Happy Birthday, Dad

I was supposed to have this done and up on May 1 to celebrate my father’s birthday this month, but life got away from my hands. Again. As usual.

I have never been good with anything verbal, so I’ll like to just take a small moment to share a little bit of the man who I lovingly call “Dad.”

My father is the oldest of three children. A boy with grown-up responsibilities by the time he was nine; he has worked most of his life and taught himself everything he knows. He cooked for the family (age 9), rose early to collect eggs from their chickens for the market (probably even younger), and tended to a variety of other chores like general repairs around the house while going to school. As a teenager, my father both worked at construction yards hauling concrete and other heavy objects and at an electronics store that carried some electronics but mostly did repairs for things like radios, VCR players, TVs, and other things. This man taught himself Japanese by listening to lesson tapes as he repaired and earned a wage.

The stress and strain from the work at construction yards permanently damaged his spine, so my father never stood straight and tall ever again.

He gave every penny he earned to his parents to help pay for his younger sister’s education in the arts – a pursuit in music. My aunt is quite brilliant with the piano.

He was a selfless man in the making, having long learned what it meant to have a family at an age long before I understood the word “responsibility” during my own growing years.

As an adult, my father never went to a four-year college. His higher education wasn’t quite like mine. It was more specific, but it was a variant of electrical and mechanical engineering combined. He had a degree, but it wasn’t my version of a B.A. or a B.B. A. I’ve only ever seen my father’s college once, and if I can travel back in time, I knew the first thing I would do was to go see my father and learn from him still.

On the same year of the same month of the same day I graduated from high school, my father graduated with an EMBA from the National University of… 🙂

… one of the four Tigers of Asia. We missed each other’s graduation ceremony.

My father was from the era where “trades and crafts” were still the solid form of employment and skill set. Sitting at the office and pushing paperwork from one desk to another didn’t come until decades later.

His era, in my opinion, is sorely missed in today’s modern business society.

The stories I heard from my mother covered every color of the spectrum, but one thing was always certain – when it came to his children, especially a daughter who looked like a mirror image of her sire – he is always beside himself with pride, happiness, and joy.

And it never mattered once how badly I screwed up or how little I achieved.

It’s one thing to say that my father provided for everything I would ever need plus quite a bit of what I want.

It’s another to say that my father gave me what I just listed above as an addition to the sacrifices he had made so he could do that. Remember my post about asthma over here?

While asthma made my life difficult it was much worse for my parents. My mother took care of the physical aspects of my illness, and I’ll write a bit more about this come Mother’s Day.

My father was the one who walked the thousands of miles – across ponds and rivers, seas and oceans, down through canyons and over mountains – all by his lonesome self while carrying upon his shoulders the boulder that was the burden of me.

No one could relieve him of that burden – from the time I turned four years old all the way till I turned twenty-six… and even to this day he showers me with loads of gifts because he can.

My father was one of the two reasons why I chose to have children. My husband was the other reason. I knew grandchildren would brighten my father’s aging years like the knowledge that I was a bun in the oven brightened his existence. This man loved having people to live for.

When his job couldn’t afford to pay for the medical treatment I needed, my father (with my mother’s reluctant support) chose to go overseas to work for a higher income.

Much like the men and women who serve in the US military today, my father couldn’t come home. He sent every penny back to my mother, choosing to eat food provided by the company in the cafeteria, taking the option of sleeping in the dorms so he wouldn’t have to pay rent and used only company facilities that were there for the employees. He knew he’ll miss a lot of watching his children grow up – unwilling to spend the money for plane tickets when it was needed for my medication.

But he did it anyways, because it was the only way to stack the odds where I could grow up.

Eventually the whole family did move overseas with my father, but if one thought that brought the story around to a happy ending, it was far from. We spent my entire life until I was almost nineteen chasing my father.

Huh?

We settled into southeast Asia shortly before I turned eight. We lived in the company designated dorms for families for a little bit before my father could find some suitable living arrangements for all of us. He had his little room on the first floor, and we slept in a much larger room on the second floor.

I never saw my father unless it was one of those rare mornings where I woke up early – 5am – and decided to venture downstairs without waking up my mother or my brother. I found my father a couple of mornings in his room getting ready to go to work. The smile that would brighten his face whenever he saw me was… as I am capable of understanding it now… one that spoke of worlds and galaxies. It didn’t matter that he might have had a bad night, or that he was about to walk into an ogre of a day… that my little eight-year-old face was there, looking at him, smiling, and telling him “good morning, Daddy” made his world.

