Por Yai means Grandpa which is what my kids called my father in Law. 78 years old, a very wise and extremely well respected old man. No gambling, no alcohol, a man of strict buddhist values.
Since I first met him I have loved watching him hold court downstairs every evening around the fire. Men from all around the village would drop by for a few minutes or for hours. The would talk late into the evening, stoking the fire occasionally, telling yarns, catching up on gossip and solving the problems of the small part of the word that they existed in. In the morning he would coax the fire into life a full hour before dawn even thought about breaking and sit by himself waiting for the village to come to life.
During the day he would walk up the road to visit his daughter and her shop. He would construct small thatched roofs to store hay under. He would baby sit his grand kids so the parents could go to work. He would go hunting for bush tucker, visit friends or take a nap under the house listening to the radio. Weekends were looked forward to as friends from all around would join him in front of the TV watching Thai kick boxing.
He has five daughters, each one a credit to the great father that he was.
He lost his wife 30 years ago after giving birth to his only son which died just hours before she did.
He had never travelled further then Ubon, 101 kms away. Never seen the beach, a mountain range, snow etc but he didn’t want to (we tried) He knew were he belonged and he was happy with his lot. We could all learn a lot from that philosophy in life.
My cousin Fran visited here last year and met Por Yai. She sent me a message last night which made me cry. Part of what she said was “Even though I never understood him, he was a man of wisdom, prestige and had a great sense of calm. What an honourable man that you shared your life with. And he was able to spend a lot of time with your daughters – which wouldnt have happened if you stayed in NZ. That is very special.”
The saddest thing coming home last night was seeing his little spot where he was always sitting around his fire. That fire was now extinguished, I guess for ever.
I love you Por Yai, you were a great man who raised the most perfect daughter in all the world, my wife.