Fathers From Around the World

When I was not yet three years old, John Richard and Grace Elizabeth Ingram adopted me from an orphanage in southwest London. When I was four, a stroke left Dad paralysed down his left side; he died when I was 18.

I can still hear the cranky squeaks of your wheelchair. And the clicking of the calipers attached to your legs below the knee. There was the incessant wheezing from the asthma that later attended the paralysis. Your body was your burden. Your light relief was watching the BBC news and β€œbeing tickled pink,” as you liked to say, by the old classic British comedies. Dad’s Army. The Good Life. Rising Damp. As a child I longed to pick you up and carry you on my back. Far and away from your wheelchair and back to the fleeting memory I had of you as my able-bodied dad. Now as an adult, I believe there are no accidents. You are still my role model and I have found my dream job serving persons with disabilities in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Thank you, Dad!

Michele at Michele D’Acosta, Museum of Documentary and Fiction

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Charming, intelligent, belligerent and very Greek, my father is one of those people you meet and never forget.

When I was little, he would often regale my siblings and me with stories of his childhood in the mountains of Greece. His eyes would light up as he recalled the deep snow that carpeted the land each winter and how every night he used to lie listening to the wolves howling in the freezing cold. I could never quite believe this story. I had visited Greece only in the summer months when the cicadas hum through the trees and the cool Mediterranean offers the only welcome respite from the heat.

But my father assured me it was all true, and he would describe how during these snowfalls Yiayia (my Grandmother) would make Stifatho, steaming hot beef stew. If my father and his brother misbehaved, Papou would threaten to throw the bones from the stew out near the house so that the wolves would come prowling down from the mountain tops. This both terrified and fascinated my father, and he admits he sometimes wanted my Papou to carry out his threat so that he could steal a glimpse of these great creatures.

Whenever it snows now, my father can’t quite contain his excitement and we indulge his boyhood memories by asking him to tell us the story again. Stubborn, impatient and thoroughly Spartan he may be, but show my dad a snowflake and his heart melts.

Ekaterina at Ekaterina Botziou, It’s All Greek to Me!

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Even as a kid I knew my father was more fun and affectionate than most Korean men. He differed in another way. Back then, expecting parents wanted a son. You couldn’t have too many boys, but my father never cared. He was one proud dad when I was born. Gifts poured in from the office. He threw a big party on my birthday the next year and danced with me in his arms.

We immigrated to America a few years later. When I was in fourth grade, Daddy joined the ranks of the best drivers in New York City. He became a taxi driver. A classmate from Pakistan approached me one day. “Your dad drives a cab. Mine does, too,” said Rukshinda in the glad relief of a confidante.

“No. No, he doesn’t,” I lied. She looked confused.

I hadn’t known I was ashamed of what my father did until I had to acknowledge it. I also wasn’t aware that he was held up at knifepoint doing it. One afternoon the passenger asked to go to 106th Street, close to Harlem. Before they got there, Daddy suddenly felt a blade digging into his neck. He rubbed his fingers to say money, then pointed to the pocket of his sweatpants. The guy dug in and bolted from the cab. Daddy had been sitting on the day’s earnings, the bills in his pocket just change.

I wish I could write in the sky that no job was beneath my father to keep his kids clothed, fed, and safe. I would tell the world a thousand times over that my daddy was a cab driver.

Wayfarer on A Holistic Journey

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I kissed your bones before I immersed them in the water with your ashes. As I watched the river carry them to the ocean, my tears ran, bringing back memories.

You would get into our bed Sunday mornings in England and tell us stories of wonder. This wakened our imagination and allowed us to seek magic in the world. You raised us with iron discipline, and I knew that the army did not impose this on you. It came from within, and I rebelled. You wanted me to follow your path into the army, and yet supported me in my own journey. As I grew older, we spoke of your childhood in undivided India, and I learned how your family lost everything when Pakistan was carved out of India. We managed to get a video of our ancestral home. We watched it together, knowing you would never see your childhood home again.

What I learned from you was to conduct myself with grace and dignity. I learned that people respect us for what we are, and not for the position we hold or the riches we gather. As I lit the fire that consumed your flesh, I looked upon the faces of the people who had gathered to pay their last respects, and I saw that this was true.

We often did not speak much, but we did not need to. We communicated. As I looked into your eyes in the hospital, I knew you were going to die, and I knew you knew it as well. I promised that everything would be okay, and I will keep this promise.

Rajiv at RajivChopra

 

 

139 thoughts on “Fathers From Around the World

    • Oh, I wAnt to say I’m so sorry – but I wonder if you tired of hearing it. I couldn’t abide it in my own grief two years ago, though my father wasn’t the one I had lost. SORRY couldn’t come close to the pain. Thank you so much for letting us know how you received this.

      Love,
      Diana

  1. Such beautiful and moving stories of dads! What a blessing to have such a great dad in ones life. It really is incomparable.

