been over 14 years since that gloomy night. The boy has grown up to be a man. He is now 25 years old and looks like his father. His name is Sarun Saelee.
Life goes on, and I know that bumpy and rosy roads are lying ahead in my future, which my father will not have a chance to see. However, he is always in my heart.
“Dad, don’t worry. I’ll be a good man. I’ll not disappoint you. I’ll make you proud.”
Personal comment: I dedicate this article to my father. This is the last lesson that I learn from him. I would like readers to love and take care of your parents well when they are still alive. Learn from them when they are still with you to teach and be with you through thick and thin. Happy National Father’s Day of Thailand!!