Call it healthy self-esteem, inflated sense of self, or what you will, but I have to say that I think I turned out pretty ok. 🙂 Whenever I acknowledge that disputable fact, I feel that it is a direct testimony to two awesome people, known to me as Mom & Dad. As a parent, I find myself emulating my own and that is perhaps another rave review of them. It was definitely a two-person team. They are human and made mistakes, but all in all I cannot adequately express my deep sense of appreciation for them. Not that they would ever expect me to, but I will never, EVER be able to repay them for all that they have done as parents. Gift cards, written cards, presents, phone calls, and blog entries are simple measures to that effort, but appear too inadequate a means to show them proper gratitude.
Dad came to the United States as an international graduate student. He left everything familiar and dear (including his newlywed bride) to brave a foreign land promising opportunity. After getting his MBA at Miami of Ohio, he went on to get his PhD at Ohio State where my brother and I were born (Go, Buckeyes!). He and our family of four lived off graduate assistantships and the kindness of others. When we moved to southern Ohio for his job as a professor at Marshall University in Huntington, WV, he had just enough money to put a down payment on our house. He borrowed $500 from a friend to purchase a lawn mower and some furniture. He has worked hard both at Marshall and at his own Tae Kwon Do studio to fulfill the true “American dream.”
I learned from him the value of hard work and always felt his love for us through his provision and sacrifice of himself to build a prosperous life for his family. He always told me to work harder than everyone else because as a minority, I would have to prove myself more than the average Joe. He lived what he taught. He set the expectations high and believed that we could achieve them. It was a given that graduate school would follow after college since he had experienced the opportunities education provides. He tried to steer me to an MD, JD, or PhD, but I had my own ideas of success and was adamant about social work. After detailing his opinions and advice on it, he supported me all the way and helped me towards those goals even when they differed from his original hopes.
Two jobs kept him from home for long hours, but he was not absent as a father. I remember him being the final say of discipline and permission. I remember he ALMOST had to enforce corporal punishment (it’s not a bad thing culturally and my mom definitely used a “mehmeh”), but was glad that he never had to do so at all with me. The fear was enough! Maybe most kids just asked their dads when they wanted to do something special, but I wrote him a long letter listing all the reasons why he should let me go to my first rock concert: Bon Jovi. Despite his strict ways, he granted permission. Rock on! I remember him asking us to play Fur Elise on the piano, playing doubles tennis with us where I (the obvious weakest link) was always his partner, and making road trips fun by pretending we were on a roller coaster when driving country roads.
A teacher by nature, he taught me so much. Like his students, I learned that I should be beneficial to society: one who contributes not one who only takes or makes no difference. I remember him teaching me the value of money. For someone who came with very little and steadfastly built up to very much, he was an expert in how to handle finances. We had savings accounts from early on and allowances that we were encouraged to use wisely. When I got my first credit card, he ingrained in my mind that one should not use it liberally and should always pay off the balance in full. He taught us to live within our means. If you can’t buy it in full (with homes and education as the only exceptions), don’t buy it at all. If you owe on it (the latter 2), always pay more than the minimum.
Dad was seriously stoic but hilariously goofy. He was a professional workaholic but ever-present to our family. He was an extreme saver but abundantly generous to us whenever there was any financial need. He was constructively critical but always my biggest cheerleader. Because of him, I felt like I was the smartest, most beautiful, and best person in every sense even though I knew it to be impossible literally, it was possibly true in his eyes. There is so much more I could say and so much I haven’t even covered, but in short, I love my Dad. Happy Father’s Day.