A month ago they made a trip here again. I was excited to finally be able to present them with the ATM card. They knew about it the month before. I've sent them a gift card with a color copy of the ATM card inside. I explained that I wanted them to have it. It was my way of showing my love for them. Mum called to thank me upon receiving it and also on behalf of my Dad. When they're finally here, I gave them the real thing. To my surprise but disappointment, my Dad refused to take it. I'm sure he didn't mean that he is not going to accept it but just that he didn't think he would be needing it for this trip. Yet I couldn't help feeling a little rejected. You know how it feels when you've tried to give someone a gift only to be rejected. He said he have enough and will ask me for it when he needs it. But the thing is, I do not want him or Mom to have to ask. I want them to have the freedom to use it whenever they feel like it. Somehow, it's just different if you have to ask for things.
Perhaps because deep inside, I've never gotten over the disappointment I felt I have brought to my Dad the day I decided not to pursue my studies. Maybe subconsciously this is one of my ways of making up, so to speak. I was about to turn 18 when my "O" Level results were out. I did fairly well and would not have any problem securing a place in a good school. I have always been a quiet and obedient child. I don't recall ever being rebellious, the way teenagers are rebellious these days. I have always cherished the special security I felt being the apple of my father's eye. I do not have a very good memory of past events but this is one thing that have stuck with me till now, though I can only recall them vaguely. I think it all started the day my Mom broke the news that she is planning to leave my Dad after knowing of his affair. I was about 9-years old maybe. I'm not sure, but definitely old enough to write. We were asked to choose who we wanted to follow. We were confused and for the first time, were really afraid of the prospect of losing either of our parents. I don't remember what our reply was but I recall writing out a secret letter to my parents. Haha...I was into written word even at that tender age. I think Dad was moved by that somehow. I can't remember what I wrote or what happened after that. But from then on, I think I hold a special place in his heart.
Fast forward to year 1990: I got my results and decided not to pursue my education despite my parents disapproval. Foolish, I know. But what was done was done. Dad was very upset and would not talk to me for days. When he finally did, he gave me 2 choices. Either I go back to school or I find myself a decent job and by that he meant, leave the country. You will have a brighter future in Singapore, he said. And I will always be grateful to him for that. So with that, he packed me off to a land I have never sat foot on but only studied about in Geography class. At age 18, I was in a foreign land with no friends, no family and my first real job in a world class hotel. A little intimidating I must admit. After a year, I saved enough money to finance a diploma course in Fashion Merchandising at the renown LeSalle Intl Fashion School. I was working and studying full time for a year. I requested to be on permanent night shift so I could attend classes in the day. It wasn't easy but I managed to cope. Dad was happy and proud that I've decided to study again. But it was short lived. Mid way through the course I discovered it wasn't what I had thought I would like to do. All those calculations were driving me nuts. On top of that, I met my husband around the same time and was distracted from my studies. So with only 3 more subjects to complete, I threw in the towel. Another stupid move, I know. Blame it on my lack of focus, increasing financial burdens due to the heavy course fees, an intense dislike for numbers and a lack of preserverence.
Dad was deeply disappointed and downright furious. I still remember standing in that phone booth at Raffles City, trying to come up with a script of how I should break the news. Somehow I found the courage to do it. His reply was expected. I was prepared for it. It was many years later that my Mom revealed to me what my Dad had told her then. It broke my heart to pieces. Dad told Mom that his precious diamond has turned into a stone. Mom would not have told me if only she knew how much I would be carrying that wound around. Dad never knew.
I have always loved and respected my father, despite his shortcomings. After I left home, I appreciated my parents even more. Even though Dad has a quick temper and a sharp tongue and extremely intimidating at times, which causes us to cover in fear whenever he is in a bad mood, he is also a very responsible father. Though he have his flings and treated my mother with contempt sometimes, he never once thought of abandoning us. Yes he can be hot headed, critical, stubborn and over bearing. But he has also loved us deeply, direct us the best he could and tried to be an understanding father, never wanting to interfere too much with our lives once we have grown up, believing that we are capable of making informed decisions. Letting your adult children choose their own path even though you know is not a wise one takes a lot of courage. He was from a humble beginning and knows the importance of education. He always encourages us to strive for academic excellence and taught us to be independent. He himself is an educated man. Though Dad is very liberal, he knows his boundaries. When we became adults, he'd love to have heart to heart conversations with us, be it through writing or over drinks if we managed to catch up. We greatly enjoy and treasure the times when we are able to meet as one big family, chatting over beer or a good dinner. Dad knows how to have a good time. He knows how to appreciate beauty. He can be very generous and is a true romantic at heart. Despite all the turbulence we have gone through as a family, mostly due to his ugly temperament and many affairs, he managed to keep this family intact. I have my mother to thank for that too. She is truly a women of preserverence and faith.
So you see, I have always wanted my Dad, a man I love and respect for all the reasons above and many more, to be proud of me. Every child wants their parents approval, especially their Dad's. It gives them a certain sense of security no one can ever give.
Then earlier this year, on Father's day, I gave him a call to wish him Happy Father's Day. I had written him a card to express my gratitude and appreciation for all that he has done for me and for this family. It must have moved him in some way (which reminded me of the first letter I wrote as a child), for he ended our phone conversation with this.
You have always been my precious little diamond and you still are.
Tears of healing flowed freely as I clutched to the phone. For the first time I felt I can get over the hurt I've buried all these years.