Daddy's Girl

By Joanna Koh
31 May, 2016

For some reason, I’ve always seen myself as Daddy’s girl. Perhaps because I had the privilege of being the younger daughter before being “dethroned” 11 years later.

During the recent trip to visit you while you were on an overseas work assignment, I’ve noticed for the first time how similar we are in certain habits and personality traits:

  • You have a penchant for neatness, as do I. I found it amusing to see how you’d lined up all your footwear by the door, because I’d have done exactly the same.
  • You get excited by a good bargain, especially if you don’t have to bargain for it. I share the thrill of discovering a good buy during a chance sale.
  • You like checking out interesting places or neat finds in the vicinity that you report back on with great excitement. It puts a smile on my face knowing that I have a similar tendency!

I’m not known to be sentimental or to have good recall of the past, much less my childhood. But there are a few things that stand out amidst fuzzy memories:

  • I recall weekend mornings as a kid, when we’d go to the neighbourhood hawker centre for dry fishball meepok that soon became one of my favourite foods. I believe you first introduced me to it, and it came with ketchup because you weren’t sure I could take the chilli version. But it didn’t take long for me to devour it with chilli the same way you eat it. I still remember how proud I felt of my accomplishment, and how you made me feel you were proud of me, too.
  • On one of your work travels, you’d told me that you couldn’t come home for my 16th birthday. I was disappointed – but you never forget our birthdays! I received in time a special postcard that you’d picked out for me of a Spanish dancer in a black lace dress. I thought she was the most beautiful lady I’d seen. You probably don’t know this but I’ve actually kept it till today!
  • You were adamant about packing light when travelling abroad on holiday. Before I realised it, I was fully “trained” by you to pack light and travel alone to come visit you. I remember flying up to Taiwan on my own to spend some time with you where you’d been posted. It would seem that being a “flying” dad, you’d hardly be around for the family but I never felt that you were an absent dad.
  • Despite being English-educated, you are still very much the Asian Dad who believes in faithfully providing for the family and who isn’t the most expressive in your love. Yet, I recall running and jumping into your arms to greet you when you came home from work each day. You never turned me away nor did you ever complain – not even when I eventually outgrew the behaviour.

In my work today, I’m constantly plugging the researched truth that the best gift a parent could give their child is to love their spouse. I’ve mentioned this to you several times, but I’ll say it again: Thank you for sticking with Mum even when things haven’t been easy. You demonstrate to me and model how marriage truly boils down to a commitment of the will.

In fact, I think many would underestimate your will. Beneath your comparatively quiet, mellow and mild demeanour is great strength in meekness. To me, you are the selfless dad who actually purchased a car just so you could drive up and down to our place to help take care of your first grandchild; who now readily volunteers to babysit your grandson at short notice; who forced yourself to use a smartphone or FaceTime or Skype for the sake of your (grand)children; who still insists on paying for dinner because you worry that we don’t have enough when it should be the other way around!

Witnessing so many “fatherless” children – including those who are today grown-ups – I feel privileged to be your daughter. Your love has given me a sense of security and confidence that I think many wish they could have from their fathers. Thank you for being my Daddy and I love you very much.

Wishing you were home with us!

Colleagues and friends call Jo inspiring, closer friends and family think she’s intentional, but all feel she can be intense. On less invigorating days, she dreams of leading a children’s choir or starting a family band.

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