Most of us have “remember the time dad…” stories. In celebration of Father’s Day (it’s coming up fast, you slacker) the GP staff decided to put their memorable father-son moments on paper for all the world to see. Sometimes it’s hard to tell him how you really feel, but a story — now that’s the way to go. We know it’s not his day yet, but we hope our tales convince you to give dad a call and reminisce about fun you’ve had; he deserves it.
Two instances come to mind where my father has had my back, literally. The first was on a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, just the two of us, when I was nine years old. We had just stepped onto the trail, maybe 30 yards in to the hike, when I was virtually jerked backwards off my feet. With a tendency to walk with my head down, I had completely missed the cottonmouth viper sitting in the middle of the trail. My father saw it in time to pull me back by my pack. The second was on a winter backpacking trip up Mount Rainier with the Boy Scouts. Curious about the drop-off adjacent to the trail, I wandered over to take a peek. Just as my lead foot broke through the cornice over a couple hundred foot drop, my dad once again grabbed me before I slipped over.
About five years ago, my father stopped taking down peoples’ phone numbers because he ran out of space on the piece of paper he keeps in his wallet. He has a smartphone, but prefers to keep one piece of paper in his wallet with all the numbers, because “it’s easier”.
His name is Edward. If you know him, you call him Ted. This includes me. I don’t know why I call my dad by his first name, and can’t remember if or when it ever may have changed. At times, growing up, I figured I would save the “Dad” bomb, like a trump card, for when I really fucked things up — crashed the car, got arrested, was put on a government watch list — but none of those things ever happened. Probably because Ted has always been such an amazing Dad. Thanks,
Dad, for everything.
My dad came to the United States from South Korea with fifty bucks in his pocket and the clothes on his back (seriously). He both worked and attended college full time and sent most of his money home to care for his parents, three brothers and three sisters. He lived in an unheated garage in Montana one winter where it was so cold that the toilet froze. I never heard him ask for anything, not once. And if you asked him for help, he’d give whatever he could without expecting anything in return. He graduated, started a family, obtained two U.S. patents, started his own business and wrote an autobiography. I am half the man my dad is.
I have to believe my father knew it was a terrible idea to let me drive. The wooded hill — it was a hell of a rise, extremely steep three quarters of the way up until it leveled just a bit, the sort of terrain that’d show you just how out of shape you were when you walked it and had to stop halfway, huffing and hawking spit — was covered in just over an inch of snow. The rocky road was slippery underfoot.
But it was time to go home, along the narrow wooded path down over the hill, then through the woods and out to the paved highway. Dad handed me the keys to his Chevy Avalanche. It had the feeling of a big moment, and I imagined us at the bottom, him turning to me and smiling a big “that was easy, wasn’t it?” grin.
We started to slide almost immediately. I touched the brakes ever so lightly, as he instructed, and away we went, picking up speed and fishtailing gently, edging closer to the trees on either side of the road with each meander. Neither of us remained calm, but he was the calmer one; as I jammed my foot on to the emergency break (a bad mistake), he reached over and gripped the wheel, helping to steer without taking control away from me. About ten seconds later we slid to a stop at the bottom without having hit a thing. My dad never cursed at, blamed or admonished me, and while I can’t remember exactly what he said afterward, I do recall his demeanor. After a few deep breaths there was something resembling a smile, and then something about heading home. That was it, and I’ll never forget it.
“When I was a kid”, my parents made me choose one sport. None of this stuff where you need a PhD in logistics to fit it all in, with a music lesson in the car on the way to each of the day’s five after school sports. One sport. I was nine and I was torn. In front me was baseball, tennis, soccer and gymnastics. I remember cleaning the garage with my dad — the chore I hated then, but love now because I can actually view progress — and we were talking about the decision. He loved gymnastics and was actually my coach; though I didn’t want to disappoint him, I didn’t really love the sport. Sensing this tension, he stopped me mid sweep and said, “I want you to know that whatever you do, whatever you choose, I support you 100% and will do my best to help you do whatever that is”. He probably doesn’t remember that moment, but that little “talk” saved a lifetime of living up to the expectations of someone else. It gave me great freedom and confidence to be who I am today.
My father is no ordinary man. As a former Olympian in judo, he once smirked in response to the (serious) question, “could you beat up Bruce Lee in his prime?” Last month, when I was visiting my parents, he caught a mole with his bare hands. It was not the first time. His Chinese name literally translates to “Shaker of the Universe”. No, I’m not making this up. That’s my dad. And he’s awesome.
One Saturday afternoon about a month after I got my learner’s permit my dad chucked me his keys. I was told to back the car out of the driveway and park it on the street… solo. With a chance to prove that I was, in fact, the best driver in the world, I strapped in and rolled out of the driveway. With a swift flick of the wrist I swung the car into place while humming Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. Last step was to pull forward up to the curb and collect my praise. Mirrors checked, I punched the gas and felt his little hatchback rocket backwards into our neighbor’s Chevy Suburban. Looking to the front porch for some comfort, I saw my dad fall to his knees, head in his hands. I walked up the driveway preparing for a tarring and/or feathering but all I heard was “I guess we’ll need to practice parking”. Thanks, Dad, for putting up with all the things I’ve broken and helping me end up where I am today.