Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father’s Day Message

“The key to Immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”

Some of you might be familiar with this sage advice given by a legendary father, Bruce Lee. Because of his legendary status, many might be led to discount its meaning, but on this day of remembrance, I ask you, How will you be remembered? As a child, I remember my father not being home very much, and being a bit perturbed about it, but even then I knew him as the quiet, reserved man of great intellect and skill that many people revered him for. I always felt he was uncomfortable around children, which seemed kind of strange given his profession (he delivered babies to put his kids through college and fund our somewhat fruitless attempts at family businesses), until he met mine. In a way, I’m a bit jealous because it seems like he was really waiting for the grandchildren and grooming us to make it happen. It wasn’t until I finished college that the curtain was thrown back, and revealed to me that my Wizard of Oz was really human after all. I always respected my father, first because my mom said so (or else), then later because of the moving litany of how his life was unfolded to me, and how it ended.

My father was, as most people are in our beloved country, an immigrant from a far away land, looking for a better place in which to have a family and future. Many of you may be generations away from the days when homes had no electricity, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and hot water bathing. Going to school barefoot uphill both ways in hand-me-down clothes when you weren’t doing chores to keep the house together - this was the life of my parents as children, and I am supremely grateful for the spoils they have given me here in America. He had to be something of an entrepreneur to afford medical school, so he would shoot pictures of people with his Kodak Brownie to fund his expenses. Often he was faced with the choice of riding a jeepney home hungry or making the long walk home with little or nothing to eat. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself, I remember that my parents suffered a lot to get me indoor plumbing, hot showers, hot food, and air conditioning. It makes me work smarter to honor his memory.

My father would never take credit for the life he built “by himself”, because he firmly believed he never would have made it in America without his beloved wife. They kept each other going and helped each other be efficient at work and at home. They fought like married couples should – mostly about the important stuff and never in fear of losing love over a difference of opinion. Neither would he want to be remembered as a singular entity, because his wife was together with him in everything, except in dying, for which I am also grateful, because I don’t think I could bear such a heavy weight on my heart.

He left this world rather suddenly, and this will be the second Father’s Day we will celebrate without him in person. His impression is so deep on me that his spirit carries on, and despite his lengthy illness at the end of his life, I will always treasure that we were always able to laugh together like nothing else mattered, because in the end, being together with your family is all that really matters. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

I think my own remembrance as “Dad” has the tank at about half-full. I have been calculating that my kids will be so full of me by the time they leave the nest, they won’t “need” me at the end of college or wherever life leads them, because they will be well-trained, well-balanced, and driven to succeed in whatever vocation they choose.

How will you be remembered?

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