Heart and Soul: A tale of three dads

  • Living
  • Saturday, 18 Jun 2022

Photo: 123rf.com

My late papa was a pillar of strength in my family.

He was a teacher but his expertise knew no boundaries.

He loved music and his hobby was to teach whoever was interested in playing a musical instrument. There was no payment for lessons.

Papa prepared charts to enable his students to learn a musical instrument.

He taught his pupils guitar and ukulele. Mouth organs were given free to students who had a zest for learning.

He was fondly known as Pak Lim to all his students.

All his children played musical instruments. His eldest son, at 17 years old, performed a violin solo at Victoria Hall in Singapore. My sister became a music teacher.

Papa and mama had six biological sons and adopted two girls to complement the family. I was the elder girl, and at 12 years was innocently told by a classmate that I was adopted.

With tears streaming down my eyes, I confronted papa who, as cool as a cucumber, took out my birth certificate and showed me otherwise. He loved his adopted girls as much as he loved his sons.

When we had fever, no thermometer was used. He planted a kiss on the forehead and gave us medicine accordingly.

When I was in Form Six, he was a teacher in my school. One day, I had excruciating pain in the stomach. Papa was summoned. He carried me to the car and drove me to the hospital where I had emergency appendectomy done.

When he retired, he had a kennel where he bred pedigree dogs. A litter of seven Doberman pups were sold – which paid for my tertiary fees.

My sister and I were so loved that we had no desire to look for our biological parents.

When I left home after marriage, I can still remember him waving goodbye with his eyes brimming with tears.

As the song says, “Oh, my papa, to me you are so wonderful/ Oh, my papa, to me you are so good”.

My husband – the papa to our brood of three, all in their fourth decade of life – also deserves a tribute.

A man of few words but lots of action, he always saw to the needs of the children.

He had a busy medical practice and only interacted with the children when time permitted.

I was the main caregiver who meted out punishment as and when it warranted, saw to their educational needs and social activities, and was the queen nagger.

But at the end of the day it was papa who guided them towards their future careers, discussing with them the path to take, and weighing the pros and cons of their choices.

The end result: Today, they are successful in their careers.

It was papa who saw to their health problems.

When time permitted, papa organised the family holidays, locally and abroad.

Being a no-nonsense papa, there were certain rules he adhered to – boys were not allowed to have tattoos or earrings; and no child could indulge in gap years in their university education to pursue their hobbies.

The money for their education was hard earned so the children were told to complete their education first and only could do as they pleased after that.

Fortunately papa is now retired, dabbling in some shares, golfing on weekdays.

He still is concerned about his children but this time it’s the grandchildren that he focuses on.

Payback time is when the children sponsor holidays for us.

Last but not least, my younger son now in his early 40s is also a papa.

As the youngest, he left our house at the tender age of 18 to further his studies abroad.

Being the youngest, he was mollycoddled – we had a maid who saw to all his needs as both parents were working; and doting grandparents who spoilt him rotten.

When he left the nest, my heart was in my mouth as this gawky teenager had never made a cup of Milo for himself, let alone fold his clothes.

Fast-forward to today: He is in the medical line and in his home abroad he is the gardener, part-time cook, driver, handyman and, as the wife has night duties, he is caregiver to two gorgeous girls aged seven and three.

When we were there on holidays, he went grocery shopping and would whip up delicious meals.

I stand amazed at how he and his spouse are raising their children. The girls are trained to sleep by 8pm, and their manners are impeccable.

The mode of punishment for his girls when they are naughty is so effective. I cringe at what I used to do when my children were naughty. The seven-year-old would hesitate when receiving goodies and tells me she has to ask papa about it first.

As my husband has retired, this once-upon-a-time baby of the house listens and gives medical advice to his family and friends. He has taken over his father’s role with ease.

I glow with pride when his three-year-old tells me proudly, “Mama, this papa is mine, and I love him so, so much.” Such love out of the mouth of babes.

My son has done us proud.

Happy Father’s Day to my late father, my husband, and my son – and all the fathers in this world. We love and honour you for all that you have done for your children.

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