I decided to pose the same question to myself and found myself floored. The word admiration seemed so distant and didn’t quite cover it.
A primary school composition answer would be “He was the most handsome and intelligent person to me in the universe”.
I have feelings far beyond admiration. It is overwhelming love and gratitude just for the fact that he was my Papa. Also pain that he’s not here with me to tell him so. I never did a Eulogy when he was taken from me suddenly and cruelly. I was too traumatised and wouldn’t have made it through anyway.
I’m thankful that one of his friends did, impromptu as well, but I do know that not many knew him well as he was mainly devoted to his children. And perhaps his students too. So my blog is my love letter to him.
He wasn’t a saint by any means (my mum was) and I can think of many ways he could have been better, but when you loose someone, all of that ceases to matter. All wrongs and flaws mercifully melt away.
There was no one else who made me feel that safe, that secure, that loved without a shred of doubt. I often wonder how he did that. Without the actual words “I love you”. In a way it is even more powerful as a silent declaration stamped on my heart.
There is no one with whom I don’t have to make any effort in order to be understood or loved. He made all the effort and that is how he made me feel truly loved and wanted.
He started confiding everything in me for as long as I can remember. As early as I could talk. I can recall him talking to me when I was a toddler in his arms too.
He always consulted me, never kept secrets from me and made me feel seen. I feel so lost and deeply isolated and increasingly invisible without him. He was my best friend and confidante.
He made me feel just as adequate, always. Even when I failed a test he never made me feel like I lacked the intellect.
Even when I showed no interest, he shared his memories, but now I’m so grateful he did. It’s why I have most of the answers to the usual questions. I’m not left with a gaping hole in that way. My main yearning is to be able to tell him how much I loved him in return and just hold him. Something I never did in real life (a norm for Asian parents of the 70’s), but I hope he knew.
When he asked me jokingly, when I was a little girl, whether he was handsome, showing me his graduation portrait, I always said no. Most little kids do that.
But now there is no face more so. To me he had perfect features and even my mum admitted she thought he was very handsome and had a bit of a crush on him when they first met. Is it vain of me to say this when I have half of his DNA, but am his spitting image. I’ve been told this by relatives who have never met me, but immediately knew I was his daughter. He’s way better looking then me though, because often what looks good on the male face may not work on a female.
It’s the first born girl being the female version of their father phenomenon. I’m the same even in terms of interest and introvert tendencies although we can both appear as extroverts. We are both day dreamers for sure. Book junkies as well. As a result we both also clash big time.
Even as a little kid, to me there was no one else more intelligent. Later on I realised how well rounded he was in both the sciences and the arts. I was often too lazy to flip through a dictionary so would depend on him for the meanings of words. He would say “I’m not your walking dictionary”. He definitely was though and i was astounded how he always knew.
He was brilliant in Arithmetic (my lucky sister got that part of the DNA), but unfortunately I disliked the subject very much. I loved words, but not so much numbers. Perhaps I also typecast myself in opposition to what my sister was good at.
I only did well due to many screaming crying matches with him. I realised I cried because I was worried about missing my tv shows the way kids want to get back to their ipad to use up their quota for the day. Also I was tired. (I was also hiding a secret from my parents and everyone of being a victim of SA.) I only told my father 7 months before I lost him and feel guilty about that burden I placed on him still. In that moment I had no choice but to.
In adulthood my Papa asked me apologetically if he made me hate Math? I immediately said no but as usual I was monosyllabic, felt self conscious, and didn’t elaborate. He seemed so contrite. He mellowed so much in his fifties, the age I am now. The fact that he was always willing to humble himself and apologise spoke volumes to me. Asian parents in that era never do especially fathers. And he apologised because he was truly sorry and couldn’t bear for me to be mad at him.
I was pleased with the fact that other people praised my dad. They called him handsome and my piano teacher said it was obvious that I was the apple of his eye. And because I never felt that way as a kid (he hit me, but never my sister so I had a lot of resentment against him – I hated being the Guinea pig first born). I was grateful to hear it. I needed to hear it.
I’m also glad he emphasised humility and kept me and my sister’s raging egos in check with “Don’t fish for compliments ”, “Self praise is no praise”. He also added often “Never a lender or a borrower be”. He loved those proverbs.
I’m so grateful to my partner, who made me appreciate my dad even more in his last years (although we had no clue he would be taken so soon). He pointed out what an amazingly sweet father I had. I am so glad he had a chance to meet him. He saw the kindness and sweetness that eluded me up till that point. He kept telling me how lucky I was and even now, to have the parents and extended family that I have. He confessed that he’s almost jealous.
If he had the funds my Papa would have wanted to study Medicine, but due to poverty he worked hard and obtained a Bursary in order to fund his university education. He often told me how he had to study with a kerosene lamp.
Later on he had the opportunity to pursue his masters in Mathematics in London, but of course he didn’t take it up sacrificing his dreams, for his children. He even gave up an early career in editing for a more stable teaching job, but I sure am proud of him for having published a Physics Book in his last years. He was so diligent and sacrificed so much for us. I am a worthless sloth in comparison.
He wanted to do more and desired to be a writer of novels. He shared that he wanted to write short stories about his daughters, I so stupidly screamed “Noooo”. Boy do I regret that now. What a treasure trove that would have been for me. I would give anything to have more insights into the way he viewed us.
If he lived for more years and I had the maturity to encourage him he definitely would have written perhaps his Autobiography. It is why I do what I do now.
My whole life, all I want is for him to be proud of me and I still do desire that. Now I also want my nieces to be proud of me (I hope they know they have my whole heart) and am trying my very best.