My mentor, my dad

Dad with his girls and Volkswagen at home in Larkin

MEETING with owners of classic Volkswagen cars in the recent Bugfest 1Malaysia brought back a flood of memories of when I used to ride in dad's Volkswagen Beetle.

The dashboard of the 1959 model looked very familiar because it was at my eye-level when I used to sit in the middle of the back seat of JB 6655, sandwiched between my two older sisters. 

Every detail, from the unique throb of its rear engine to the curve of its hood, reminded me of how dad used to drive us in his VW.  Dad often drove his three girls to favourite scenic spots like Lido Beach and Istana Gardens for photo sessions. 

We would be his models, posing by the flowering canna bushes or perching on the bridge leading to the little Japanese Garden.  Our VW car was also a favourite prop for photos; so we have plenty of photos standing by the car and sitting on its hood.

Peggy [Centre] with sister, Pearly [Left]
and Ruby [Right] in front of our
house at Jalan Dato Wilson
Recently, a reader commented that I have a lot of kiddy photos.  This prompted me to think of my large collection of photos taken by dad since I was a baby and I realised that dad was involved in every stage of my growing-up years.  Even with their busy careers, mum and dad would take us for holidays almost every year, and dad would drive us to Ipoh or Cameron Highlands in our trusted VW.

In the long drive, dad would keep us entertained with singalong sessions because there was no radio in the car.  He would come up with wacky words, off-beat jokes and riddles to keep us awake until we finally dozed off from sheer exhaustion.  I will never forget how dad taught us to enjoy eating "sand-river-powder", the literal translation for sar hor fun -- the Ipoh version of smooth kway teow soup!

And one of the riddles from dad which I remember to this day is: "As white as a lily, as red as a rose, the longer I glow, the shorter I grow."  Riddles such as this would stretch our little brains as we travelled along the winding, old trunk road for hours.

One of our family leisure activities is playing Scrabble, and for years, dad held the record for beating us flat with his high scores.  As my sisters and I grew up, the game became more challenging as we tried to outwit dad with our expanding vocabulary but dad still managed to beat us!

These days, we often win the game but when dad beats us with strategically-placed triple-score words, I will tease him by saying that we were only giving him a chance to win.  By playing word games like Scrabble, dad taught me to enjoy words and how they can be creatively used in writing.

When I was in primary school, dad guided me to write my first letter to the editor of an English newspaper and this published piece about the plight of my mother, the midwife, remains treasured to this day. Growing up in an English-speaking environment, I was scribbling thoughts in journals from an early age and while I was distracted by other pursuits, I remembered dad's advice to never stop writing.

Reading is a hobby dad and I share and we became library members, beginning with the Sultan Ibrahim Public Library. When the Johor State Public Library opened, we moved our membership there.  Dad is keen on non-fiction books but he will not scoff at my penchant for romantic thrillers.  We often have lively discussions about books but our passion is a cause for concern because the bookshelves at home are literally groaning from the weight of our combined collection.

Peggy on dad's shoulders!
Swimming is another hobby that dad taught us to enjoy. Before Johor Port existed, we went to the beach off Kampung Pasir Gudang often to hone our swimming skills. After more than a few gulps of salt water, I became quite competent in the water.

Last week, dad joined me for a swim at the club. Being aware that he's out of practice and had recently undergone an angioplasty procedure, I reminded him to take it easy and we agreed to do laps across the width instead of the length of the pool. 

The sight of dad's 88-year-old physique slicing through the water in smooth strokes so impressed the curious pool attendant that he asked for dad's age, but dad just kept him guessing.

After warming up, dad challenged me to a race. When I finished first, it was a bitter-sweet triumph because dad was the one who taught me not only to swim but to excel in so many ways.

My dad was a positive part of my development and I'm so privileged to have his support in every area of my life. Dad knows that a father's role changes as his children grow but it never ends.

Thanks daddy, and Happy Fathers Day!

Note: Answer to riddle -- A candle
A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 21 June 2010

1 comment:

  1. what's your mum and dad's names? Did I miss it somewhere? Agatha Loh