Monday, June 15, 2015

My Father, My Hero

Almost a month later, suffice to say, grieving is definitely a process.  There are times where I feel like I’ll be ok and go on with my normal routine, yet there are some trigger points where I would be emotional and suddenly start to tear up.  My father was at Stage 4 renal cell carcinoma since 2007.  He had multiple surgeries including the lung, brain, kidney and spine along with numerous cyberknife and chemotherapy treatments.  By May 2015, he exhausted all the treatments.  He was a warrior.  It really got to the point where tumors were aggressive around the pelvic and T5 spinal region that I had to make the call to the radiological oncologist to desist all treatments as he was in great pain and the quality of life was most important at this time.  Sometimes, you have to learn to let go and that’s what I’m still struggling with.  Since 2007, my father and I made a promise to each other when I found out about his diagnosis that we would never give up on each other.  Countless appointments, consultations and being with him at the chemo treatments (made friends with a lot of regulars) made me realize that my father and I learned to live and deal with the Big “C”.  I think I may have come into terms the fact that letting go does not mean that I gave up him, but moreso, giving him a better quality of life that would desist the suffering.


I may say that I’m OK.  But truthfully, I’ll never be the same because I miss him so much.  I tried running after he passed, but couldn’t get through 2 miles and started balling.   He was my best friend and the best man I know.  Everything I do was to make him proud.  Right now, the priority is to take care of my mom and so there would be no worries from my dad.  This upcoming weekend will be tough as I’ll dread all the father’s day commercial and ads on TV. 


Days before the wake, I wasn’t sure if a eulogy would be prepared but I wouldn’t want anyone to speak on behalf of my father.  There’s just so much to say yet it is just not enough to mention his countless achievements and love towards my family and to put it into a few minutes….that’s tough.   The day of the wake, I was touched by everyone on all walks of life to be there for my father; it just show the love and the impact he had on others.  I held my emotions as much as possible until the end when most of the people who left, I was able to have a moment with him by the casket, and got down on my knees and sobbed.  I love him so much.


Again, there are times where I feel normal where I can still smile and laugh, but inside, I’m still broken.  People say time will heal and it will get better.  I hope so.


Eulogy for my dad 5/29/2015:

I’m sure everyone in here has been touched or affected by my father on all walks of life.  I’m sure there are plenty of stories on how he has touched yours.   So let me get started with the facts.  He was born in Hong Kong, and fortunate to remain close to his older and younger siblings who went above and beyond before his passing.  My dad’s life was absolutely filled with love, challenges, athleticism and adventures.


Love - he courted and hooked up with my mom and wound up having a fairy tale marriage that was filled with love, devotion, and joy.  This year will be their 40thanniversary.    I’m still trying to get more details of their courtship, yet they still keep it a secret.  Truly unexplainable as there are no words needed to explain it.  His care, kindness and devotion cascaded down to his love for others and to my brother and I, as well as his grandchildren.  As for love, we had a family dog and her name was Goldie.  It was our constant coaxing that made him cave in, and adopted her at the North Shore Animal League.  Bear in mind, he never wanted a dog in the first place.  Being the most irresponsible kid in his life, I hardly walked the dog.  My dad took that responsibility especially once I moved out into the city, and he told me he walked her all the time because he knew how much I enjoyed having her and eventually he grew to love Goldie anyway.  His selflessness and the trait of putting others before him, was a testament of love. Anything he did, his wife and kids were always his priority.


Challenges - His life was filled with constant ones and he never complained how hard the work was.  He worked hard in shipping and logistics for SeaLand in Hong Kong and in 1982, he took a leap of faith and immigrated to the states.   To make ends meet, he worked at the Plaza Hotel and worked his way up as a banquet/sous/tournant chef and had many great memories there.  First off, he had no specialized training.  He was never a CIA graduate.  He took pride in that.  He actually made fun of the new CIA graduates with their pompous attitude.  (On a side-note, maybe that’s where I get my judgmental side from) He was self taught, self made.  When he first started working at the Plaza, he struggled.  I remembered him telling me that he would apply word associations.  For example, when he had to prepare raviolis, he didn’t know what it was in the beginning.  One thing that made him remember was by associating raviolis with “Chinese dumplings” but not as delicious; which is pretty much the truth as he told me.  He worked for the Plaza hotel, then a brief stint at the Palace and back.  Not until long, our work-lives intersected as I was also happy to witness my father in action during one of my work parties.  I witnessed how my dad was well respected by his peers, and with a wave of a hand motion, there were Heinekens coming along to my colleagues and I.


That was 32 years in the business, where he was able to establish a great network, rapport and circle of colleagues by his side.  Ultimately, rising above all challenges, one of his proudest moments was winning the employee of the year award for Fairmont Hotels.  I mean, it was a great deal, and of course for my own selfish reasons, I was happy for him but moreso it was a free all expensed trip for 2 to any resort in the world.  My dad, knowing the fact that I wanted to tag along, get sunburned, and douse ourselves with tanning oil, negotiated if he could bring me along and without any question or doubt, I bought the airfare to Maui and I was able to witness my dad splurge on all the food, wine and other excursions.  For once, the fact that he was able to share that with my mom and I, was something he was extremely proud of because he came to the workforce with no experience, and faced challenges, but was able to overcome these obstacles and be recognized for his achievements that he worked diligently for.  Furthermore, in his later years, even when he was going through treatments, he still wanted to be at work only because it was a testament of his strength to beat the odds and fight through the challenges with courage and dignity.  That was his work ethic and that’s how he wanted to live his life. 


