Reflections on Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day weekend, so since I’m both a father and a grandfather, the kids/grandkids are taking me to bowl a couple of games and then eat the good food available at Aiea Bowl tomorrow.   I really enjoy such outings, but in the midst of the fun, I also reflect (not often enough) on fond memories of my own father Melvin, gone some seven years ago.  Above is a pic of dad from Father’s Day, 1965.  He had just returned from fishing and when he emerged from his shower, we surprised him with his favorite beverage (Primo) and a Father’s Day gift….a happy moment caught by a Kodak instamatic.  In memory of him and Father’s Day, I’m resending something I wrote for dad back in April 2011, before most of our active members ever joined our group.  I hope it honors both him and the special fathers in all our lives.

Well, he’s left the building and gone on to new adventures, I’m sure.  He was one of a kind and had a winning smile that could light up the room.  My earliest memories of him are as a kind of Superman/Charles Atlas, able to carry me and five of my cousins; one on each limb with room for the fifth, hanging onto his neck.  He also entertained us with several “magic tricks”; making a quarter disappear from his fingers, swallowing a lit cigarette and having it reappear, and blowing a smoke ring through a smoke ring.  He was a wealth of useful information to a 4-year-old, especially during emergencies.  I remember running up to him, my little hand on my mouth, complaining of my first toothache.  He looked up from his coffee and newspaper, and sagely told me to brush the affected tooth briskly with a toothbrush and some of our Ipana toothpaste – and it actually worked!…for a few minutes, at least.  I always felt safe when he was around, an aura of strength and confidence surrounded him.  He was so wise, he didn’t want to spoil me by merely giving me the answers to my unending questions.  So, he and my mom made the huge investment in the large 24-volume set of the World Book Encyclopedia (no computers or Googling back then) when I was 9 years old.  And when I had a hard time going to sleep one night, he wisely told me, “….Go read the encyclopedia, that’s what it’s for.”  I flipped open volume “A” and within an hour, I was fast asleep.  I ended up reading every one of those shiny, red pseudo-leather volumes, richly illustrated, until I closed the last page on volume W-X-Y-Z about a year later.  Dad was right again, and I suppose that we were one of the few families to actually get our monies worth from our encyclopedia…I wonder what ever happened to the World Book, Grolier’s, Compton’s, and all the other encyclopedia companies once the internet became available?  Whenever we would ask Dad where all our brains came from (we were a humble family;), he would inevitably credit the gift of genetics…”Uh, it’s hederitary, of course!”, he would proclaim.  And Mom would chime in, “Yeah that’s right, it’s hereditary!”

He was a great fisherman, regularly providing squid and mullet to friends, family and neighbors.  The first time he took me along as a fishing partner, I promptly lost one of his prized spears within five minutes of hitting the beach – launched it at the first fish I saw in what turned out to be a deep, muddy outfall.  Exasperated, Dad tried to explain to me that it was a squidding spear, meant for prodding and poking for tako, not throwing at fish.  We tried, but weren’t able to retrieve, much less find the spear.  Now spearless, I was relegated to “fish bag-boy” and had to quietly trail 15 yards behind Dad and his throw-net that morning so as not to scare away the fish.  Let’s just say that it wasn’t his luckiest fishing day; he might have caught a half-dozen mullet over the next few hours.  When we got back to shore to examine the day’s catch, we were shocked to discover that the bag was empty!  Somehow, I had let all the fish escape and Dad experienced a rare “white-wash” day at the beach.  In normal fashion, Dad didn’t lose his temper or yell or mutter.  It was, however, a long time before I got to go fishing with him again.

Dad toiled as a Foremost Dairies milk deliveryman for 36 years, rising at 2:30 am in the dark, to begin a long day of hauling heavy crates filled with bottles, later cartons, to homes all over the island.  He wasn’t a professional or well-educated, but he always made sure to provide for the family.  He was full of appropriate, if familiar advice, to my sister and me.  On the importance of academics – “It’s brains, not brawn.”; giving guidance on career choices – “You could become an engineer, or perhaps…a financial wizard!”; on golf – “When you hit the drive, you gotta hit it straight!”; on football – “When they throw you the football, you gotta catch it!”; on local politics – “#%&*@ is fixing the roads because it’s election year, he’s a crook!”  Well, you get the idea.  He was opinionated and very honest, but not mean-spirited.  I recall when my son, little Matty (7 years old at the time) agreed to play a tune for Grandpa.  Dad quietly listened to the short song on the piano, then took a deep breath and told his grandson, in a drawn-out exhalation, “Junk”.  That was Dad, honest to a fault (although Matty had played very well), and I suppose that’s how I was raised too.  Unphased, Matt kept playing and in time, became a very excellent pianist.  Nearly 30 years later, at Dad’s service, Matt would effortlessly play beautiful music on the keyboard for his Grandpa during the visitation, while Sensei Trisha sang the opening and closing songs  –  I’m sure that Grandpa was pleased.  Dad never said much, but we knew that he always wanted only the best for his children and grandchildren – and that that he always expected their best effort, and nothing less.

Dad did not seem to have any strong ambition for himself, he was easy-going most of the time.  But for his offspring, he always dreamed of the highest achievements.  He wanted to instill in us, strong character, perseverance and self-discipline.  In short, he was like so many other parents, wanting a better life for his children but unsure as to the best way to ensure this.  I believe that this was a major reason that he got me involved in the martial arts 48 years ago.  Through the seed and planting of his support, grew my interest in Aikido and then Karate-Do.  I think it pleased him, when I finally attained my first black belt, and many years later, when his grand-daughter, Sensei Trisha also got hers.  Both my sister and my son also spent many years in karate, making it to brown belt.  My two nephews trained under me and also attained their black belts in Shotokan.  The many years devoted to karate and academics within our family were the direct result of my dad’s wishes for us.  If you think about it, our karate group owes its very existence in a real way, to his impetus nearly 50 years ago.  Exactly a month ago today, Dad gracefully and painlessly left this world to join Mom in Eternity.  He was sitting at breakfast in the nursing home’s dining room, talking with his neighbor one moment, and the next moment, he was gone.  In recent years, he would sometimes say, “I’ve lived a long life (Dad was 88), and I’m ready to go.”  And so, he did.  Dad was Saved when he was 87 years old.  Ironically, Dad never did make it down to the dojo to ever watch any of his offspring training in the karate dojo.  I’m sure that he’s watching now, and I hope that he’s pleased with our efforts – and with all of yours too.

Happy Father’s Day!

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