Because – I would like to believe –  I was his world. Still do, if I am so brazen as to say so myself.

I would sit on his bed and watch him, and when it was time to go, tell him “good bye” and wave at the door. It would be days before something like that happened again. I think this was where my internal clock began its training, because eventually I got really good at waking up just as my father was up getting ready for work.

I’m not going to regale you with every instance from this point, but I do want to share some things that I wish children today would have had the privilege of seeing and understanding. It frustrates me to see children completely engrossed in whatever hand held gaming platform that they become completely oblivious to their surroundings – or more importantly, what their parents are doing.

We learn by watching, as children all the way through our teenage years, and for some of us, into our young adulthoods, our parents.

And I watched my father.

I don’t, for the life of me, remember how old I was, where my mother or younger brother were, when this event never left my head. My father took care of the production lines and the warehouse traffic (for outgoing and incoming orders) during a day – or it might have been a couple of days – where I spent it sleeping in the on-site company employee quarters with my father. The man didn’t turn in until after midnight, dealing with paperwork. He disappeared to make his rounds at every three-point-five to four hour marks, and as usual, dressed and ready to head out the door by five-thirty am. The man didn’t get a full night’s sleep at any of the nights I was there, and it wasn’t a stretch to assume and understand that what I saw was most likely applicable to the daily routine of this man’s job.

To this day, my father still gets up at five-thirty sharp, without use of his alarm clock, and I’ve never seen the man’s night end until either at or after midnight when he was employed.

If you have ever heard of the Chinese saying, “Be like oxen, be like horse” (做牛做馬), that would be my father. The meaning behind the phrase is derived from an agricultural society. Oxen and horses are the powerhouses and manual labor on farms. When applied under those terms to a person, it means he/she is very hardworking.

That would be an understatement.

My father succeeded where others have struggled and failed, because for this man, failure wasn’t an option. He makes it, or his daughter doesn’t. That was the simple truth that he lived by.

So when problems arose with HP’s printer that my father’s employer was manufacturing for, the man performed his job, took the two hundred some odd products that wasn’t passing the quality control and worked on them on his own time to figure out what was wrong even though it wasn’t in his job description or responsibilities. My recollection of the next bit may or may not be true, but being my father’s biggest fan, I’ve convinced myself that it is.

He made people aware why the printers were malfunctioning, contacted the higher ranks, HP, submitted reports of recommendations that were approved and saved the production lines… but above all else (and I know this part to be fact) fixed all two hundred some odd printers by hand on his own time over the course of two months.

I will not provide the numbers to how much money he saved both his employer and to HP, but the amount was substantial, to say the least.

So when my printer breaks down at home, we never sent it out to be repaired. My father would take it apart, fix whatever problem he thought was affecting it, and everything will work again until, I later learned, another maintenance routine needed to be performed.

I watched him, and I learned. What are kids going to learn in this day and age when all they do is bury their nose in the latest game application?

When he was promoted from his old position, my father worked with the company’s Japanese (Toshiba, Sharp, to name a couple) and American (Scientific American, Brother) clients, and once-in-a-while, the British (BT), too. Mostly it was the Japanese though.

Which meant a lot of travel, hence why I said my mother, my brother, and I spent most of those years before I turned 18 chasing after my father. He took one some of the hardest clients, built his mini version of empires with them for his employer, and spent enough time on airplanes to fulfill a trip to the moon and back… a few times.

We always ended up having to visit him somewhere. He was only ever home maybe three to four months out of the year, if one was to take all his time and add them together.

And the man never had a vacation despite having taken vacation time. While we did travel, his phone was never turned off, and a day has never progressed with fewer than ten business calls, all the while running errands for his own aging parents, trying to be involved in our lives in whatever way possible.

One of the stories I heard my father tell was his schedule – an international flight from Singapore (connecting through there) to Los Angeles to Chicago to New York just to jump into a taxi, get driven into New Jersey for a two hour meeting with one of the clients, get back into the taxi to go back to the airport, and then on the plane back through all the airports he just connected through.

Repeat. For a few years.

While my father was well-respected by the few he worked for or with, those with fewer capabilities, or would rather find excuses to be spending time at a golf course instead of properly working, criticized him.