Athleticism - He was always athletic and willing to participate in any sports especially basketball, bowling, and tennis. 

·         Basketball:  Back in the days when we were living in Brooklyn before it was all gentrified; it literally was a neighborhood of hard knocks.  I remember quite vividly he would take my brother and I to neighborhood b-ball games.  One time, my brother wanted to join in a random basketball game with neighborhood kids and quite sadly, was ostracized and wasn’t allowed to play.  My dad was pissed, took us out, went to an athletic store, bought a basketball and returned to the courts with a two hands up in the air flipping the bird attitude.  That’s my dad!  Of course there were countless Knicks and Nets games with loads of beers years later.   

·         Bowling…what can I say, he is probably glowing with happiness over the fact that he will always have a winning record over all of us with a high score of 289.  He has countless medals and trophies and was always the designated anchor during his days at a bowling league in Hong Kong.  He took pride in sharing his joy and sharing it to others and visited many bowling centers within the tri state region not because of nostalgic purposes but only to find the places which offered the best price and bargain.  In addition, he made it very competitive, as I remembered every Sunday, after graduating from college was a bowling day and we would tally up the scores, and secretly try to beat the teams adjacent to us.  Even more so, we hardly talked when the game was on mainly because we secretly wanted to beat each other. (For more details, just ask Auntie Doris, Johnny and Daisy) That’s my dad! 

·         Tennis.  I was so spoiled.  I would persuade him to drive to the tennis courts in 90 degree weather only because I wanted to play.  He knew how much I loved the game and how much I wanted to kick his ass.  He had a great backhand slice and made fun of my double faults.  He took pride in beating me, and up to the point of breaking my racket literally.  Total tennis meltdown.  In the end, he taught me to have fun and never to take things too seriously.  Tennis games eventually transcended to watching the tennis matches at the US Open for 12 consecutive years over plenty of pints of Heineken.  It was our tradition to coordinate and take at least 4-5 days off to attend the day sessions, early rounds of course, since being dad himself, always believed in the biggest bang for the buck. 

·         Alas he grew to love the sport of running.  He just knew how much it means to me and he was always there for most of my NYC marathons and special moments such as watching my first boston qualifier in 2008, live tracking my times, being so excited for the sub 3 hour marathons or the ones when I missed the sub 3 hour mark, he would just tell me to “quit complaining and try harder”.  His favorite moment was at the 2011 NYC marathon where he was cheering at mile 23 along with my mom jumping and screaming like a lunatic and knowing the fact that I beat my teammates or his favorite running boys, Sussman, Garvey and Dr. Brooks.  He took pride in that moment as he constantly talks about it, and of course I do as well mainly to feed my ego.  Like father, like son.  He grew to love running since it was huge part of my life and wanted to be part of it as he would always request constant updates about my running team, Central Park Track Club.  He even showed up to our speed workouts at the East 6 track, also watching the ladies team with their tiny tops and booty shorts.  He loved wearing our team uniforms as well as Boston marathon gears nonchalantly with pride on the streets, just to show some support.  He was definitely my biggest cheerleader and fan.


Adventures – he was up for anything. For most of our trips together, there was always a spreadsheet and every excursion was tightly scheduled whether it was fitting every sights of Oahu, hiking through Manoa Falls and Diamond Head, snorkeling along Hanauma Bay, eating sushi from a conveyor belt, driving through the north shore or in Maui where we went through an arduous drive through the Road of Hana, black sand beaches, and Mount Haleakala.  It was always an adventure with my father as he was down for anything (within a reasonable cost of course)


Also, one of the great adventures we had was walking along the streets of Hong Kong in Kowloon, asides from his amazing ability to barter and bargain along the street shops, it was searching for his favorite wonton noodle soup shop (Mok Mun Kei).  Bear in mind, my dad was already experiencing side effects due to his treatment and walking was already difficult.  He refused to take it easy, and instead, we strolled through the streets like two village idiots of Hong Kong not knowing the address, but by visual memory.  We eventually found the place, and devoured countless bowls of wonton.  It wasn’t just because I loved wonton noodles so much, it was because I was able to experience one of his favorite places, passions, and memories.  There were also spontaneous trips such as driving to client sites during the weekend when I first started working because he knew I carried the worst Asian stereotype, such as driving.  He literally had me drive to the client site twice just to make sure that I was OK to get from point A to B.  Also, there was our road trip to Disneyworld and rode with us on all the coaster rides even though he was probably scared hitless and closed his eyes upon every descent….and of course that trip did end up with a flat-tire upon our drive back.  There was no panic, nothing.  We just got out of the van, fixed the tire, and calmly continued our adventure back home.  (Just ask my mom, Andy or Grace)


My dad was a silly man.  He enjoyed making people laugh as well as making fun of others; point noted.  He used his humor to comfort me whenever I needed it.  I admire his ability to ensure the value of hard work, ensuring the completion of each tasks, and never to give up on anything.  I also love the fact that he was vain because he knew he was a dapper and handsome man with nicely gelled coifed hair. (My aunts Martina and Ursula can always confirm to that fact.)  Frankly, it was because of his extraordinary influence on my life that I have become the person that I am today.  I’m so fortunate and grateful that I had a father, role model, mentor, a hero, confidant, true gentlemen, best friend,and inspiration, so capable of expressing his love for our family and me.  Although he will be missed, I feel comforted knowing that he accomplished more than he could have dreamed in life.  Pops, you did amazing.  This parting is not forever as I’ll hold you in my heart forever dad.  I love you always


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