My dad and I used to have father-daughter dates every weekend at this Italian restaurant called Grappa's in Hong Kong. As a kid I relished spending time with my dad because he was the most knowledgable person I knew and know (he still is). I would ask him questions, and almost every question I had, he would have an answer. He is the most well-read person I know. His bookshelves are brimming with books, and not just regular-sized books, but thick books that you don't ever wish fell on your head, because if they did, it would hurt like hell. My dad is one of the most humble people I know. He never brags nor is he ostentatious. In fact, on our recent trip back home in May, Edgar and I rented a fancy rental car. My dad took one look at the car and remarked while closing the garage door, "I'm embarrassed to have that car in my garage."
In college, during one of my Japanese classes, we went around the room and talked about how much we got to see our fathers growing up. Most of my Asian classmates had nothing to contribute other than the fact that their fathers worked a lot. When it came to my turn, I beamed proudly and said in Japanese, "My dad came home every night and helped me with my homework. On the weekends we would have father-daughter dates." My classmates glared at me.
After grad school, I moved back home at first, and then I eventually moved into my own apartment about 15 minutes away from my dad's house. We continued our father-daughter dates on a weekly basis. For one of my dad's birthdays, I remember I wanted to try to do something nice for my dad to repay his kindness, so I bought him a nice watch. He made me return it saying it was too expensive.
My dad was 3 when he was placed in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during WWII. I didn't find this out until I was in high school. He told me that growing up, they had one fridge that lasted for forever. His parents, my paternal grandparents would buy one appliance, take really good care of it, and it would last for forever. I can see this carry over in my dad. His Honda Accord doesn't look a day over 5 years old, even though he bought it in 1992.
My dad rarely asked us to do anything for him. He is very self-reliant. Ok, there was this one time where he got locked out of the house clad in not much else but his underwear (since it was summer), and he called me to let him back in. I was having dinner with my college roommate about an hour away. I remember being irritated, but now I feel more sheepish admitting that than my dad probably did getting locked out in his underwear (!).
Earlier this year, when my mom wasn't able to live by herself in Singapore anymore, my sister and I basically told my dad that my mom was coming back to live with him. He didn't have a choice nor a say in the matter. I remember looking at my dad, wanting to say something, anything, but instead I just meekly thanked him and walked away to pack for my trip to go get my mom.
In a recent chat with my friend MK, she said, "You know, your dad must really love your mom." I had never really thought about any of this in those terms before. As I thought more and more about what she had said, I finally understood. My dad truly unconditionally loves not just my mom, but me and our entire family, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
I remember when I was at boarding school, I loved receiving letters from my dad. He had the neatest hand-writing, he would write at length about his life but also about how proud he was of me (and he still does-- just over email), and he would always fold the letter in thirds. My first year away, he wrote me almost every week, knowing the transition was tough for me. For me though, reading his letters was yet another way for me to "spend time" with my dad, another father-daughter date if you will. This Father's Day, I thought I would return the favor. How do you give a gift to the most incredible dad alive who won't accept the most incredible gift? Well, you write a blog post about him.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you, unconditionally, too. Oh, and I will always be there whenever you get locked out of the house (in your underwear!).
*This blog post is dedicated to Janet, Katherine, and Kim. Although your fathers are no longer with us, their love and spirit remain in your hearts.*