Black Dragon; The First-Born Son

Photo by Annie Spratt

Editor’s Note: This piece is the second detailing author Danny Mark’s struggle with the Black Dragon known as depression.
It contains a very raw and vulnerable look discussing familial dynamics. Be advised.

To say the least, my relationship with my father was “complicated.”

This post is dedicated to all sons of their fathers. I loved my dad and worshiped him. Other times. Well, you know.

Mark Lai Foo (Bob) demonstrated great courage and vision to put himself in a position to start a new life in Canada while escaping persecution from Mao’s Communist China.

Our family is very grateful he did. I think of him as our family recently gathered in Burnaby to pay homage known to the Chinese as “Hung Sun” to view his headstone finally arrived after three years of delay from COVID-19.

As his first son, I grew up treated like the crown prince not just of our immediate family but over dad’s entire sphere of family influence.

What’s that old adage? To one that much is given, then much is expected. He bought me my first hockey skates because I simply showed curiosity about launching those NHL dreams. Oh, did he expect the best from me!

Back in Hanna as a pre-schooler, I was a high-energy gregarious toddler that there wasn’t a farm implement, a rooftop, and train engine that I didn’t climb on top of.

Well for stressed out working parents and elderly grandparents that struggled to keep up I drew a lot of unwanted attention. Short of teaching time he took the easy way by disciplining me. Hard.

As a result, I lost my childhood that day and became a successful poser. Thus began my uneasy relationship with dad that was to last the rest of my life.

Torn between trying to please dad and being true to my nature my identity often got sacrificed thus priming me for the lethal Black Dragon of depression to enter my life.

As he sent me off to university to set an example for my siblings, the Black Dragon arrived too. Dad sent me out into the world with money, credentials, a car, anything else he could think of, except for confidence in who I am.

As I grew in Yorkton, I learned to stand up for myself against his domineering nature usually over principles.

For example, when my cousin Kevin suffered his horrendous hockey accident leaving him permanently in a wheelchair, my dad wanted to pull all of us out of hockey.

Having him take hockey away once before due to poor academics I wasn’t about to let him do that again to me especially when I did nothing wrong.

My brother Carl and I pushed back. Hard. It helped that we were physically difficult for dad to manhandle us anymore.

I learned that Carl and I inherited the warrior spirits from our Chinese Imperial Army forefathers.

However, this incident laid waste to the hockey careers of Edwin, Gary, and cousin Andy. They never saw the inside of an arena again as players.

You may know my dad from his Yorkton businesses. Others know him from Carl’s tribute book “The Life of Lai.” I am part of his legacy and want to continue adding to his legacy. He came from a dysfunctional family and that dysfunction continues to this day.

When you are the Crown Prince of the Realm and spend two decades AWOL fending off the Black Dragon, naturally there will be usurpers and posers who want to fill the void.

However, they don’t have what I have while alive that being the benefits of my birth order.
My Dragon battles have taught me ways to prevent our current dysfunctional behaviours from being passed on.

However, my siblings prefer to concoct a fairy tale existence by not talking about it, void of any real problems as the dysfunctions carry on.

They are embarrassed that I am a mental health survivor and wish that I didn’t share my history with you.

Well, I ignored them!

I don’t subscribe to denials. Enough said on that point.

Social stigma is very powerful amongst the ignorant. What’s the next old adage? You can lead the horse to water.

But. I close with the wise words from the classic group, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young:

“Must have a code that you can live by/And so become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye/Teach your children well
Their father’s hell did slowly go by/And feed them on your dreams.”

Now that my Dragon is under control, I have reclaimed my childhood. Now I live life full of wonder again. Climbing things all over the place figuratively.

Also, I made peace with my dad, so we’re both happy now.

At the time, dad just didn’t know. He was simply doing his best and I respect him for that. Never knew if he thought I was a success now I will never know as he has passed. He finally knew I simply did my best he took that to the grave. I know he did his best and I can live with that now.

When my ancestors call I will rejoin my father and will say “I am your Prodigal Son here to honour you as my father again.”

So, as I leave you for those fellow Black Dragon Warriors in order to stay healthy: heed this.
In order to preserve your hard-won liberation from the Black Dragon you must purge all toxic relationships from your future.

Unfortunately, that means many of your family of origin relationships. It must be done because it’s either them or you. You know where I stand, I have already begun my purging process. You will know who they are by their dark age archaic attitudes towards mental health.

The Life of An Asian Canadian son,
Aspiring Black Dragon Crusader,
The phoenix has arisen!