Dad Stories, or “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

the great gatsby opening

Sometimes I write about Dad. In fact, to be honest, I do it more often these days than never before;

October 26, 2015

Tonight while I readied to take out the trash for the scheduled early morning pickup, I joked with Dad that while other people have helpers – a common presence in Malaysian households – to do house chores, everything in our family home is voluntary and free labor. Like this evening with those gift packs, I added, meaning those colorful bags filled with candies which I helped to fill for Eldest Sis’ small family-event this Saturday. “In other households, these are usually done by their maids. But here? It’s all by residents of the house!” I said with a laugh, meaning nothing beyond these words.

Without turning to look at me – as usual, because few things that come out from my mouth surprise him – he simply quietly said, “Teamwork, Jane.” As in, just think of it as working together – no one loses. I responded, “But of course!” and made my way downstairs and outside to empty the trash, though I could not help but let out a huge grin the whole time.

It’s just so like him, you know? Even in the littlest things, he’s always thinking kindly of a situation or person.

Once again, not for the first time, I thought to myself that I genuinely hope that as I grow older, my soul will emulate his. With all the sincerity in my heart, I hope I will turn into an adult, woman, who not only looks at everything in life with glass half-full perspectives, but most importantly do so towards people and their circumstances. In his heart and through his mind’s eyes, everyone is a white canvas – pure, untainted, and well-meaning. His heart is as gentle as his soul.

I pray with all my might that my heart will remain as soft as his is, when I reach the(his) grand age of 65 …because as has been said before, it takes courage to stay gentle in a hardened world. Dad’s a true champ.

October 20, 2015

Two nights ago I shared with Mum and Dad stories from my recent Amsterdam trip, including recalling hilarious commentaries made by one of two of our travel partners. By training, he’s a religious scholar who completed his studies in the Middle East …yet recalled tales from youth filled with PG19 details.

I went into specifics about some of the crazy adventures he lived to recall tales of and Dad, as usual, never once looked up from his laptop screen – no raised eyebrows or flinching; nothing. At the end of my storytelling as Mum was just about to draw her long point (because Mum is Mum ha), Dad responded with only a short statement, “Itulah. Sebaik-baik manusia pun, manusia jugakkan.” (lit. That’s it. How mighty a human being – still a human being.)

When I shared his response with Eldest Sis yesterday, I told her, “I thought it was a meaningful reply from him that said everything.” She smiled. “He has this ability, isn’t it? He doesn’t come off as judging too.” I kept quiet while I changed lanes (yes, I was driving! Brownie points) then said with a sigh, as if in afterthought, “He’s so poetic with his words sometimes.” Silly me, though I didn’t say this out loud, for sometimes wondering from where or whom did I inherit this gift with words. Bonus points if my heart beats gently like his does, with kindness and tenacity.

October 19, 2015

I told Dad about my news-from-Facebook this week, that I was very surprised to find out some girls from my high school batch were/had gotten married (I’m a late-bloomer adult, forgive my snail’s pace – still mentally computing the fact that while I’m just about to start holding a job – my first – others are already moving on to phase 2+ of adulthood) and of course, how this also meant their best girlfriends stood as bridesmaids. “Wow, these girls,” I confessed to him, Almost unrecognizable, some of them. I had to zoom in to identify who’s who. They’ve grown up so well. They’ve all become… ladies.” I laughed, then paused for a long second. “It makes me feel odd in comparison, in a way? Here I am, still the same old; looking like this, dressed like this.” Dad, without looking up from his laptop screen, responded in the most unperturbed tone, “That’s good … isn’t that good? You’re you. You’re still you. Why would you want to change you?” 

I’m… always grateful that I grew up and am raised by parents who’ve always encouraged their kids to have distinct, strong sense of selves – to so much as wish, forget aspire, to be someone else much less think it’s okay to just settle for second-rate versions of ourselves – non-negotiable, unacceptable. There are elements from our childhood and upbringing that we can only understand in hindsight through older, exposed eyes; Alhamdulillah. Because the only version that was allowed in the family home was our best, truest and most authentic selves – hey, I grew up and turned out well too.

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