The tricky thing is yesterday we were just children

Post title taken from Taylor Swift’s “Eyes Open” song.

The past week has been crunch time in the office with lots of assignments and deadlines one after the other. I was walking to the train station after a long day at work, occasionally shifting my shoulders to avoid the swarm of folks walking with their eyes locked on their cellphones unaware of what’s ahead of them, when I noticed the sound of kiddy music nearby. I followed the sound and saw a little boy in one of those mini merry-go-round rides you could startup with coins, which was awkwardly placed in the center of a crowded mall walkway. The boy however seemed unaware of the rush hour crowd and was happily clapping as he went around in circles and waved at his dad who stood nearby.

Frankly, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Why would someone waste money on a silly merry-go-round that probably lasted for just a minute in a crowded shopping mall?” But then I saw the look on both the child’s and father’s faces that all of a sudden a sort of warmth rushed through my veins – the kind of warmth that makes you smile with a lump in your throat. It wasn’t so much the child’s wide-opened, happy eyes that caught my attention, it was the father clapping along and pulling silly faces (in the middle of a crowded mall) to entertain his son. The love he had for his son shone brightly through his eyes and made me smile.

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It made me realize the power of a father’s love, and how father’s would do anything to make their children happy even if it meant getting loose change to fuel up a mini ride or making silly faces in the middle of the mall. He reminded me of my dad, and the son, of me. I was blessed to have grown up with a father who did everything he could to make me happy, and probably just like that small boy, I never realized it then until I grew older. As I stood there, almost judging the father the first time I saw him, I wondered how many folks had walked past my dad unintentionally judging him for what he had done to make us happy.

I didn’t stand there watching the father-son moment too long to avoid looking like a stalker, but as I hopped onto the train later, the sight lingered in my mind. In fact, as I’m at home now blogging this, I still can’t help think of it. Suddenly, beautiful memories of my father and I sprung to mind and this one particularly, made me grin wider:

Back when I was around eight, our local bookstore (which also sold toys) had a father’s day competition to build a dinosaur robot. The grand prize was the robot itself. My dad and I participated along with a few other dads and their children. We were given a time limit and the team that finished the earliest with a functioning robot would win. My dad and I made a great team, but we had one particular duo who was big competition. I kept glancing at them anxiously several times while we worked on the robot, worried because they were almost done. My dad however, remained calm the whole time. After a few minutes, the duo excitedly raised their hands to announce that they had finished.

I was devastated and remember telling my dad to stop assembling the robot because the competition was over. My dad kept telling me to continue because “theirs won’t work”. At the time, I thought he was only saying it to make me feel better so I reluctantly finished assembling our robot while everyone else gathered around the winning duo to witness their robot move. Just as my dad and I were done, we heard noise from the crowd – it turned out the duo’s robot failed to move. My dad held up ours and we were called to test it – after I clicked the “start” button, ours moved! I remember leaping with joy as we were awarded the grand prize while the duo kept complaining to the organizer that they had a faulty robot.

I hadn’t realized my dad had gone (was too engrossed in my prize) until he returned with the duo’s supposedly empty plastic that contained the robot parts and assembly instruction manual. He motioned to one remaining part in the plastic – a mini axle (pin) if I recall correctly – and explained how the robot ‘s gears could not move because the pin was missed from the assembly. I don’t recall the next part of the conversation because at the time, I had been so intrigued and impressed by my dad’s calm and intellectual explanation. That was the moment I decided I wanted to be an engineer just like my father.

I am blessed to have my dad. I have many friends who don’t share the same sentiments towards their father as I do (some may not have even gotten the opportunity to create memories with their dads) which makes me more grateful for mine everyday. I know this life is not eternal and that I will lose him one day, but what nurses my aching heart whenever I think about it, is the thought that there is always room for new memories while he’s around and that hopefully in the afterlife (whether you choose to believe it or not), we will be reunited.

Love you, papa.

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