Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

"You would never get through to the end of being a father, no matter where you stored your mind or how many steps in the series you followed. Not even if you died. Alive or dead or a thousand miles distant, you were always going to be on the hook for work that was neither a procedure nor a series of steps but, rather, something that demanded your full, constant attention without necessarily calling on you to do, perform, or say anything at all...
Fathering imposed an obligation that was more than your money, your body, or your time, a presence neither physical nor measurable by clocks: open-ended, eternal, and invisible, like the commitment of gravity to the stars." - Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon

Like the commitment of gravity to the stars.

It's almost two months, but the wound and the emptiness still has not gone away. Grief is a pain that comes suddenly and intensely; a child with a tantrum, who won't listen to reason.

As I forlornly play Bejeweled on this celebratory day, I reflect through the miasma of loss on (one of the) most important things my father imprinted on me, his life reflected in mine. In the end all that matters is who you are, not what you've done.

My father did well in his life, coming from a pretty poor background to rise to middle-classhood, with a job that matched his interests, a wife and two kids. He would have been set to work for a number more years and retire gracefully, having saved well, and spend more time with his kids. Although it didn't quite work out that way, with an early retirement from downsizing, followed by successive rounds of cancer a few years later, my father did not descend into despair or bitterness. He was kind, loving, had a quirky sense of humor with occasional lapses in spelling, and always showed us affection. Despite the physical suffering and tedium he faced, and probably fear as well, during his cancer, he remained faithful, strong, and steadfast; facing challenges hopefully and honestly.

"Everything you ask daddy to do, daddy takes it seriously!" - And he would. Files full of mundane events and the detritus of life, meticulously organized, from my SPM and IB results, to a copy of all our IDs, and a detailed holiday calendar...even after his high-wage career was over, he took the business of household seriously and loved to improve, improvise, and delight in the small and big things he could do to make all our lives better. When I came home after he passed away, I saw that he had recently put a cup into the CD compartment/middle-of-the-car storage compartment, so he could drop the house keys in there, for easy fishing out when we needed to open the electric gate. Classic daddy workarounds.

I will miss him in innumerable ways, especially for his patience, his humor, and his love. I wish so much that he could have spent more time with us, good days and years with the family he had put so much of his life into.

But not all is lost. His great gifts to me I will always carry. One of the most precious being the example of his own life, a life marked with accomplishments of the spirit and character. In an achievement-oriented world, where one's worth is determined by money and power, my father's life and words remind me to check my own desire for achievement - not to let it warp my character, and not to let the fickle winds of fortune determine my attitude to life and take precedence over the things which are true, noble, and eternal.

I love you, daddy. Thank you for leaving us with no regrets.

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