Heart and Soul: My dad, the silent type

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My dad, someone whom I respect and love, but I seldom talk about him. I have always peppered my conversations with mention of my mum but never my dad. I guess I have nothing much to say about him as we were never really close.

This Fathers Day will be a quiet affair for me and my siblings as my dad left us about a month ago. The irony is, we never really celebrated Fathers Day anyway, even when my dad was still around, as he was not the type to want to be celebrated.

We did not buy him presents as dad was a little fussy with things and he had no qualms stating his displeasure about them. If we got him a shirt that was not to his liking, he would not wear it. If we bought him socks with patterns and colours that were not pleasing to his eyes, he would just chuck them aside. Thus, to make him happy, we would just give him an angpow, for all special occasions.

My dad, having been brought up in a traditional Chinese family, grew up with the belief that boys had more value than girls. He also believed that wives should wait on their husbands. Hence, my dad never lifted a finger to do anything in the house. His role was to provide for the family and to ensure that there was food on the table and his children got an education.

The upbringing of the children was the sole responsibility of my mother. My mum, his dearly devoted wife, until his dying days, took care of him and was at his beck and call all the time. I believe that my dad only appreciated my mum and all that she had done for him during the last moments before his passing. He became gentler, more soft spoken and attentive to my mum – which was unlike him.

I remember when we were still young, during our primary school days, my dad would make us do everything for him.

In the morning when he woke up, breakfast would be ready and dad would plonk himself on the chair and one of us would have to get him the newspaper.

After his breakfast, if he needed a glass of water, he needed to just call and it would be served to him. Everything would be done for him.

Before he went to work, dad would sit in a chair, stretch out his legs and wait for us to bring him his socks and shoes, put them on for him and even tie the shoelaces. That is the treatment accorded to my dad. My brothers and I never complained as it was a normal routine for us and we respected our father.

Dad seldom spent time at home as he was always busy with his work and friends. It was no surprise that dad did not know any of my teachers, friends or what I liked. But dad always made it a point to find out about my studies from mum.

With me being the only daughter, dad paid me a bit more attention. He never ever told me this but I knew he was always proud of me. He always bragged to his friends that his daughter had a noble profession – a much respected teacher. I guess dad showed his care and love in his own way, silently.

I recall the year I was elected as the secretary of the St John Society in school when I was in Form 3, and I had reports and documents to prepare. I told mum that I needed a typewriter to do my work efficiently (there were no computers then). Dad bought me a typewriter, an expensive brand, without me asking or saying a word. I still have the typewriter with me until today; it still works, except that it is quite difficult to replace the ribbons now as not many places sell them.

I guess my mum must have told him about it and that was his way of showing me that he cared.

Honestly, my three brothers and I seldom chit-chatted with my dad. He was a man of few words. Being in the same room with him was quite uncomfortable as we had no topics of interest to talk about. He was a very serious, no-nonsense person. Whatever he instructed, we obeyed. He expected his every command to be fulfilled, even up to his dying breath.

He had his faults of not being caring or sensitive to our needs, maybe it was part of his gene of being a typical Asian dad. Having a dad like him was difficult in lots of ways. He was definitely not a normal dad, but then, the idea of a normal dad is relative. My dad was not a man who knew how to show affection easily and he never told me that he loved me, but I believe his love manifested in many other, non-verbal gestures. This Fathers Day, we will miss him lots.

Till we meet again one day, rest in peace, Dad.

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Fathers Day , father , dad


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