In honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to share a little column I wrote about my father a few years ago, before I headed off for college. He’s an incredible guy, and I’m so thankful to have him as my father. On that note, shameless plug: last Friday, he came up to Austin for a live TV interview with CGTN (China Global Television Network), where he talked about China’s air pollution problem. It was his first live TV interview, and he was amazing! (He also spent the rest of the day re-listening to his interview so many times that I now have it memorized too, LMAO — it’s cute.) Anyways, if you’re interested, watch it at the end of this post!!! 🙂
While the rain pounds on the roof and my phone lights up with flash flood warnings, I lay shivering underneath my covers. With a flashlight in one hand and O’Brien’s The Things They Carried in another, I immerse myself in Tim’s vivid storytelling. In the dark, I can almost hear the strange silence of the Vietnam War…and my dad calling me to go outside.
The pitch-black sky sporadically lights up to reveal swaying trees and rising water levels. And that, is precisely why my dad wants us to go outside at 10:30 p.m.—to revel in the beauty of this miracle. I crawl out of bed, still in my pajamas, and together, we sit in complete darkness inside the open garage, the rain furiously battering the land around us.
As a child, I was afraid of the loud, cold and wet atmosphere; tightly clutching my dad’s hand as we sat on the roof of the car, I would bury my head in my jacket. My father noticed, so during each storm, he would attempt to transform that fear into curiosity by enlightening me with a short discussion on meteorology: how to predict a storm’s path, why lightning always preceded thunder. The explanations were always beyond my comprehension, but I never forgot a word he said.
Growing older, I began to understand those lessons, and we would find ourselves still discussing the relationship between pressure and rain long after the storm had abated. I was the four-year-old who knew the water cycle by heart, the child who tried to start a movement in second grade by encouraging classmates to recycle plastic bottles. My father, who ensured I never missed an opportunity to watch thunderstorms with him, had early on instilled in me a love for the miracles of nature and science and a desire to protect them.
I’ve long since forgiven him for preferring to hike in the woods for six hours than to shop with me for two. So, instead, we spend our time walking through the forest, him explaining to me how the trees affect our carbon levels, and me wondering aloud about the impacts of the Clean Air Act. Like anybody else, I wasn’t born with a passion for chemistry—or anything scientific, for that matter—but it was in those few moments that I found myself captivated by nature and its elements.
But today, he doesn’t talk about meteorology:
“Big girl now, huh? You’ll be in college this time next year.”
“Yeah,” I reply.
“When you’re off to college by yourself, you’ll remember everything I’ve told you about storms?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say.
And suddenly I realize just how short eight months is. After these eight months, I won’t be able to watch every storm with my dad again. But perhaps that’s okay, because I’m ready to take what he’s taught me to different places, to watch storms outside of my patio, to discuss them with other equally passionate people.