    • They’ll be chkg in. =) They’re out in different time zones. I invited them to share their story here and am so grateful for the precious glimpse into their history. Thanks for the gracious word, Mona.

      Diana

    • Mona, thank you for reading and commenting on our testimonies. I can barely write due to the lump in my throat and the turbulence in my stomach. I am moved beyond words by this ensemble blog. We have “Lady Diana” to thank for her tireless work and for her incredible invitation to write about our fathers. Thank you again and again.

  2. Sniff, sniff, and again I’m sitting here crying. As I hear a quote in my head from a movie, “there’s so much love here.” Thanks for honoring dad’s D and thank you contributors!!!

    • I shouldn’t break the mood or tease but if I earned a quarter for every time you’ve cried here I could actually get my boy a toy. =) Thanks for talking to us, Shazza. We simply gave back (and forward) what our fathers gave us, though we can never repay.

      Love,
      Diana

  3. As my father passed away when I was only five months I wouldΒ΄not recognize that kind of feeling as I do with my mother and I really think that I have received from my mom all the possible love than a human being can give, always unconditional. Anyway as I can see for the people experiences you show us, that there are fathers remarkably involved with their sons.
    Good Post!

    • Aw, thank you for the kind word and the glimpse into your own story. How difficult it was for your mother. I appreciate your taking the time with something that may have felt foreign.

      Blessings,
      Diana

  4. Great post HW. It was nice to visit with others’ Dads – brought back memories. This post is a treat for Father’s Day. Kind of like a special dessert that you savour. Thank You

    • My father is still living. I did see I should’ve tried to clarify that but the words just arranged themselves as they did. Michele and Rajiv told amazing stories of the dads they miss. I am honored to be able to share them. Thanks for being here.

    • Thank you, Tish. Fathers often take the backseat in the kudos – I think more now than in times past, though it’s debatable. Many women have raised consciousness over the challenges mothers juggle in the postmodern age. Thank you for bearing witness to the honor we pay our fathers this wknd.

      Xxx
      Diana

  5. Short stories like this promote peace. We learn that all people are the same whether living in a Kansas farm town or a Greek village. I loved these stories.
    P.S. My grandfather owned a taxi cab and my mother was embarrassed of his job when she was a little girl. Funny, but the next generation thought of him as a rich man…with a pantry off the kitchen filled from the floor to the ceiling with wooden cigar boxes filled with money. Not much faith in banks after the Depression, I guess.

  6. Thank you Diana! I appreciate reading your entry! I love my dad, but sometimes I realize that accepting for who he is, is still a challenge. You reminded me that time is short. I must take the time to acknowledge all that he has done and continues to do for me! Thank you!

    • That’s great, Amy. Thanks for letting me know. Actually, it’s been a long haul, the road to acceptance. I’m not sure I’m all there in regard to my parents but the irony is they continue to love me unconditionally. Ugh, shame on me! I was surprised at the tears as I thought out and wrote my piece. It was an emotional travel back in time. I am shocked at how young my parents look in old photos. They may have been younger than I am now!! It IS so fast. So glad you could take something away. I appreciate your beauitful, receptive spirit.

  7. Pingback: Fathers From Around the World | Ekaterina Botziou

  8. Thank you for getting these stories together and presenting them in a Father’s Day tribute. My Dad passed away in the early 80s and I miss him as much today as when I traveled out of his protective “cloak” when I was much younger. A loving Dad is not perfect, but he is important and vital and nurturing. Thanks again.

    • I love what you say about imperfect fathers who are indispensable to our nourishment. So appreciate your sharing something of your own bittersweetness in missing and celebrating your father.

      Xxx
      Diana

    • Thank you for your wonderful appreciation. I echo Diana in encouraging you to write about your father. I very much look forward to reading your tribute to him. So sorry to hear that he was gone too soon. I felt the same way about my dad. Today, I feel blessed to see him come alive again in Diana’s post Fathers From Around the World. The best kind of healing.

      • Makes me so happy to know you can relive and celebrate your amazing father this wknd, Michele. Your descriptions were achingly lovely. How proud he is to know the calling you have taken up to serve the disadvantaged, lend them strength. Both your and his struggles have been so inspirational. And that’s enough thanks my way!

        Love,
        Diana

  9. These are wonderful for Father’s Day… I remember the first time my daughter asked my husband if she could call him “Daddy”….. Blood doesn’t make a Father… Love does….Michelle

  10. I was on the Twitter today (well, I am there every day) and someone had started a malicious #EndFathersDay hashtag group. Perhaps a joke, or a troll, or some malcontent who wanted to piggyback off some not-so-kind comments against men in general that flourished in certain social media outlets afer that horrific shooting a few weeks ago. I was saddened by the hashtag thing, but then quickly saw many women speaking out about such an extreme and absurd notion. I mention this because I had read this post last night and found such a polar opposite to the negative stuff I had been reading about lately.

