So many of the best parts of me are from my father. He is strong, smart and crafty. He taught me, through example, how to navigate this life.
Over 30 years ago, he escaped a communist war-torn country in the still of the night with his wife and 4 small children, the youngest of which was still a few weeks old. That infant happened to be me.
Growing up, I’d always been his right-hand lady.
When my little sister moved in (from the hospital), I watched as my father wove a hammock for her to sleep in. I slept underneath that hammock so we could have more space in our tiny one-bedroom house.
As a kid, under the watchful eye of my sister, I played beneath a cove of trees at the beach while my father, mother and older siblings braved the hot sun to collect soda cans to recycle as added income for the family. They’d walk miles and miles each day, carrying giant trash bags fulls of cans, amongst the bikini-clad strangers.
I was there when he fell from the rooftop of our rental home trying to repair the leak that the landlord had endlessly promised to fix. I ran to get my mother and amongst all the commotion, I watched as the blood that invaded his brain escape from his ears. My first-grader self was then too young to know the extent of the damage that required an induced-coma and brain surgery.
I was there with grommets in hand when he built his own truck camper shrouded in sheet metal that unbeknownst to my 2nd-grader self then, embarrassed my teenage siblings so. He would drop them off at school in all its gleaming gloriousness. To make sure they got to school on time, he’d drop them off at the very front of the school steps and as they climbed out of the back, the homemade plexiglass door with just-a-little-too-tight hinges smacked them in the butt. :)
I was there when all the years of hard work paid off and we had our own home where we raised chickens in our backyard in the middle of the city. He gave me my own chicken to look after that he dubbed Nerdy Nelly. My father recognized that Nelly wasn’t like the others. She was a loner that liked to be held. He also recognized the special bond I had with Nelly and our other chickens. When chicken was on the dinner menu and I didn’t partake, he understood. He’d come to my rescue when I burst into tears after my sister taunted me about the family eating my friends.
I was there when he did all the landscaping for our home. I still have the scar and tetanus records from when a particularly large tree branch fell on my arm as I watched my father from below.
My father has always been my biggest supporter.
Despite being a new immigrant and having limited English skills, he was at every single parent-teacher conference.
And although we didn’t have much money, he always encouraged learning and there never was a budget cap for books.
When I joined Science Olympiad, he came home with a giant box of straws so that I could get a head start on bridge-building.
When I came home and announced that I was going to be a vegetarian for a year, he surprised me with a case of mac and cheese.
He dropped me off and picked me up from grade school, middle school, high school and even college, every day.
My father is the king of making-do. What we didn’t have, I didn’t notice.
When I had asked about a 7-11 Slurpee, he suggested we go home and make it ourselves instead. We threw ice and orange slices into the blender and made a delicious smoothie.
He helped with all of my school projects, building the best miniature car out of things we had around the house – an old plastic lychee box with barbecue skewer axles and cardboard tires held on by beeswax bolts.
And, on my fifth-grade field trip to Coronado Island, I had the biggest and best gleaming white kite that he fashioned from heavy-duty trash bags and hand-carved bamboo rods.
25 years later, back on Coronado Island, my father married me and the Husfriend last autumn. He even sang at the reception. :)
My father always made everything better.
And now, I wish I could make it better for him…