My father is 87. He is now merely shadow of his once energetic and alert self but he still manages to trudge along and get things done by himself. Raising seven children almost single-handedly was no easy task for someone working full time in a major multinational company. Dad was an avid sportsman in his younger days and he tried to influence us to get into some sports activity as best he could. Being one of the highest ranking Judokas of his time, he competed in the World Championships in Tokyo before Judo became an olympic event. He was an avid hunter and took us hunting on several occasions and taught us how to fire a shotgun properly. Having little free time, dad took us for tours in their company’s factory on weekends (his way of integrating work with time for kids) and while it may have seemed boring at that time, he explained what went on in the factory during his inspection tours and as a bonus, we always went home with give-aways. As I was the youngest boy, he would also take me to his office on Friday or Saturday nights and while he finished paperwork, I finished the contents of his personal ref.
Dad was not a strict disciplinarian but he demanded we use our intellect and reason properly to avoid trouble. Because of this, my cousins would often vote him as the “coolest” dad among his peers. He knew how to have fun. Being a bit rambunctious in his youth, he would be the first to suggest to start lighting the firecrackers on new Year’s Eve when my other uncles and aunts would forbid my cousins from doing so but he would also instruct us how to do them properly. It didn’t take much to make him laugh, in fact his humour was rather on the slapstick side. In all, I think he merely allowed us boys room to wiggle around and think things through for ourselves and perhaps even get hurt a little… all part of manly life’s lessons!
I decided to write this while teaching my two boys how to shake-hands in a proper and manly way, the way my dad did when I was about seven years old. While I’ve read many things about what it takes to be a man or how men should be, here are a few things I try to emulate from the man whom I look up to the most, my father.
1. Speak with few words, but mean what you say and say what you mean. He didn’t actually say this but I saw it through his actions. My father was not ambivalent when he was raising us. When he said he would be there at seven o’clock to pass for us, you better be ready. When he said, “No” it didn’t mean maybe and he when said, “Yes” then he would fulfill it even if it took him a while to do so. He was a man of his word.
2. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Despite my parent’s separation many years ago, I never heard my father say anything against my mother, not then, not now in his old age. He was not one to speak ill of anybody, not even those people who spoke ill of him or who disagreed with him. He practiced temperance and prudence without even probably knowing that these were cardinal virtues.
3. Practice your faith in silence. I know that there are a variety of ways one can worship our Lord but as far as I saw from my dad, he was not one to wave his hands or sing out loud. He showed me that going to mass was a non-negotiable. He never said it but despite his long work-week, my dad always made it a point to go to mass on obligatory days, that is, Sundays and holy days. While he did the minimum that was expected of him as a Catholic, he did it out of a quiet obedience and insisted, by his actions, that we did so too. What impressed me the most about his faith was his belief and reverence for the Eucharist. My dad knew that he was in an irregular marital situation and refrained from receiving the Eucharist for as long as I could remember and the only time I saw him go to communion was just a few years ago, after having received the sacrament of extreme unction, prior to major surgery.
4. When you help people, do not do so for remuneration. This, he did say. Helping isn’t helping if you expect gratitude or payment, but work is work and compensation should be expected for a job well-done. From these words I learned charity and purity of intention. Though money is important, it is only a means to an end and that there are more important pursuits than making money.
5. Preserving your integrity and name is paramount. My father always made sure that in anything he did, whether during his stint in government, in the business sector or in personal matters, that nothing would come back to haunt him. He did this by making sure that whatever he engaged in would be beyond reproach. To him, preserving the name meant preserving a clean legacy for his children and from this I learned prudence.
6. There are things that are simply “a man’s job”, he would say. He insisted that we learn to change the flapper of a leaking toilet, run the filter and clean the pool and clear our roof gutters of leaves before or the typhoon season. I remember one day in the middle of a typhoon, the rain was pouring when suddenly the water overflowed from the gutter onto the ceiling and it started leaking on the covered area of our patio. My dad told me to go up and clear the gutters, yes right in the middle of a typhoon! When we started driving, he also had a rule for us boys; know the basics of car repair and maintenance. He also expected us to deal with repairs of our sister’s cars because, you guessed it, “It’s a man’s job”.
6. If it’s not for you, don’t force it. This is to say that if God meant for you to have it, then it will come easily. That’s the kind of trust in God my father had, even if he wasn’t vocal about it. This has taught me to pray for discernment and not be impulsive.
7. Women should be treated with honor and respect. I have never once seen my father talk to a woman disrespectfully. Sure, there were the rare times when he would dress down a female subordinate or suppliers who didn’t do their job but he never inflicted personal insults to anyone.
8. Stand your ground but admit when you’re wrong or when you can’t do the task. My father never balked from work he could do or he committed himself to doing but he also was the first to admit if he was not competent enough for the task. When I would have a difficult time in school, my dad would always say something that would put things in perspective. He was a “big picture” man.
9. Think before you act, be aware of what you are doing, he always said, because that is what separates the men from the boys. My father never behaved out of compulsion. His actions were always intentional and for the most part, well-thought of.
10. You were given more therefor you should also give more than you take because if we all take more than we give, nothing will be left for others. When I was young, I remember that he would insist that we turn off the tap while shaving or showering and I thought it was merely because of the water bill but then he said, “water may be cheap but it is a limited resource that everyone should share”. In this sense he taught us not to be blind to those who had less or nothing at all.
Looking back, I really deeply admire the man that my father is. Growing up without a mother, he always maintained a certain type of calmness even when there were crises at work or at home, never involving any of his children in his marital troubles or work-related problems. I am now just a faint reflection of what my father is. His shoes are too big to fill and while he is far from perfect, those imperfections only serve to urge me to do better with my own family. It would take many more pages to list those “life lessons” I learned from Dad and perhaps I haven’t thanked him enough for them. How about you, have you thanked your father for raising you up to be the person you are?