I am a father of 2 boys.
Since I step into fatherhood, I had tried to make it something my relationship with my father was lacking... to be close to my sons. I would not vouch that I am a success; in fact I get into more uncountable fights with my boys than I did with my Dad. However together with the fights, I get the hugs and kisses too.
There is something amiss in my past 4 decades of my life. I have never been close to the one I call 'Di'. Di and I have at best a cordial relationship. We do not really confide into each other save for one or two precious moments. We are not close as one would phantom from a pro family Daddy Blogger. We do have common passions such eating ice cream and watching a game of soccer (I still remembered the time Di bought me to the National Stadium to watch a soccer match and experienced the Kallang Roar more than 20 years ago), but these experiences were fleeting. The lack of interaction probably boiled down to the earliest memories I had of my father planting his palm across my face for arguing with Mom when i was about 13. Yeah, as you could probably tell that I was a rebellious kid. Fortunately I was reined in by the powers-to-be to be who I am today. As a Father now, I understood Di's action. Unfortunately the incident had been etched in my memory and probably a stumbling block in building a stronger relationship with Di.
Di has always been a discipline man. He is a 'silent but strong' person, who had single-handedly put a roof over our heads, supported two kids through varsity, bought me my first car and gave us a comfortable life. All these were done through his own hard work and sweat. He may not show his love as affectionately as a father should, but he was always there in the background. He was there at the graduation ceremony, he proudly walked down the aisle as a father to a daughter, he witnessed his son's marriage and now he loves to be around with his grandchildren. I could not remember the times he played with me when I was younger. However seeing how my boys enjoy his company, I could only imagine.
We may not have many conversations or shared laughter over a joke and beer, but I know he is always there, the pillar of the house.
You may say I am very different from my father in the ways I interact with my children, but you could also say I am my father's son. Let me explain. I do not look like Di. For one I do not have his imposing height and stature, nor do I process the lean genes. However I can see my father in me in the things I do. For example, whenever I am at the breakfast table, I never fail to have the newspaper with me as my father did. Di could not finish a meal without reading the paper as well. I had picked up the same habit and along the way worldly knowledge that serve me well till this day. Even the wife noticed that this similarity between myself and Di. I guess kids do learn and imitate their parents by simply watching them. Speaking of breakfast, I remember right through my growing up years, Di will always be the one to buy breakfast for us without fail. It would be the same economic bee hoon or carrot cake. It may not be the healthiest of dishes but it was the tastiest. The tradition lives in my household and I had started buying breakfast bee hoon for my boys sans the carrot cake. It was then I realize how much I had learn from my dad about a father's role in the family. He is the one that does the little yet essential daily chores for the family - without seeking neither compliment nor reward.
Other than mannerism, there are some common values I shared with Di and more importantly one that I am proud of. You see Di had always been the sole provider to the family. We may not have the riches one may dream but we were kept sufficient and contended. As his children, both Sis and I are well taken care of. We were put through university, me locally and Sis overseas. In between we were never once devoid of what was necessary. However since funds were limited, there was always a trade-off. Di would scrimp on himself and splurge on his family. An example- for the longest time (more than 20 years) , he had been using the same briefcase to work, never seeing the need to change for a new one. Yet at the same breath, he bought me my first car, without batting an eyelid. In a way this had subconsciously rub off on me. I tend to be more conservative on expenses for myself but I would hardly blink if I spend on the family.
And you know what, it actually made me feel good that I can provide. It made me happy and contended as a father. I would have imagine this is how Di would have felt when he done the same over and over the past 4 decades. I guess it takes a father to know a dad.
Another thing that struck me is Di devotion to 'Mi'. Mi, if you can already phantom, is my mom. (Di and Mi, guess i am just plain lazy when i was young) He had been through thick and thin with her over the past 40 years. It is amazing to see how he is still devoted to her. A trait, I hope to emulate with my wife. Interestingly Di is the strong and silent one in the relationship. Mi is the social butterfly. She practically knows everyone in her block and the market. They may be opposites but they attract and stuck naturally like magnets. They are a pair of role models for me and Sis to follow.
And to Di, I never said this in a long long while. In fact I could not remember when the last time these words came out from me to you.
I love you Dad.