Thip wrote about her family and growing up in the Isaan when she was taking ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in Santa Barbara, California, during the first decade of our marriage. Beginning this series of writings by my wife, here’s what she wrote about her father, the man I call Khun Paw:
My Father Tah Nah by Thiphawan Suphannaphoowong Gault-Williams
Tah Nah is my father's name. He was born in Udon Thani province, Northeast Thailand . His father's name was Boon Mee and his mother's name was Tung. He came from a farmer's family. For example, when I was young [1970s] he grew rice on our rice land, cucumbers, long beans, cabbage, napa cabbage, squash, and watermelon.
After the rice season, he would buy cows and buffaloes to sell. He bought them from around our village and he sold them in other villages and towns. He had to walk to move the animals. Sometimes he had to sleep overnight from village to village before he could sell the cows and buffaloes. In those days, he made very good money and all the money he made he always gave to my mom to use and save it.
When he was forty-five years old [around 1978] he began to practice the Buddhist religion more than when he was younger. When he woke up in the morning at first he prayed to Buddha before he meditated. Sometimes he would meditate for five hours and sometimes he went to eight hours a day.
He sometimes stayed in the temple for three months for Buddhist Lent. He woke up in the early morning to meditate and then after that he went to the hall to meet the monks and people to pray to Buddha and listen to the monks teaching. Sometimes if my dad had some questions he could ask a monk to tell him the right or the wrong way to meditate.
For example, when he meditated, his mind went to see the monk and stayed in a very nice place. In that place many people listened to the monk. Then he went inside the room with a red carpet. The monk said that the way my dad's mind went out right away was a good sign because it was the right way for people to meditate. Sometimes their minds went out and saw different things. Each person had different things, not the same. Sometimes it's good for people and sometimes it was harmful for people who were easily scared and afraid because sometimes their mind went to see things that were scary.
After he prayed to Buddha in the morning he went to cook food for the monks. My dad was the cook and he made the food taste so good. Many times he told me the monks ate a lot of his food and he said, "They must like my food." Sometimes my dad would cook bamboo salad, fish soup, or barbecued fish. For example, when he made fish soup he would add fish sauce, salt, green onion, celery, tomato, and Thai chili. He would then add small pieces of Tilapia fish. After he gave food to the monks and had breakfast he went to take a nap and then mediate again in the afternoon for a couple of hours.
In the evening he would meditate again and then he went to the kitchen to meet people and have something to drink, but not food. When my dad stayed at the temple sometimes he ate only one or two meals before noon. After he took a rest and drank some tea or cocoa, then he went to the hall to meet the monks. He would pray to Buddha before he went to another mediation. Then he went to sleep late and then woke up in the early morning at 2 or 3 a.m.
I like to eat my dad's food a lot. When I go back to my hometown to visit my family, I always have my dad teach me how to cook. I have learned how to make fish soup and how to do good on barbecuing fish. My dad told me the way to make a good soup is to add different kinds of vegetables or herbs. For example, each vegetable has a different taste. Ginger smells so good and is good for people who have gas in their stomachs. Onions are good for people who have a cold to help keep their breath well.
Now my dad is seventy-seven years old [now 83 in 2016] and he still prays to Buddha in the morning and evening and then meditates. He still teaches me how to love, to give, and to share without expecting something back.
I always remember all the things he has done for our family to take care of us and teach us to be good people.
Dad, you are my father.
Dad, you are my teacher.
Dad, you are my friend.
I LOVE YOU!
(Khun Paw on the way back from Thung Yai, December 2013)