It's so unnerving to realise just how much we forget in our lives. When I created memory books for my son that documented the first two years of his life, I get surprised when I read details in those books that I have already forgotten, just after a few years had passed. That's why those books serve as a constant reminder to me that I should try to find more time to document things that really matter.
So, here I am, documenting 10 memories of my dad for his memorial week. I know that I am deliberately choosing mostly the positive bits. But, I do acknowledge that there were tough bits in our life too. However, when you lose someone like this, you realise that the difficult memories don't really matter anymore. After all, love is not about finding perfection, but overcoming imperfections.
Remembering these moments help me to celebrate the love and life that I've shared with my dad...
Memory #1: As a child, I remember him telling me stories at bedtime. Mostly Filipino folk tales about the monkey and the turtle. I don't think he did it regularly nor did he do it for a long time. But, regardless of how long and how often he did, those storytelling moments stayed with me. And, I believe it helped to fuel my love for stories.
Memory #2: My Dad's cure for ailments when I was a kid, which included getting a warm foot bath and massage. I blogged about it once before - Of Kisses, Hugs, and Other Home Remedies.
Memory #3: I remember playing with homemade toys that my dad made out of old tin cans, bottle cops and wire. They seemed such magical creations to me. They taught me a few things in life: a) you can make something out of anything; b) even simple toys can bring a lot of joy to a child; c) creativity is a beautiful thing.
Memory #4: Writing of creativity, I know that even though my dad did not directly encourage me to become a writer or an artist, I remember him reciting a love poem he wrote for my mom during their courting days. It became quite a standing a joke for the family, that poem. He also wrote in his notebooks a lot. And, I remember being inspired by the knowledge of how words can be such powerful things. I also remember my dad doing a few sketches, drawings, and calligraphy. I loved them - and attempted to copy them a lot as a kid. I think those things helped me to enjoy art and creativity in general. That's why when we last saw each other in Nov/Dec 2007, I gave him a Moleskine journal as a gift. With it, I gave him the very last letter that I wrote for him. In that letter, I told him this very memory that I'm sharing here. I said that I wanted him to give that journal as a way for him to continue writing, sketching, and recording memories because he has inspired me to get started in this path of creative living. The next day, he happily showed me that he already started writing in that journal. I want to hold that memory in my mind forever.
Memory #5: The silly moments. One of the things about my dad that our family talk about a lot are the silly "quotable moments" that we've had. Like that time we had a crazy family argument whilst eating chocolate-covered macadamia nuts in our family kitchen. You see, my dad just suddenly decided that Macadamias were really Pili Nuts. My mom, 2 brothers, sister, and I had to say that macadamia and pili are two different types of nuts. He insisted that perhaps, overseas (Hawaii, in this case, because they were Hawaiian macadamias), they call them macadamias, but they're really just pili nuts. We just had to groan after a while because we couldn't get through to him. So, every time a similar silly discussion comes up, we call it "The Pili Nut". There were other crazy moments like that in our daily life. And, they never failed to make us laugh - or groan.
Memory #6: I have two outstanding memories of talking about boys in my life with the very first guy in my life - my Dad. They seemed such awkward times because talking about such things never came naturally to us. This memory shares the first one. It was that time when I had my first boyfriend. He talked to me because apparently, my then-boyfriend came to see him at his old store/office in Sucat, just to let him know that the boy had clear intentions for me and all that spine-tingling stuff. He was clearly impressed, but had to lay down the ground rules. It was one of the most interesting conversations I had with him because we ended up talking about life, love, commitment... His own love for my mom and us, their children. I don't think we had a lot of those kind of talks.
Memory #7: The second boy-related memory I have happened many years later. I just met this guy - and they had only seen him once - and he wasn't even my boyfriend yet when they met him. But, he was coming to see me again... and I had a feeling that he was "The One". I remember announcing in front of the whole family that I wanted this guy to spend the weekend with our family because I might actually marry him (no proposals nor engagements yet here, mind you!). As soon as I said that, there was silence in the family kitchen and my dad choked up - and broke in to tears. I was shocked. But, I believe he cried because I think he felt that that was the moment he had to say goodbye to his little girl. There were no arguments, no fights... Just a peaceful acceptance of my wish to introduce to them my future husband. Regardless of the crazy circumstances at that time, they gave their blessings. And, I know that both my dad and my mom knew that they have trusted the right man to take care of me and their grandchildren. In fact, out of all the major decisions that I made in life, that was probably the biggest one where I had their full support.
Memory #8: The only other times that I remember my dad crying were: a) when he did a eulogy for his own dad many years ago; and b) when I was about 13 or so --- and he lost his temper with me, he ended up beating me quite badly. Most of the time, our parents would ask us to tell them we loved them, after we got our "punishment". That time, my mom asked me to tell her I loved her, and I did - because she wasn't the one who hurt me directly. But, when she asked me to tell my dad that I loved him, I couldn't. I wouldn't. That time, I remember being so angry and hurt, that I didn't want to say I loved him, even if it meant being beaten up again. However, instead of being angry, my dad broke down in tears. I think he realised how much he hurt me then - and was upset that I wouldn't tell him that I loved him. I don't think he has ever laid a hand on me since. That was the first time I saw him cry. I know that this is not terribly positive, but I want to hold this memory in my mind as a way to remember the imperfections - and to see just how much love there was still in those moments of pain and sadness.
Memory #9: Travelling with my dad. Ah yes, I am really happy to have had many opportunities to travel around the Philippines with my dad and the rest of the family. We also had a wonderful time visiting Singapore, Malaysia, and South Africa. He told me during those travels how good it felt to be able to see the world - and to experience such things. I think it was his way of saying thanks for giving him the gift of overseas travel. I know I still feel sad that he never had the chance to visit me here in Australia. I knew he would've just loved it here. We were talking about getting him a new passport, visa, etc when we last saw each other. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. 🙁 But, at least, we have those other memories. If only you can hear our infamous Safari trail stories during our South African trip! They're golden memories fit for a comedy sketch. 🙂
Memory #10: My dad as a grandfather. I am just so happy that my dad managed to meet both my son and my daughter. Those visits were his only chance to 'play grandpa'. And, seeing him with the kids really made me happy because I know that he has always dreamt of having grandchildren. In fact, he loved my kids so much, he even bugged me to keep having more (even after I just gave birth to my li'l girl!). The kids really lit up his eyes and made him laugh like I haven't heard him laugh for such a long time.
Funny how memories beget memories. When I started this post, I was wondering if I could fill this up with 10 major memories. Now, more things come to mind... Like, my dad taking me to school from age 5 until I was in highschool... My dad congratulating me when I won my first essay writing contest... The difficulty of beating my dad at ANY board game (he was a chess and scrabble wizard!)... And of course, his love for puzzles (crossword, etc), bowling, watching sports like boxing and basketball, eating seafood, going fishing, swimming...
Oh, and yes - how can I forget my dad's infamous speech at my brother's wedding . You see, after listening to the bride's dad give a very flowery wedding speech like you would expect, my dad stood in front of over a hundred guests and gave a speech that went something like, "This is the only one thing that I want to say to you (my brother) now that you're married... I hope you learn to cook rice and wash dishes."
And, my most techy experience with my dad was when someone helped to set him up with an email account. His first email to me only had a line that said something like: "I have email!" He only ever used it about 3x or so.
Yes, he was quite a character.
Dad, I miss you and I love you.
Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.