My late father, Chia Pat Chan, who passed away almost 10 years ago, at age 88, had a sense of fun and adventure.
Although this incident happened more than 50 years ago, it was just like yesterday.
I was about 5 years old, sitting by the edge of the pool in the Chinese Swimming Club, totally at peace with myself. When, out of the blue, he grabbed me from behind and threw me into the pool. Immediately, he jumped in after me and we both bubbled up to the surface of the water. Now, if that is not fun, I don’t know what is. I get all warm and fuzzy inside when I recall this incident.
In my pre-pubescent years I often suffered from cuts, bruises and abrasions, playing rough and tumble games with my siblings and children of domestic helpers. My cousins and I would play rough; turning the family home upside down in the process.
However, I do not once recall my father scolding us for doing so. Yes, he loved children and relished the atmosphere of fun and fro-lick. His love and fondness for children was evidenced by his calling his great-grand, children “Little Ducklings”. From this, I perceive his sense of humour and power of observation. Indeed toddlers do waddle like ducklings as they learn to walk.
One indelible memory was of him cradling me in a lorry, dashing for medical help. Blood was dripping, from my forehead onto my pink-polka-dotted white frock. I had slipped and hit my forehead on the sharp edge of a brick.
Among the important life lessons, I’ve imbibed from him is not to compare my life with that of others but to walk, with perseverance, the road of life allotted to me. Yes, there were occasions in life when I intimated to my dad that my peers have done better than me, professionally & personally and his constant refrain was “don’t compare”.
You would consider him, in today’s terms, as a SNAG [Sensitive New Age Guy]. Thrice I saw him cry: at the failure of his family business, the near-fatal accident of my sixth sibling and the sudden, unexpected death of my fourth sibling. Seeing him in his grief, only forged a deeper bond between us.
During the war, when the invading Japanese army caught up with my parents at their Pulau Tekong Besar hide-out, my fearful maternal grandma ran at the sight of a Japanese soldier. At that instance, the latter pointed his rifle at her, ready to shoot. Immediately, my dad went down on his knees with a cup of tea to beg for mercy. By so doing he had risked being killed together with my grandma. Yes, my dad is indeed my hero!
What impressed me all my life was his enduring love for my mother, Lee Wah Ying. Relatives and friends often tell me that they were a golden couple, and theirs was a marriage made in Heaven. In retrospect, I think so too. Just one and a half days prior to his un-expected death, due to an aneurysm in his groin, he had told me to take care of my mum, should he die.
With the passing years we had grown ever closer as friends. Many a time, we had honest, heart-to-heart conversations about life. Towards the end of his life, as he got more frail and weak, he looked to me for strength, joy and comfort. Life had come full circle. It was my turn to reciprocate his love, the way he did for me most of my life.
All said and done, it had been a pleasure and privilege to have had him as my father, my hero, my friend.