There’s not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about and miss my dad. (He passed away 5 years ago suddenly and unexpectedly.)
It’s my new tradition to pay a special and well-deserved Tribute to My Dad on Father’s Day.
Maybe it’s strange, but when the stores put the Father’s Day greeting cards on display, I still look through a few of them and get a lump in my throat.
My mom and I will be visiting him at the cemetery, which is always difficult for me.
Instead of drowning in sorrow, I choose to celebrate his life because although even remembering the happy memories brings me to tears, I’d rather be inspired by the amazing life that he lived instead of dwelling on life being unfair.
No, my father wasn’t perfect. He was human. But he truly continues to be the biggest source of inspiration for me. Through his unconditional love, ability to see the humour in any situation, and his calming presence, he set the bar extraordinarily high.
He was the best listener. He wouldn’t cut you off, he would provide sound advice when you needed it, and he always put my heart at ease, even when I was going through what I thought was ‘the end of the world’ when I was a teenager and suffering my first heartbreak.
I find, to my dismay, that a lot of people don’t really listen. They rush, use the excuse that they’re “too busy”, or they brush off concerns because you’re the only person who feels the way you do. Even in a professional environment, it’s alarming how even after seconds of the boss saying something, a co-worker will ask a question that the boss literally just explained. Haha, and then there are the people who talk over your voice, and you wonder if they just love listening to themselves.
Listening skills are a lost art.
My dad, though, would let you talk for hours to get something off your chest. But what was even better was that he listened not just with his ears, but with his heart. It didn’t just go through one ear and out the other. He hung onto everything I said because he valued my opinion.
He also loved to talk, and when he seized the opportunity, he could talk for hours to anyone, anywhere. I used to joke that he could have a conversation with a doorknob!
I always admired his social skills – he was charming! (The interesting thing is that even though he wasn’t a doctor or security guard, strangers often would mistake him for working in those two professions, and it’s not like he was talking about medical or security issues. It was just the way he carried himself, I guess.)
It was also awkward when strangers (women and men) used to tell me that my dad is very handsome out of the blue. I would just smile, but then I’d keep my hawk eyes on the women in case they tried anything! Haha, I didn’t have anything to worry about. My father was a loyal husband to my mom and a very devoted father.
To prepare for this post, I looked through some old albums at my mom’s. There were lots of great photographs to choose from, but I picked a few to share with you.
They’re not listed in perfect chronological order, but they go from when he was a bachelor to when he got married to after marriage.
The photos are all from the 1950s and 1960s.
This post contains a little glimpse into what my dad was like before he had me and my brother. And as long as I blog for Swatch And Learn, I plan to pay a special Father’s Day Tribute to him every single Father’s Day.
My dad liked to take self-portraits when he was a bachelor because he was really into photography.
I wish that I got more into photography when he was alive because he definitely could’ve taught me many intermediate tips and tricks.
(There were many photos he took of nature, my mom, our family, of me, etc. that impressed me. And the thing is that he never took a single photography course. He learned it all on his own. I remember him telling me a few times about the importance of framing the subject, and I loved how for nature photos, he used the branches of trees to frame the subject.)
If he had a smartphone, haha, I could picture him taking so many photos and really enjoying it.
When my brother and I were born, my dad spent more time behind the camera. (We have binders full of photos of when my brother was little. And then when I came along, videos were the big thing, so my dad took more videos of me than photographs.)
As I got older, I would tell my dad that I wanted to take photos of him because we had more photos of us, but not enough of him. He was really happy – I could see it in his eyes!
The Life of a Bachelor
The below photo is one he snapped of himself when he was a bachelor. Haha, he told me so many crazy stories before married life, and he truly was a man’s man from the sounds of it.
He used to reminisce about how he’d eat huge steaks and drink milk by the jug. Haha, I’d tell him that just because he got married didn’t mean that he had to stop eating like a pig! Then, we’d both laugh!
Yes, he smoked cigarettes for some time, but then one day, because he knew it was unhealthy, he quit cold turkey. This was a success, but he told me that he wanted to make sure that he truly gave up cigarettes and wouldn’t feel the cravings. So what did he do? Something risky! He decided to test himself by smoking one cigarette and then quitting cold turkey again. He gave it up for life – never had another one ever again.
