My dad's birthday is always during the same week as Father's Day.
Years ago, for a joint birthday/Father’s Day gift, I woke up early to give my dad a nice men’s cologne that I had saved up my chores money to buy. He told me it was a waste of money and asked me to return it. I decided then that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to buy him gifts.
My brothers and I have a mutual understanding about our dad. He tends to ramble about things when nobody is paying attention, ranging from politics to tennis. We’ve all had our share of traumatizing shouting matches in our childhood… and even in our adulthood. He has called me Valerie, Willie, Gregory, and Remy (my brother's dog) in the past week. His office at home has no pictures of any of us - just tons of files and electronics and monitors. In fact, there are no pictures of us around the house. The other day, he asked how my "friend" is doing - he meant my boyfriend.
But there are instances where I remember my dad, well, being a dad. I remember him swinging me around the living room when I was a toddler, bringing me on trips around Richmond, and watching Jeopardy with me every night. Last month, he sent my resume out to dozens of his old colleagues, asking them to look out for opportunities for his youngest daughter. I cleaned out a bookshelf at home and found thousands of pages of practice math worksheets, writing exercises, and past ACT/SAT exams that he had printed out for me to complete. Every so often, I check my email in the morning and find that he's sent me a random article, whether it's about the latest tech successes or warnings about eating raw fish.
Growing up dirt poor with no father in Macau was pretty tough. My dad walked 4 miles each day to elementary school and back. Whenever I complain about being hungry, he tells me that when he was growing up, being hungry was the norm. When his family moved to Hong Kong, he taught himself English by reading discarded newspapers. Even without a college degree, he was able to secure a job with the Hong Kong Government due to his knowledge of English and move up to become a public accountant. After moving to the United States, unlike most immigrants, he did not downgrade and continued with his accounting career to become an audit director for a state agency. Even after working nonstop for years, he took it upon himself to understand the world of options trading and spent months taking extra courses and doing his own research, always seeking out more knowledge.
My dad retired in 2017, right when I started college. Last week, I took a break from my internship and went down to catch up with my dad's old coworkers. One of his coworkers asked me about how my boyfriend was doing, and I realized that my father must have told her about him. She went on to reminisce about how the office used to be filled with pictures of me, lined up on his own desk and even other desks! Someone else mentioned that my dad always gave them a daily update on how my life was doing, even on days that I wasn’t talking to him. When my dad retired, he gave away various pictures of me to the rest of his coworkers, hoping that they would not only remember him, but his daughter, as well.
Yesterday, for Father’s Day, I gave my dad something pretty simple – a frame with a recent picture of us from a family wedding this year. Thankfully, when I showed it to him, he didn’t ask me to return it.