Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Happy Fathers' Day - In memory of dear old Pa !
It's true what they said about how much one will value a person/thing after you've lost them forever.
FATHERS' DAY is just round the corner.... and as with many others, I will light a special candle in memory of my dear old dad. Dad passed on at aged 74 in early 2002 January 19th to be exact .... a day I will never forget .... forever etched in the deepest recesses of my mind. A fateful day which changed me forever. Why? Because I was not by dad's side when he breathed his last. When he needed a hand to hold his as he crossed life's last threshold. I never had the chance to tell him how much I loved him and missed him.
Among the 5 sons, dad was the good-looking one - he had to be otherwise mom wouldn't have married him in the first place. He joined a sawmill at age 19 and never changed job till his retirement at aged 65. He was a very talented and alert young man and in the course of his job, he took the initiative to improve himself. So much so, he finally became a 'saw doctor' - where he was in charge of honing the big saws used for cutting up logs in the sawmills. Before that, he was like the others sawmill workers... sawing logs into planks for local use. It was hard work.... and I remembered he would come home in the evenings all tired out from the day's work.
One thing that I admired about dad was his frugal usage of everything-- from his hard-earned money to recyling of anything he could get his hands on! He would used scraps of metal, wood and turn them into useful household stuff. He had made toilet rolls holders,soap dishes, clothes hangers, rings, etc. Although these were crude replicas... they refelcted the creative urge in him. I truly believe (to this day) that in his past life, dad must have been a craftsman of some sort. And the memory of his past talents still showed up in his last life. I still have some of the things he had made... they are precious treasures for me to keep as long as I live this life.
Being the eldest of his 5 children (a boy and three other girls) I had the advantage of being his favourite child. Dad was only 24 years old when he held me in his arms the very first time. I can imagine how proud he must have been to have sired a child.... and in the years that followed... he moulded me into what I am today. As tough as he was .... he had always mentioned that he wished I was borne a boy!
We grew up poor... no luxuries like we are so used to now. No big house, no car. We all slept in the same room.... big enough to have a built-up platform bed (like the shao lin monks) for the 5 of us kids. BUT we were the happiest bunch of mischievous imps in the neighbourhood. I remembered we could not even afford to have apples and oranges... and when we do, we all shared one slice each of the fruit. Bananas was cheap then, so my mom, smart woman, would buy them for us. There was no special treats during birthdays... except for two boiled eggs.... and that was a luxury for us kids.
Dad was very careful with his money.... whereas mom was too generous with it... so there was never enough of it (money) to go around. I rememebred when I was in standard one (I attended an English medium school in the morning and then rushed off to a Chinese school in the afternoon session) Dad's company was in the doldrums... and there was not much work.. which meant no wages. Not realising what was going on, I pestered him for money to pay for the school fees. He could have stopped my schooling then... but no.... he went and pawned his ring so that I could continue on with my education. Dad, blessed him, value education very much as he only received four years of it during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya. But he was always reading newspapers and periodicals in his later years... so he was very up-to-date with news around the world. He enjoyed the coffee-shop sessions with his buddies where they would argue and debate over world issues.
When I started working.... I gave him a part of my first pay packet (RM100). You know what he did with the money? He saved it up in his post office account... it was too precious to spend on himself. That was dad. I wished I could have been like him always thinking twice before spending my hard earned money. When we could afford it, my siblings and I bought dad things he had forgo when were were still dependent on him to put food on the table. But for all the money we spent on him - it was never enough to repay him for what he had sacrificed for us all in our growing up years. Having 5 hungry mouths to feed was not something to joke about. I can never remember anyone of us going to bed without food in our stomachs during those hard times... all thanks to dad and mum who saw to it that we were fed and clothed well.
Mum used to nag dad for 'sparing the rod and spoiling the child' because he would rather not raise the cane on us if he could help it. The very, very few times he did, he would immediately go out and buy a toy or a favourite delicacy just so to pacify and 'manja' the disciplined child. So, we were never, ever afriad of him. My mum was the disciplinarian in the family - and if she whack you, she packed a good wallop anytime! Both my parents loved us to no end... and would give up their very lives for any of their children. Their love for us is so very unconditional!
Dad was a man of very few words and sometimes curt with his opinions. But he was a kind and good man with clean habits... he was the only person I know who throughout his lifetime... have abstained from smoking, drinking and gambling. It may have been due to circumstances then but even when we were independent and he was freed from having to support us, dad never indulge himself in any way. Oftentimes, it was the children who 'forced' luxuries on him.
Many times my siblings and I got angry with him for 'putting' us down in front of his friends. Whenever they compliment us for our achievements in life, dad would said something like this: "aiyah... where got? They are good for nothing compared to your son/daughter." It would riled us to no end when we heard this and we would all confront him later and asked why he made such remarks on his own flesh and blood. Poor dad would then sheepishly said that he didn't want to show off and tell the whole world he was really damn proud of us all! He was like that! But deep down, he was really proud of us all...in his own special way. He saw in each of us what he couldn't be and he made it his responsibility to let us have the opportunity to be what we can become.
The last few years of his life were not happy ones for him. He was strickened with age-related illnesses ; gout, high blood pressure, heart problem, and diabetes. The endless visits to hospitals was draining his morale and energy. A last chance to add another short span to his ebbing life proved fatal. He succumbed to complications barely a month after a heart surgery and passed on - alone in the house.
Now, every morning and in the evenings, I will remember to light an incense stick in dad's memory.... he was the light of our lives, a mentor and a role model in our growing years. He is gone now but will always remain safe and warm in our hearts.
Personally, I have not only lost a father, but a companion, an adviser and a friend. I will never find anyone to replace him in my life. I wish I could have done more for him when he was alive and well..... to hold his hands and listen to his complaints with love and compassion. To be there when he needed to be loved .... I wish I could have a second chance to do just that....
I love you dad and miss you ... and if you are looking down from heaven.... please watch over me....until you hold me in your loving arms again.... soon.