My dad was a fan of Elvis Presley, haha, and one day, if I ever show you more of his photos of when he was a teenager (like the one below), you’d see how he styled his hair like Elvis. Pomade and slicking your hair with grease was very popular back then.
Haha, my dad loved taking photos of cars, even his own.
I remember the time when we stayed with relatives for a brief vacation in Los Angeles, California, and we walked by Rodeo Drive. I had just recently graduated from university, and it was my first time on a vacation outside Canada since I was a baby.
My dad, at first, was taking photos of us walking along, but then when he caught sight of all the luxury cars, he ended up snapping some photos of them! Haha!
My aunt, uncle, mom, and I didn’t even notice because we were window shopping. But after the trip was over, we came back to Canada, and my dad had the photos developed, I laughed so hard because there were probably 8 photos of luxury cars in the mix.
I think in this photo below, it was his very first car. (Nope – he never had a luxury car.)
My dad came from a dirt-poor family, and up until the day he passed away, he was never well-off. His love was his wealth.
He was born in Nova Scotia, but then lived in a small village in China where he often had little to eat and no shoes to wear.
He also had to face the stress and heartache of his mother leaving his dad for another man (who wasn’t a good guy). And my dad’s father struggled to make ends meet, so he couldn’t look after my dad properly.
My dad ended up living with his stepmom, who was very poor, however was the only person in the entire village who could read. She loved my dad like he was her flesh and blood, slaving away in the hot sun to collect a bowl of rice for my dad when he was a kid.
His stepmother (who he actually never referred to as such and just called her his mother), would also weave baskets and slippers, and they’d take it down to the market to sell, just so they could have enough money to buy food.
I think it’s because my dad grew up with no frills that he was able to focus on the importance of love and hard work. (Those are two of the greatest lessons that he ever taught me through his actions over the course of his life.)
Even later in life when his biological mother came back into his life, my father often had to take care of her like he was her parent. So, in a lot of ways, my dad grew up faster than any child should.
Striking It Solo
I’ll always remember the story my dad told me of how when he was 17 years old, his father gave him $20, pointed down the street, and said that he found an apartment rental for him in Toronto.
My dad was on his own.
He had $20 in his pocket.
He couldn’t call Mommy and Daddy to ask for money. He also didn’t have any social support from them. He truly was on his own and had to fend for himself when his father left the country and his mother was absent. He had to figure everything out on his own without parents and without friends in a new city.
While many people would curl up in a fetal position or turn to substance abuse, my dad was mature beyond his years.
He didn’t have high education – just grade school and I believe some high school, so he couldn’t get a corporate job.
That didn’t discourage him.
He pushed forward.
He went to all the restaurants in the area to inquire about a job, and then he landed a position as a waiter with gruelling hours, low wages, and terrible customers. (Remember, in the 1950s and 1960s, racism was a lot stronger. I’m very blessed that today, racism is generally frowned upon. But back in my dad’s time, being of biracial descent was extremely difficult.)
(In case you didn’t know, my ethnic background is Chinese, Irish, and Scottish.)
I’m so proud of my dad because he had to work from the bottom. He didn’t have high education, but he was extremely street smart. (There were so many stories he shared with me, and the life lessons from them that I picked up are immense!)
Here’s a photo of my dad with a tank. (Hehe, everyone in my immediate family has at one point taken a photo with a tank except for me. I’ll need to add that to my To-Do List.) 😉
My dad also used to fish before he got married. (He took my mom fishing a few times.)
Below is one of the the photos that was my dad’s favourite.
He was always clean-shaven because he didn’t like the feeling of having a beard. Although, he could’ve grown a beard easily because even after a day, the stubble on his face would sprout so quickly.
When I was little, I used to watch him shave. He’d lather up the shaving gel on his face each day until it was a thick white foam, and I’d ask him to say, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” like Santa Claus. 🙂 He always did it, and then we’d both laugh!
Back in the day, my dad wore dress shirts, blazers, and trousers 99% of the time. He was certainly a classy guy!
See – another suit!
My parents got married in 1969, and they didn’t break their wedding vows of ’til death do you part.
I’m very fortunate to have had both parental figures in my life, especially since the majority of my friends in elementary school, high school, and university seemed to have divorced parents.
My parents weren’t lavish. They were down-to-earth, and even on their wedding day, the day when people tend to go all-out and become Bridezillas, my parents kept it real.
