Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Rather than bog myself down this evening with another job surfing expedition, I'll talk a bit about Dad. Today is his 72nd birthday. He's the only one among my immediate family that I haven't blogged about. Probably because of the language barrier we have. My command of Cantonese is poorer than his in English. We may not have ever had long meaningful conversations, but as a kid, he did his best to be a good father.

When my brother Sherman played baseball and me with softball, he would make an effort to come to see us play at the park at least a few times a season, sometimes with our dog Sil-Sil in tow. He played catch with Sherman in the backyard up until Sherman was about 10, as Sherman's hard throws made Dad's hand sting. He once came to one of my high school basketball games and let me invite the coaches and their husbands to dinner at the restaurant after the game.

In the summer months, the Guertals used to clean their next door neighbor's pool, which was next to our backyard. When Mr. Guertal finished cleaning the pool and the chlorine dissipated, we'd go swimming. While it was Mr. Guertal who taught me how to swim, it was Dad that would come over as the overgrown kid. He loved to throw us into the pool or challenge us to a race.

If we didn't go swimming, then he'd take us bowling late Sunday nights and meet up with staff from the restaurant. Dad had his own bowling ball and shirt with our restaurant's name on it. We often bowled so late we'd go to out breakfast afterwards. He even sponsored Sherman's American Legion baseball team while Sherman was in high school. It was a sight to see a predominantly Caucasian team wearing baseball shirts reading "Jong Mea" (including Chinese characters) as the uniform's logo.

After Dad got off work at 4 a.m., he'd read in the family room for many hours before finally retiring to go to bed. He'd often make noodles or rice with enough for us to share, so it was awesome to have what I considered breakfast. If he wasn't reading, he often had friends and restaurant staff over for cards or mah-jongg. Strewn boxes of White Castle burgers and ashtrays full of cigarette butts were all over the family room. When Dad and his buddies got together, they made college fraternity parties look like afternoon tea.

From elementary school age into our early teens, Sundays became family nights out. Dinner and a movie, usually an action flick. One of the first drive-in movies I saw was Ian Fleming's "Thunderball". But no dinner and movie if Mom didn't want to go. By the time I was a student at Ohio State, summer on Thursdays was a prime rib dinner and harness racing at Scioto Downs. I was never much of a gambler, but Dad would often give me $20 as an incentive to place a bet. Cindy was much better at winning than I ever was.

Dad may not know much English and is probably better at partying than parenting. But I also know there aren't many that can brag about bowling with Dad at 2 a.m.

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