My Mother Really Knew
My father was a tough cookie,
his friends still tell me with a smile.
He was hot-tempered
and had to have his own way,
but they loved him nonetheless,
and so did I.
I remember that
for maybe the first decade of my life
I had to kiss him every night
before I went to bed.
There was one time
he got into a big argument
with the rest of us at dinnertime,
and afterwards when he was in his study
I had to go to sleep
and refused to see him,
a chip off the old block.
But my mother and elder brothers
coaxed me to his door,
and I ran in
and pecked his cheek
without saying a word,
and went to bed
thinking of how unfair life was.
Love, my mother really knew,
was like these islands
formed in part
by tidal waves and hurricanes
and the eruptions of volcanoes,
which suddenly appear
and just as suddenly go away.
©1988 by Wing Tek Lum, Expounding the Doubtful Points.
1. What is the thing that the speaker’s mother knew? How does the author describe it?
2. Why does the speaker refuse to see his father before going to bed?
3. How do the first and last stanzas tell the lesson of the poem?
4. In line 5, the speaker claims that his father’s friends “loved him nonetheless.” Based on context clues from the first stanza, what do you think this phrase means?