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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

What does Father’s Day mean to you?

Flowers, presents and dinners aside, it really depends on what you mean to him.
ST701 Editorial Team - June 16, 2009
By: Linda Lee
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What does Father’s Day mean to you?

I remember the first gift I got for my father while in primary school was a comb. It was one of those cheap, brown ones that you could find easily from a neighbourhood mama shop. But as I didn’t have any money with me, I ended up asking my mother to “sponsor” my gift. That was the first and possibly last father’s day present I “bought”, as far as my memory’s willing to take me.

Don’t be mistaken. Dad’s still around and we have no major estrangement issues. But our family has never been big on exchanging presents. This applies to the exchange of affections as well. However, there were a few poignant exchanges between us that I do remember.

* * *

My earliest memory of dad was formed at the public pool. I was a waddling tot, probably between two and three years old. I remember seeing frolicking adults and children - dressed up in various shades of swim gear - engaging in many a delightful merry-making and water-splashing stint when all of a sudden I felt a strong jerk as a powerful force propelled me into thin air.

Obviously, I didn’t know what to make of the circumstance but it didn’t take gravity very long to find me. Through my blurry vision and disorientation, I saw and heard bubbles, lots of it; and drank some too – mainly through the nose. Before I knew it, my tiny lungs went into high gear to purge the orbs out. Instinctively, I did what a toddler would do best – I wailed.

It turned out that dad had, in his enthusiasm to teach me how to swim, decided to toss me into the water (and much to the chagrin of mum, too). While his attempt didn’t turn me into a Michael Phelps, it dawned upon me that those were big strong hands that catapulted me to great heights, so to speak.

* * *

Years later, the same pair of hands attempted to (presumably) give me a head start in life, where education was concerned. The neighbourhood school in which I attended primary one announced that it was to close and have its students shift to another facility. My parents saw it as an opportunity for me to make a switch to a “better” place with a more conducive learning environment.

“What do you think if we put her in an all-girl school with good track records? There’s no better opportunity than now,” my mother said while I played cooking with my masak-masak.

“You could be right. But I need to ask around. A transfer does not come easy,” my father replied as I served the make-believe dishes.

And so those hands went about going through phone lists and pulling strings. Before I knew it, I was putting on my new uniform for the fresh term.

“How did you manage (to do it)?” my mother would ask while I listened with wide-eyed curiosity.

“Hooked up with some folks. And smoke a few cigarettes with the principal,” came the reply as I tried to make out how my new school looked from the rounded smoke rings encircling those big strong hands.

* * *

During my primary school days, one of my leisure undertakings includes cosying up with dad who would sing, tell me random stories and entertain me no end. On some weekends, I would go with him to Little India to peddle dresses made by my seamstress mum to the merchants. I remembered on one occasion while we were taking a rickety bus there, I threw a tantrum and got slapped.

This slapping soon became a regular affair as adolescence beckoned. During our heated exchanges over disagreeable issues, I recalled that dad would exasperatedly ask “Who’s your daddy?” as he clasped me with his big strong hands – and he didn’t ask in a funny way.

* * *

Time visited and left, I was happy to struggle out of his clutches, both by staying long hours in school and opting to lead a semi-liberal life in the hostel and subsequently at work. Detachment soon grew to stay around like a stubborn tenant who just wouldn’t go away.

In recent years, I’ve reclaimed some chances to interact a little more with dad. Instead of a firm tone, he now speaks with a raspy voice. He’s also not quite like what he used to be – one who’s capable of tossing kids up in mid-air and seizing their scrawny arms - being currently consumed by old age and poor health. He still smokes though; and I often find myself staring at the disjointed smoke rings encircling his now-frail hands.

I won’t be showering dad with tangible niceties this Father’s Day as I think he would prefer doing without the material stuff. Flowers, presents and dinners aside, I think I would stop being mean and start to mean something to him.


Child’s play - Little chefs at work