    Fathers. Dads. Pops. Papis. Daddys. Our “day” is certainly not as celebrated as Mother’s Day, but I still love the fact that so many of us can still see our fathers in such loving and beautiful light. Some of the kindest, gentlest, loving and generous people I know are men. We might not be as demonstrative, or obvious in our affections, but boy do they come through nonetheless. Those wonderful and touching stories show it, Diana. Fathers hold a special place in our spirits, and even the comments here demonstrate that. What a tribute to the dudes who show us their hearts in their own way, and who help shape our character and resolve.

    This was something special indeed. Thank you for sharing this.

    Blessings,
    Paul

    • Shoot. Beautiful, Paul. Now, isn’t that something? We’re always going to have bad apples, aren’t we? I feel sorry for them, actually. They have nothing better to do than try to rot the bunch where there is beauty and vitality.

      For all my jokes and pokes at men (few and far between) under the grand theme of overworked mothers, I find it nonsense to speak in favor of one gender. The best of men enable the best of women enable the best of men enable…in the parenting.

      We need one another. Children need both their parents, which is why single-parenting is so crazy hard. There are many single and married fathers who have given their littles more than they could. They indeed “show us their hearts in their own way, and help shape our character and resolve.”

      Thank you for helping make this post special, Paul.
      Happy Father’s Day!!

      Xx
      Diana

  11. I have very positive memories of my father. He was so supportive of his children as they grew. How fortunate it is to have good parents to give us that start we need in life.

  12. Four beautifully moving accounts of four very different fathers, thank you for sharing them Diana.
    You know, despite everything, I am so grateful for the early memories of my dad, the man who took me for long walks in the woods and taught me to love and respect nature, not to touch bird’s eggs if we found them in a nest, setting my imagination on fire with stories of red foxes. He gave me a love of story telling and for that I will be eternally grateful…

    I think you did just write in the sky by sharing your daddy with us in this way…

    Love & hugs to you my friend.x

    • Precious. (It was four accounts, by the way, but please – no worries.) Actually, when I saw your like, I thought it was awesome and mature of you to embrace this post. I love what you shared of your dad. We like to pigeon-hole people – even or esp our parents – in boxes (traps) and decide they’re entirely great or bad. They are fallible people, just like us, and we don’t know anyone well if we don’t know both their strength and weaknesses. So I appreciate how you can hold on to and even thank your dad for the gifts that helped shape the sensitive you and the writer inside.

      And I am bowled over by your closing comment on the sky. Thanks so much for that, Sherri. You just sent me off into my day rich with blessing.

      Gosh, electric. This thing we call blogging.

      Love,
      Diana

  13. Wow, your father at knifepoint.
    Unfortunately dearie’s business partner was shot last wk. by a disgruntled, ex-employee. In the stomach. So 13 yr. old son is probably anxious on this Father’s Day.

    All sorts of stories about fathers. My father taught himself English while he still had 5 young children running around….6th one came later. This is after finishing work as restaurant cook.

    There was no adult for ESL where he was in 1950’s, small town Ontario…he was put ..in class of Gr. 2 children. He never went back!

    He is fluent in Chinese and English, reading, writing and speaking. That’s my working class father with only high school education……a role model for his children to get an university education later.

    He is more artistically inclined, whereas my mother who has a lower level of education than he, is more mathematically inclined. She would mortgage, sewing yardages,etc. in her head while my father watched her, talk away on calculations.

    Oh life, if paths in life were different with different opportunities.

    • Really crazy how our lives hang on a thread. We just never know what’s around the corner. Your dad’s amazing, Jean. I love how he pushed himself to that level of fluency with all he had to juggle. So many Koreans don’t bother. They just come to America and set up their own Korean communities, continuing to set themselves back bc it is impossible not to have to use English with nonKoreans. Thx for sharing. I have found your history fascinating. Not in an exotic way, for the shared Asian culture, but in appreciation of its richness.

  14. Such beautiful tributes by everyone. Captivating and one-of-a-kind stories and fathers, undoubtedly.

    Ps. Diana, loved hearing about your dad’s profession and all the beautiful subtext that transpired for you.

    • Appreciate your embracing the stories, Diahann, and noting mine as you did. I found myself tearing up in the writing. It was a privilege to be able to share these stories on AHJ.

      Love,
      D.

  15. Such great stories, and most touching is how much you two meant to each other in that unconditional way that love tends to brings out. Men will do anything for those they love, and hearing about you fathers work and doing it all to better the lives of the women he loved is touching. Brilliant writing.

    • I love this, the simple: “Men will do anything for those they love.” Not sure whom you meant in the “you two”, as there are four separate accounts here but you put your finger on what I have known of men.

      Thank you for blessing us.
      HW

  16. Glad to read these stories. I said good-bye to my father 2 years ago, and my father-in-law 3 years ago, both, unexpectedly. Those good-byes have certainly changed my perspective on life and death. Thanks again for posting these.

    • Thanks for the glimpse into your life-changing loss, Lon. It’s a wonder I take my loved ones for granted knowing (KNOWING) we don’t have eternity together this side of heaven.

      Blessings,
      Diana

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