They had a small reception, and they didn’t even hire a photographer. All their wedding photos were taken by friends.
They had plenty of great photos, but I chose two to share.
I asked my dad how he met my mom. The story is so sweet!
My parents met through The Legion of Mary, which was a Catholic club. They visited inmates in prison, went to hospitals to pray over the sick, etc.
My dad, at that point, was the president of The Legion of Mary at the local church. (His parents never swayed him in terms of religion, as neither of them practiced any faith. My dad naturally gravitated toward Catholicism by himself.)
After The Legion of Mary meetings, my mom would ask my dad to join her and her roommates for some tea. But my dad would always refuse because his best friend at the time, Paul, didn’t want to go and wanted to hang out with my dad and watch basketball. (Haha, typical guys!) 😉
But then one day when my mom asked again (she was persistent), my dad told Paul, “Listen, she keeps asking. We should go at least once.”
Paul didn’t agree, and he went to watch the basketball game.
My dad went to my mom and roommates’ place for tea, and that’s also the first day they had their photo taken together! (I have that photo, and it makes me smile because it’s so sweet! Haha, I told my dad once, “Thank you for going to drink tea!” Haha because if he hadn’t went up for tea that time, who knows? They may have never dated, and I may have never existed!)
Also, my mom has a bit of a fairytale story because my dad was her very first boyfriend, and they got married. How romantic is that? The first guy you date ends up being The One? I love it!
My dad, on the other hand, was pursued by many women, but he was very discerning.
He told me about this one woman who a lot of the guys liked because she was pretty. That woman was very full of herself, though. My dad wasn’t interested in her personality, so it was easy to turn her down.
That woman wasn’t used to rejection from guys. She said to my dad, “I always get the guy I want!” Haha, but my dad, the cool cat he was, replied, “Well, this is one guy you’re not getting!” And he never swayed! (Thank goodness…because once again, I might not have existed if he took that bait.)
Fellow Torontonians, do you recognize the scenery in the below photo? Yes, it’s Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto!
When I was little, I asked my dad, “Who were you talking with on the phone in this photo?” Haha, no one! He said he just wanted to see what he looked like when he was on the phone!
Not gonna lie. I totally teased my parents about their matching outfits in the below two photos. Apparently, they claimed that it wasn’t planned, but haha, c’mon…a pink top and brown pants are too much of a cute coincidence! 🙂
My dad took a photo of just my mom where she’s wearing the same coat below, and the background is full of beautiful foliage. He got that photo blown up to a huge poster size that we had displayed in the basement at one point. It looked good enough to be published in a magazine, I always thought!
Haha, my dad definitely had a silly side!
He had this straw cowboy hat with dangling blue and white pompoms. When I was little, it always made me laugh because I could never imagine what occasion you would ever want to wear it to.
My brother and I would try it on and joke around because it was the funniest hat we ever saw.
Well, the other day when I was flipping through some old albums, I came across this photo of my dad wearing it! Haha, I never noticed this photo until now!
My mom told me that they bought it in Niagara Falls, and that yes, my dad wore it in public that day, but not more than once.
It’s pretty funny because in some other photos from that day that they spent with friends, you see my parents both wearing their look-at-me hats, and all their friends are hatless. They totally look like the Crazy Hat Couple in the group photo!
See that pink hat my mom’s holding? She got a lot of mileage out of it. It lasted her from the 1960s all the way until it frayed and she had to throw it out in 2000 or so!
Also, the below photo makes me laugh because my dad unbuttoned his shirt so low, which he usually doesn’t do. The whole get-up makes me smile, and even though this photo was taken long before I was born, it reminds me of my dad’s playful side.
I hope you enjoyed this quick glimpse into what my dad was like.
Father’s Day is an important reminder to appreciate your dad, but cherish every moment you spend with him. You really never know when it could be your last, and you want to hold onto more happy thoughts than sad ones.
I’m very fortunate because I have lots of loving memories of my father, and I spent a lot of time with him. So, now that he’s continued onto the next journey in life, I can comfort myself by replaying the good times.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!
I love you!
P.S. If any of you are going through the loss of a parent, just know that you haven’t really lost them. They’re always with you in your heart, and you can take them everywhere with you. That’s something I learned after my father passed away. I hope that it also brings you some comfort and peace.