My Dad

Today is Father’s Day. Let me tell you about my dad.

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Most people know my dad as a jokester. He is a kid at heart, sometimes to the point of annoyance and immaturity. He’ll try to cheer you up when you’re down.  He’s also known as a handyman. People call him up when they need some fixing on their house or computer. My dad is a hard worker. He’ll keep at something until the job is done, or there really is no solution. If you ever see him at work, he’ll be inspecting things at all angles, which makes him look like kind of a weirdo, but he knows what he’s doing. His shirt gets completely soaked when he’s working, even in winter. My dad is a manly man. He likes action movies, explosions, red meat, things on Spike TV. He also likes really stupid, comedic stuff, and he’s not afraid to give out a big laugh just to show you how funny he thinks something is. My dad is a great storyteller. (Too bad I didn’t get that trait).

When I was a kid, my dad would tell my sister and I stories before we went to sleep. I say stories because when the first one was over, we would always ask for another and my dad would happily oblige. My dad would lie on the ground in between our beds with his hands either folded and resting on his belly, eyes closed, or behind his head as if he were gazing at the stars. My dad told stories in Chinese (heck, most things in my childhood were in Chinese… I wonder when I started switching over to English…). Most of the stories included monsters (or “weird socks” if you translate it literally from Cantonese with bad tone) and kid(s) that defeated the monster. They were magical stories with princesses and talking animals. My dad was really great at improvising. A few times he would start out with a story he had already told us and we would say, “Hey, we’ve heard this one before!” and he would reply, “No you haven’t!” and continue on with a different ending.

Some nights when my dad was really tired, one story was all we would get. Other times, he would trick us and say that that was enough stories for one night and pretend to leave. Then he would be like “Okay, fine…” and come back and start singing this story-song about a kid who never ate his meals and was always having temper tantrums… “and his/her name was….” and my sister and I would try to guess who he was thinking of – usually we would call each other out because we didn’t want to be the “bad, disobedient kid.” When he told this story-song he did it to buy time to think of another story. There were often silences which we would interrupt, and he would tell us he was thinking. Occasionally these silences turned to snoring and we would have to wake him up. Usually in those few seconds of sleep, he would come up with new and exciting stories to tell.

Another thing from my childhood: When we lived in Miami, my dad use to go and sell stuff at flea markets in Orlando. Most of the time I would be allowed to go with him. It was always a Sunday-Monday ordeal. When I think back to it now I wonder why my parents let me skip school, but then again, it was only pre-k or kindergarten, so I couldn’t have been missing much. Anyway, we would leave on Sunday night and stay over at a friend’s house, then wake up at 5am to set up our stand at the market. My dad let me help him unload the truck and he would always tell me how strong I was. I remember one time we finished unloading early so we went to a food stand and my dad got me hot chocolate while he got a cup of coffee. Like most kids, I wanted to be grown-up, so I would pretend that my hot chocolate was coffee and I would get one of those stirrers and mix my drink around. I then proceeded to use the stirrer as a straw, but not before my dad warned me that I would burn my tongue. I, of course, didn’t listen, believing that I would be careful enough, but I indeed did burn my tongue, and never used one of those stirrer things again.

Some of my most memorable gifts came from this flea market. Mickey Mouse beach towels, gray v-neck sweaters with tacky, colorful glitter-glue decorations… My dad always made sure I picked something out for my mom and my sister too. I wore that sweater until I outgrew it, and used that towel until it was almost as thin as tissue paper.

One of my dad’s favorite memories of us together is one that I don’t remember at all, but he loves to tell me anyway. I must’ve been 3 or younger and apparently we would sing together outside at night while he painted the house. Don’t ask me why he was painting the house at night.

I’m really thankful that I have my dad as a dad. There are a lot of things I’ve learned from him and appreciate now that I use to think were stupid and pointless. 1. My dad rarely ever let us sleep in as a kids. Ten AM was the latest we were ever be allowed to sleep, or he would come storming in and make us get up. It’s true, the morning hours are when you can get the most stuff done. 2. I use to think my dad was a mean boss. I would see him yell at his workers for making mistakes or for being lazy, unobservant, or just plain dumb for not doing anything when something was going wrong. I use to say to my mom “Why can’t he be nicer when he talks to his employees?” She never really gave me an answer. Now I see that he wasn’t being mean, but just trying to make them better people. Sure, there are softer ways to go about criticism, but it’s the hard stuff that sticks with you.

I’m really lucky to have a dad who is supportive of the things I do. How many dads, and Chinese dads at that, would allow their kid to quit school to go pursue culinary (and hopefully carpentry if there’s time)? Though I sometimes feel it in my heart, my dad would never say “Dishonor! Dishonor on your whole family! Dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow, dishonor on…” You get the point. (That’s from Mulan by the way, in case you were trying but couldn’t figure it out).

Here’s a video from a few years ago. See how cool my dad is?

Hehheh. I love my dad.

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