Today, 5 September, marks Father’s Day in Australia. Unlike other countries such as the US and the UK, our celebration falls on the first Sunday of September. For most of us, our dads fill an important role in our lives. For starters, we can thank them for the gift of life. They are among our first teachers and growing up, are our prime role models. They are the breadwinners who nurture our talents. They show us the way. I can share a lot of tales about my dad because he has done so much good to us. However, I’ll pick a few to represent the whole.
- ‘Do the right thing.’ This is one of my father’s catch phrases. Later, I heard of a Spike Lee joint with the same title. The directive seems easy enough: stick to the rules, be morally upright. Having seen the things, I’ve seen; this is easier said than done. As youngsters, this is not difficult. Most of us would listen to our elders in following the straight and narrow. We are developing a sense of right and wrong and are still finding our place in the world. Our parents are the natural buffer as we navigate the microcosm. Therefore, to be adults and to be still doing the wrong thing is inexcusable. When we make flaws, this reflects how we were brought up. In case you’re wondering, one’s abode cannot be a mere pit stop to have meals and gather things. The home is the place to grow, to learn from one’s mistakes.
- Grace before meals. As a child, my father bought this tablet and positioned it at the head of our dining table. It contained the full text of the grace before meals. My dad taught us how to give thanks prior to consumption. He showed us how to do the sign of the cross and soon we knew the prayer by heart. Growing up, we always had our meals together. This is significant as my classmate, Juanito, told me that they ate separately. Apart from this, he likewise taught us how to pray the rosary and we prayed this together when we had the chance. Moreover, he introduced the Thanksgiving Prayer to us. We learned how to be grateful for our blessings. The knowledge he shared has long remained.
- The value of an education. My dad is a staunch advocate of the merits of the classroom. He valued our education enough that I spent my formative years studying in the oldest institution in our area. When we needed something for school, he never forgot them. He was there during our graduations and even during recognition days. Regardless, he urged us to be more than high achievers. Whenever we traded stories at the dinner table, I remarked that he always had the most interesting day.
- Chess. When I was in school, I remember taking an interest in board games. He bought us a scrabble board, and, for me, a wooden chess set. He topped it off by purchasing two beginner’s guides to the latter. In high school, I transformed into a two-time scrabble doubles champion. Meanwhile, I played chess casually with schoolmates, forging new bonds. With chess, I was more a student of the game. Over many lunchbreaks, I watched as others showcased their mad skills. I even joined the chess club as a freshman. Furthermore, my dad also gave me a basketball as one of his Christmas gifts. Soon, I couldn’t stop watching and talking about basketball.
- Campus writer. As per above, my father fostered our gifts. Together with my sister’s help, they moulded the writer in me. My sister heard about the qualifying exam for the school paper. Consequently, in my sophomore year, I became sports editor. That year, I would write the paper’s banner headline in the last issue. This set the stage for senior year, where I would secure the associate editor post after acing the exam. I would go on to get published in magazines. Later, I would write an Honours thesis, hard-earned manuscripts, and I maintain this blog. While I would utilise the help of invaluable lifesavers, my dad represented one of my earliest believers and proponents.
- Cooking. My dad was a wannabe chef. Over the years, he’d cook all sorts of delicious grub for us. Whether it’s soup or pasta, American or Chinese cuisine, he got us covered. He is fond of fish, fresh produce, and sandwiches. He taught us not to be fussy and to eat everything (as he did). I have fond memories of Sundays. He would cook tuna or blue marlin in flour, which we would pair with rice and fresh seaweed. He would then make freshly squeezed lemonade from our front yard lemon grove. Other Sundays, we’d have beef soup. Yet on other occasions, it was tenderloin steak with the same plus pili. He cooked on other days, but Sunday was best as he honoured the Sabbath.
- Books. Early on, he instilled in us a love for books. As toddlers, he constantly read to us despite his busy schedule. Most of our earliest reads were from Childcraft and a bevy of picture books. He bought a whole set of the World Book encyclopaedia, which I started perusing this on the summer of third grade. He both the latter and Childcraft together as a set. The tomes greatly aided my flair for writing. In high school, I wanted a copy of this nonfiction hostage book. He gladly bought it for me, brand-new. For all high school, he purchased the newspaper daily. Even though we had the nightly news, reading the papers furthered my passion even more.
- Trying new things. Intrepid is a good descriptor of dad. He does not limit himself to one dimension; instead, he explores. When he tries something new, he’ll try the other iterations and brands. His reasoning: how can you say it’s bad when you haven’t even tried it? Aside from being daring, he’s also a plus listener. Irrespective of one’s standing, he’ll hear out their side. He’s lived in Germany, Asia, and Australia. In those stints, he has easily adapted to the change in food, climate, and terrain. From a young age, he’s shown me how one could live and thrive independently. Though he’s far from an island, he’s as self-sufficient and cool as Ibiza.
These vignettes are light portraits of my father. His influence is such that I would need a good many blog posts and yet that would just scratch the surface. I haven’t even mentioned how, as a young man, he’s been on three continents and hopscotched through Europe. How he likes to have a mid-afternoon snack (merienda), which I have since adopted. Have I mentioned that he has a green thumb? My dad wears many hats but being a parent par excellence is at the top of them. As I touched on in a prior blog post, we remember the good deeds. As my dad has shown, being great or powerful is not the same as being honourable. I would like to take this opportunity to wish my dad and all dads out there, a ‘Happy Father’s Day!’