I don’t think there is a shadow of doubt in this room that I stand before all of you as a true, 100% daddy’s girl. Growing up, the biggest compliment you could have given me is to say how much I looked like Dad, how much I walked like Dad, how much my mannerisms were exactly like Dad’s. I loved hearing it because it made me feel closer to Dad.
I wanted to be closer to Dad because he is my best friend.
A lot of parents can’t wait for the day that their kids become old enough so they can have that coveted best friend relationship with each other. But for me, even at a young age, Dad had always played that hybrid older brother-young father role in my life. I was very shy, didn’t have a lot of confidence and had practically no friends at the first primary school I attended. This meant that I longed for my weekends where I could escape with Dad to our glorious routine of KFC and lepak at Atria Shopping Mall. This means that aside from bringing me weekly joy in the form of chicken nuggets, he is also 100% responsible for how fat I used to be. I think we both realised that my KFC obsession was about to hit a turning point when at the tender age of six or seven years old, I asked Dad if I could have the family size potato gravy all to myself. He said no.
But truly, on weekends, we lived my rockstars. Dad bought me my first PlayStation after realising it was something I would have preferred over Barbie dolls, and he was right. He bought me everything from hamsters to badminton racquets, even though I didn’t particularly like badminton, I just wanted to make friends at school. The stereotypical Asian dad is one who stoic, unfeeling and a bit of a workaholic. But Dad is different. Dad has always had an unwavering confidence in knowing exactly who I am.
I wanted to be closer to my dad because he taught me about music.
When I was 11 years old, Dad took me to my first concert ever, Linkin Park live at Stadium Bukit Jalil. After the concert, he tried his best to get me home on time so I could still attend school the next day. But even if we had stayed out all night, I was adamant about going to school because I wanted to tell everyone about my cool head banging dad who preferred screaming rock to The Bee Gees.
It wasn’t just these big ticket events that were fun, the every day was an adventure with Dad. My fondest memories are of being picked up in Dad’s old Ford Escape, en route to completing a banal errand such as grocery shopping while listening to his latest music purchase. It was through Dad that I had my first taste of TLC, a 90s all girl R&B group, of which the messages pertained to their songs actually became fundamental learnings for me. The first song Dad taught me is called ‘Unpretty’ and he explained to me that it was about inner beauty and self-acceptance.
The lyrics go:
You can buy your hair if it won’t grow
You can fix your nose if he says so
You can buy all the makeup that M.A.C. can make
But if you can’t look inside you
Find out who am I too
Be in the position to make me feel so damn unpretty
The second song by TLC, I now realised he taught me for a very good reason. In fact, I’m quite sure I was even subconsciously made to memorise it as we played it on a continuous loop. The chorus of it is as follows:
No I don’t want your number
No I don’t want to give you mine and
No, I don’t want to meet you nowhere
No, I don’t want none of your time and
No, I don’t want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Thanks for the early warning Dad.
I wanted to be closer to Dad because he inspires me to be the best version of myself.
Studies are extremely important in Dad’s household but any bad results were not dealt with your typical reprimands. Dad had a very different strategy of sitting me down and together we would discuss my grades, reevaluate my life and my values. This sort of logical reasoning was much, much worse than any form of physical pain because I hated to disappoint him. My favourite story regarding this was the time I didn’t do so well in a mathematics exam. That day, the lesson was “Get it right the first time” “Get it right the first time Sam,” said Dad. “In my line of work, if I make a mistake or even a tiny miscalculation, buildings fall and people die. So, get it right the first time”.
In all seriousness, Dad was only ever tough on me if he sensed that I had not given my best. Because that is the way he lives his life, whether in work or play, a big undertaking or a tiny task, Dad always gave his 100%.
I wanted to be closer to Dad because when you look up “nice guy” in the dictionary, you see a photo of him.
You can call my Dad many things. A golf tragic, a by-product of a traumatic boarding school experience in rural NSW or even a Leeds United supporter till death do they part. But no title quite encapsulates who he is than the fact that my Dad is simply a really good person. He’s made many sacrifices for me, for the boys and for Aunty Lisa and has worn many hats. Examples include being the unofficial driver to tuition and swimming practice, and agony aunt when life in Sydney gets a bit too overwhelming for me and I need a listening ear. By leading through example, he’s shown me the importance of respecting my elders and looking after Ma Ma and Goong Goong. My Dad is kind to strangers, kinder to friends but there are no people in the world he loves more than family. And I’m sure all of you have a great Leslie moment where you came away from and couldn’t help but think “Les is such a good guy”.
Dad. I’m so proud to call you Dad. Thank you for loving me . The greatest gift you’ve ever given me is not the first PlayStation or the Backstreet Boys Greatest Hits cassette, but an infallible moral compass that I know will always guide me to do the right thing. No matter how far apart we might be physically, or how many WhatsApp and Viber calls have died on us, or if I end up marrying my non-scrub husband one day, I know we will always be close. And I will always be your girl. Happy 50th Birthday.