My Papa

206759_10151255198458997_1580579401_nLast year during his vacation to China, my 74 years old father bought me an unusual souvenir in the form of a zippered purse that came with  a witty Chinese saying that goes,

Money is No Problem – Problem is No Money

The purse is such an amusing conversation starter that very quickly I found myself using it as a membership cards holder to keep the few dozens of plastic cards I have somehow accumulated from various eateries and retail outlets over the last ten years.

Many a time I look at the two lines of humour on the purse and a smile will just crack through as I think of my father who is possibly one of the most humourous dads in Malaysia. One time during a family dinner as we were about to finish our aromatic spread of Chinese cuisine which included Marmite Crabs and Steamed Pompret, my father stopped all of us, my mom, his children and grandchildren included, from taking another bite, raised up his glass of Chinese tea and announced firmly that he had a very serious, in fact depressing news that he felt we ought to hear from him there and then.

Out of filial respect in which we are all raised up on, we put down our chopsticks and spoons , sat up straight in our chairs and even if we were minding our kids then, we knew this sounded serious that we quickly turned to him, worrying about what bad news my usually jovial father would tell us. Was it something bad about his family in China? Was it about his or mom’s health?

In a stoic, dignified expression of a great wise Chinese man, he took a sip of Chinese tea and continued in Mandarin, “if any of you still respected me as your father, my children, then heed my words to consider  letting me go back to working again.” My eldest brother, who is the chip off the old block and every inch a devoted son immediately asked respectfully, “…but why, papa, you have retired a decade ago.”

My father took a good look at each of us, took another sip of Chinese tea and stated casually, “well, just look at what you guys have ordered for dinner tonight! There is crab and expensive fish and the kids are even having coca cola! At the rate I am paying for all of the Sunday dinners for all 15 of us here, I am going broke in about 3 months!”

Needless to say, we all ruptured into a roaring laughter when my old man gave off a sheepish smile at the end of his speech.

13 years ago when Daddy Joe came all the way to our house to ask my parents for my hand in marriage, I was quite sure he almost developed a panic attack out of a reverent fear towards my father, who otherwise looks the part of a stern and protective father.

Without sharing with Daddy Joe that I had already informed my parents and siblings of the purpose of his visit, Daddy Joe came in the early afternoon on a beautiful Sunday to have some tea with my parents. With my brother, his wife, my older sister and my grandmother walking around the house all waiting to hear him ask for my hand, Daddy Joe who was in the dark just could not find the perfect chance to get into the topic.

Soon, a delicious dinner prepared by my mom came and went too. In fact my parents lingered around the dining table longer than usual waiting for him to get into his act. It was 9.30pm when everyone finally sat back down at the living room, some pretending to watch the TV while my father read through the entire newspaper again for the third time. There was a long awkward silence and my man just could not muster enough courage but felt that he could not let the wonderful night slip away without accomplishing the purpose of his visit.

Stuttering, all Daddy Joe said was, “Uncle, I… uhm…I ” and my father interrupted with a sigh of relief and uttered, “I thought you would never ask. I have waited for so long, since this very afternoon to be exact. Goodness! Tea came and tea went. Dinner came and dinner went. I was wondering if I had to stay up all night just for this. Did you want to marry my daughter? Well, yes, yes, yes, you have my blessing!” With that, my stars were aligned, and my father gave me away to the young man he knew would love me as much as he did in his usual humour and a fatherly twinkle in his eyes.

Happy Father’s Day, my funny papa, just so you know you are deeply loved for all your wits, humour and your devoted love for the family. Cheers!

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