I have no doubt this is the toughest post I will ever write. Or should I say, toughest anything I will write. Today is Fathers’ Day in some parts of the world. In Australia, it’s in September but in Hong Kong, where I originally came from (plus in the US and other countries), it’s in June. So Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads out there.
This year will be the first Fathers’ Day without my Dad. Back in March, my Dad passed away from a pretty sudden illness. We first found out in November 2014 and he left just 4 months later. Even after we found out he was seriously ill, he lived a pretty normal life up until a month before. It’s been hard to accept the truth, given our history.
My Dad and I were never that close. And I say this not in a negative way, at least not in a way you’re probably thinking. We just never spent enough time together to become close. Ever since I was in high school, my Dad worked overseas and we would probably see each other for the maximum of about 3 months a year. He used to be an ‘astronaut’ as it was known, flying between Australia and Hong Kong. I would spend my summers in HK etc. It was pretty common amongst migrant families.
I guess it’s a common stereotype that Asian parents are not that affectionate with their children. My Dad was kinda like that. He was never that strict with me though. It was always my mum who would be ‘the bad guy’ and he would be the one trying to smooth things over. It was during these times I knew Dad and I were more on the same wavelength. Even if we have never shown affection towards each other, I felt that ‘closeness’ to him.
However, this was something I’d only gradually realise after he became ill. Because we never really ‘just talked’ I didn’t share a lot of my life with him and neither did he. One time, he told me he thought that I had already grown up now. I’m able to make my own decisions so I don’t necessarily have to consult with him. I feel like I know more about him from his blog than from talking to him. That was the state of our relationship. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s something I never thought was an issue but now that I look back, it felt wrong. I could’ve done better and I should’ve. I respected him a lot but I was never able to show him that.
Regret is a word I rarely used in my life. I used to think – there was a reason why I made a certain decision and since I can’t go back in time, there’s no point in regret. I learnt something from the experience and I need to move on. But of course, there’s a first to everything, for better or for worse. Even though I can’t do anything about it now, I still regret I didn’t get to know my father better. He lived a rather interesting life, including travels to over 30 countries. He loved to tell the story where he ate camel meat in the Middle East or all the vodka he had to drink in Belarus. Plus, how many people can say they’ve been to countries like Iran, Norway or Turkey? Although he never said it, maybe a life in quiet Australia was never really for him. He travelled and worked in many places because he had the travel bug in his veins. Now that he has passed on, I would like to think that he has gone on a new adventure, somewhere none of us have seen or experienced. He would’ve been excited about it.
I try to stay positive, I really do. At least he didn’t have to suffer, we keep telling ourselves. At least his family was by his side as he took his last breath. If you ever think your life is tough, going to a cemetery is a humbling experience. As I read the words on strangers’ memorials, I see all the love expressed by their families written in a few lines. I see those who passed on even before they lived. I see young lives lost. I can’t help but think how lucky I am even just being here. It really puts things in perspective.
On the other hand, I think of the ‘what ifs’. Recently, in one of those ‘get to know you’ questions people tag you on Tumblr, one of the question was – What is your dream wedding? I’m not one of those people who have dreams being a princess on her perfect day (actually, I never really thought about my future wedding at all) but one of the things I always thought will be there, was my father, walking me down the aisle, like you see in the movies. The realisation this will never happen. The realisation my children will never get to meet their grandfather. That really hurts. The things you once took for granted, are gone from your grasp. So many maybes. It’s just really difficult not to think about them. Sometimes, it’s like he’s still here. We used to spend months apart anyway. But I know, we’ll eventually have to accept that he won’t be coming back this time.
The first thing I wrote on this blog after this happened was – I finally understand what people mean when they say dramas help them escape from their everyday lives. With dramas, I could engross myself in the characters. I was able to smile a little and not think about what happened. But at the same time, every time I see a drama dad being protective of his children, or just being awesome in general, tears will roll down my eyes. I just can’t help it.
I don’t know why I wanted to write this post. Maybe it’s because I never really truly appreciated Fathers’ Day until my own father is gone. We all get so caught up in our own lives and I know it’s cliché, but we take certain things for granted. I certainly did. I can’t say ‘I’m a changed person!’ but this… of course it affected me and I’m not sure I can quantify that right now. In any case, on this day, or any day really, take care of everyone you care about. Don’t get hung up on the obstacles in life – whether it’s studies, work, relationships or whatever… because at the end of the day, even if you made the biggest mistakes, you still have the chance to rectify it. Fail an exam, you can study harder and retake it. Lost a job, there’re other opportunities out there. Broke up with your boy/girlfriend… well, there will be someone else for you even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. There’s still hope, right? But a life, once it’s taken away is lost forever.
Maybe it’s fate that a few months ago I found a television show called ‘Forever’. The male lead is (for an unknown reason) immortal and we see his struggles with seeing his loved ones leave before him. I guess that show in some way, helped me deal with what was happening. Even though the show was not renewed 🙁 it was really full of great quotes and life advice some of which I thought I’d share.
As sad and dreadful as death may be, it forces us to cherish every moment. Because the truth is, life is precious because it’s finite.
– Forever 1×03: Fountain of Youth
Nothing can erase the pain of losing someone you love. You carry it with you for the rest of your life, however long that might be. The best you can hope for is that over time, the wound begins to heal. But no matter how strong we are, no matter how hard we fight, the scar always stays with us.
– Forever 1×02: Look before you leap