While their wives abused my mother on school grounds – mocking her that it was a sad fact a husband as talented and hardworking as he is…

had a daughter as unremarkable as me. Or that their husbands don’t have to put forth the kind of effort my father did to be promoted, and all their children are diligent and brilliantly remarkable as to make their fathers’ “faces” (derived from the term saving face) shine.

My father was unfortunate in having a daughter who did the opposite for him.

I lived in a bubble of mockery from every side, but if there was one person in the entire world who never said a word to me about disappointment, it was my father.

It wasn’t until I was seventeen years old did I learn to bite back this retort:

Unlike your husband, my father doesn’t need to stand on the shoulders of his children to make him a head taller than everyone else to prove his merits. His accomplishments speak volumes about that for him. My apologies if your husbands only has small pamphlets they can pass out to their future potential employers. The reason I am so unremarkable compared to my father is because he is an accomplished man, and I can only hope to have done as much as he has in my own life. If your husbands were as great of a man as my father, then your children would be just as unremarkable, if not more, than I am in comparison.

All hell broke loose with that, but I didn’t care. Because none of them were there to witness what my father had to go through to maintain the business relationships with the company’s clients. The alcohol abuse, the long hours, and unlike some of the company’s higher ups, my father didn’t have a chauffeur to drive him home. Living in a country where being the nationality that was ours, compromised in a taxi is just as dangerous as driving one’s car off a road and into the ocean.

Watching my mother pace during one of those nights where he had been out with the clients to dinner, knowing that he would be forced to heavily drink again, and realizing that for my father to get home required the navigating through a mountainous curving road where the drop off to the side was really straight into the ocean…

My mother made countless phone calls to people attending the event with my father asking if maybe one of them knew where her husband was at 3 in the morning, to hearing our gate open and his car pull into the drive way, watching him stumble every footstep to the point my mother had to try to support him as they made their way to their bedroom. I never saw my father so green as that night.

… and then witnessing the proud, logical, and responsible man heave his guts out all over my parents’ bedroom floor…

I’ve never been drunk in my life. That night probably contributed to the reason why.

Things get better though, eventually, when my father started being promoted to ranks of a VP or a President for one of the many branches the umbrella corporation had – probably at the request of his boss (who would want to give up an employee like my father?) when the market in China was just taking off. I was in my final two years of high school.

And perhaps I’m just a slow learner, and maybe those idiotic, good-for-nothing, pansy-asses housewives were right – I was unremarkable – and that’s why it took me until the sophomore year of college to fully understand just how much this man did for his family.

And more specifically, for me.

Everything I ever needed. A lot of what I wanted. Every single medicine treatment the doctors prescribed. My American education since I was twelve, a British education before that. Every tutoring lesson. Seven years of college. Numerous plane tickets. A car.

And he even offered to pay my Master’s degree had I wish to pursue it.

While I did, I turned him down. The man has paid for enough. It’s time I stand on my own.

So when people asked my mother if she was ever worried that my father could have had affairs when doing all the traveling that he did, living away from his family, and in all ways, living the life of a single man who wore a wedding band.

My mother always replied “no” for her own reasons, but I hated that question. I disliked people who asked it because the man in question was my father.

There isn’t a single person who knew my father well that didn’t tell me how happy he looks whenever I come home to visit. He couldn’t stop smiling, no matter what reason I was home for (because it wasn’t always about a vacation from school), and supported me with his all.

I am biased, and I have every right to be. A man like my father wouldn’t do things like that to disappoint his children. He just wouldn’t. Period.

My father made the decisions he made, lived with them, and understood what every single letter of the word “sacrifice” meant. And I’ve spent my entire life where I could watching him. We had a few times when it was just us, father and daughter, and I loved every one. He taught me so much without trying. My father taught me reality lessons. Small and restricted as it was, but it was reality applicable to his time and a specific part of the world.

Most importantly, he showed me what it means to be a parent. He taught me that sacrifices are needed when it came to family, and he used himself as an example. Subtly, but strongly, and it didn’t matter that I didn’t see it right away or that it took me years to learn it.

As long as I came to see and learn the lessons he provided, he was proud. And he absolutely adores his two, super-active and super-spoiled grandchildren… who use him as a jungle-gym. *face palm*

So…

Thank you, Dad, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

❤ 😀 ❤ 😀 ❤ 😀 ❤ 😀 ❤

And may I continue to appreciate you for a few more decades…

Like, FOUR. That’s not too much to ask, is it? 😛

❤ Your Little Wynter, forever

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