Today’s post is my annual tribute to my dad for Father’s Day. He passed away in 2010. He had an aneurysm and was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, but didn’t make it out of the ER. Needless to say, it was devastating, and it all happened so quickly that you couldn’t prepare for this tragedy.
I had a very close and loving relationship with my father, which is why I continue to write about him each year. Sometimes, I sprinkle memories about him in my usual beauty posts, too.
(You can read the previous posts about my dad that I published on the blog in 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. For those who are only interested in my nail or beauty blog posts, things will be going back to usual in the coming week.)
I almost can’t believe that it has already been six years. Time flies, whether or not you’re having fun. But life isn’t always about having fun and the good times. It’s about growing and learning, as well as having the courage to pick yourself up and carry on, even when your instinct is to curl up in a fetal position.
Each year that I sit down to prepare a Happy Father’s Day post, it’s always a struggle where I’m fighting back tears and thinking about aborting the task several times.
But the drive to honour my father propels me, and I remind myself that I have already accomplished tasks that I previously thought were impossible. (What you are capable or incapable of doing is up to you.)
For instance, when my father passed away, the last thing I wanted to do was to write a eulogy. Emotions were high, and the act of writing seemed trivial at a time when my world was caving in.
But I did it. And I read it aloud to friends and family during the visitation at the funeral home because I wanted to honour my dad’s life, his legacy, and what his love for me meant.
I also was one of the pallbearers.
If I can do that, then I can certainly do this.
As I reminisce about all the times I spent with my dad, one thing stands out: I have a lot to be grateful for.
I’m thankful that my dad was there for me. He raised me with love, put a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food on the table. He drove me to elementary school, took me to the orthodontist to get braces, drove me to my piano lessons, and attended the school plays I performed in.
When I was a kid, no matter how many times (over and over again) I imitated my teachers’ funny antics at home, he would laugh and encourage my sense of humour. And when I picked up the whisk as a makeshift microphone and sang some of my dad’s favourite songs (we’re both music lovers), he’d join in. (The father-daughter duet, Unforgettable by Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole was one of our favourite songs.)
Then, as I entered high school and went through hormonal ups and downs, my dad was always there to lend a sympathetic ear, solid advice, and stories from his youth, which helped me realize that I’d be okay and that they were simply growing pains.
I knew I could always rely on my dad for emotional support because he loved me unconditionally.
Even when it came to practical things, I could rely on him.
As a teen at my first part-time job, I nearly had a disaster that seemed to be straight out of the “Say Anything” section in YM magazine.
(Back in those days, YM was a very popular fashion, beauty, and lifestyle magazine for teenaged girls. It was the rival to Seventeen magazine. “Say Anything” was one of their regular features where readers would send in stories of their most embarrassing experiences. Usually they involved bikinis falling off while swimming, period blood staining white pants, or doing something ridiculous in front of a cute crush.)
If it weren’t for my dad rushing over with sanitary supplies, I could’ve been one of those girls featured in the magazine. 😉 He saved the day, and when I got home later that night, yes, he joked, “What would you do without your dear dad?”
Many years later, I’m now in my 30s, and I sometimes ask myself, “What have I been doing without my dad?” Turns out, a lot.
Time doesn’t stand still when someone passes away, even though, at your lowest, you feel that time should stop. You feel almost insulted that things carry on as usual and that somehow the universe doesn’t acknowledge your suffering. At least, this is how I felt then in my bubble.
Since my dad taught me well through his own example, I was able to pick up my life, find new happiness, and become independent and confident in who I am.
All the life lessons he taught me about the value of hard, honest work, doing what’s right instead of what’s easy, and protecting yourself against people who try to hurt you all came into play. I am glad that I was listening all those years to my dad because, even now, I have used his wisdom and advice to help myself overcome obstacles.
My dad had a rough life. His childhood was nowhere near as happy or as smooth as mine. It amazes me how he came from a background of virtually nothing, yet he was able to give me everything.
I’m not referring to material objects. My family was never rich, and he came from a very poor family that couldn’t afford to buy him shoes. And his step-mother (who he always just called his mother) was the only person in his village who could read!
When I say that my dad gave me everything, it wasn’t in the form of the trendiest clothes, makeup, or purses. It was more limited-edition than that. It was his love.
He always made me feel wanted, important, and valued, but he didn’t instill fantasies and overconfidence, either. Through everything he said to me, I got the message that I could achieve my goals, but I would have to work hard.
That’s why I am the type of person who isn’t afraid to pull up my sleeves. And I don’t just mean in the symbolic sense. I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty.
Thanks to my dad, I learned how to do a lot of things myself without having to run to a professional, such as painting walls, steam-cleaning carpets, cleaning windows, replacing faucets, fixing common toilet problems, etc.
Sometimes when I ask people about certain home repairs, they’ll say, “Just hire someone.” But when possible, I prefer to do it myself. It’s not to save a buck. It’s because I want to learn how it’s done. That way, if it happens again, I’ll know what to do, and I won’t be at the mercy of someone else. Even when the issue does require an expert, I like to watch as they work, and I ask a lot of questions because that’s how you pick up great tips and tricks.
My dad encouraged me to continually improve myself and my skills. He also didn’t force-feed me stereotypes.
When I was a child, I was very much a “girly girl” and wore as much pink as I could. There’s nothing wrong with that, but my dad wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be stuck in a stereotype, thinking that girls had to act a certain way to be a girl. (His attitude was very feminist, when I think about it.)
For instance, my first toy wasn’t a doll or a stuffed animal. It was what I can only describe as the Abominable Snowman crossed with a baby girl! It was really odd, but looking back, I love it even more because it was so weird.
It was like a doll in that it had the human figure and a girl’s face and hands, but there was no hair or cute clothing, just a fluffy-pink onesie covering the entire body and head. It looked like the most ridiculous and most conservative snowsuit!
The reason my parents told me that was my first toy was because my dad didn’t want to give me a regular doll (like a Barbie) at such a young age. He didn’t want to fill my mind with stereotypes. Even though he was against dolls, my mom convinced him to get me that quasi-doll. 😉 And guess what? I loved it a lot, and it’s still safe and sound at my mom’s.
There was another cool thing that my dad did. Although I was probably around 3- or 4-years old at the time, as I got older, it was this incident that we always talked about, so it really stuck in my head.
One day, after it rained and all the worms came wriggling onto the sidewalk, my dad picked up one of them and showed it to me. Then, he asked me to pick up a worm. Why? He thought that lots of girls grow up being taught to be afraid of things, even things like little insects. He didn’t want to teach me fear. He wanted to teach me confidence.
As I picked up the worm, he asked me to look at it. I looked at it. Then, he told me the worm was harmless and then to carefully place it back on the ground. Toddler Mary was not squeamish in the slightest, which is more than what a lot of grown women can say!
When people are alive, we don’t always get a chance to thank them for all the things they have done for us. Parents, especially. A lot of times, we take them for granted, particularly when we’re coming of age.
I always knew that my dad was a great man, but the older I get and the more I look back, he continues to inspire me. I will always keep his memory alive!
To those fortunate ones who still have their fathers around, cherish every moment, not just on Father’s Day. The things your dad teaches you will last a lifetime.