My dad turns 80 this Sunday so I wanted to share some of his gold nuggets with you.
When I was little he used to tell me he could have been a photographer with the Sun Herald or do something else. Back then the something else meant the money was better initially. But he shakes his head in disbelief and always gives a chuckle about it. It was one of those forks in the road of his life, where he thought what could have been if he did choose to be a photographer instead?
That was his way of telling us kids to say yes to any opportunity that lay before us, even if we initially didn’t realise what might be possible.
His parents would tell them to get a job in the government and he would listen to their advice. He was with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a public servant, for most of his working career.
Before all that though, as a boy, he worked for his mum and dad making pasties, selling peanuts at pub corners. Later helping them to make chips, serving people at the fish and chip shop and mixed business. He was one of ten brothers and sisters growing up in and around business.
He took a trade as an electrician, worked as a furniture removalist and a taxi driver in Sydney. What a life. You can just image what he saw.
For the past 25 years he has helped mum and the family with our own businesses from a market stall in Rapid Creek, Darwin to Seafood Delites in Casuarina eatery and a market stall in Salisbury, Brisbane to Mamaku in Clayfield.
Also for the past 16 years, he has performed a number of times across tv, film and advertising and seen and met so many interesting people through being a extra. He has met Jodie Foster, Steve Irwin before he passed, Patrick Rafter, and many more.
He won the amateur competition for stand up comedian voted by professional comedians and cruise audience (what an honour!) on the P&O cruise (before cruising got hit with the curse of covid-19).
I’ll remember as I grew up he played golf every weekend. We lived on the 17th hole, well not on it but our house backed on to the golf course. I remember he told me that when they were kids they carved out their own golf clubs!
Every Saturday his religion is the TAB. He studies the racing guide like there is some kind of secret to unearth from it. He uses omens of names, numbers, jockeys or trainers. Ask him for a hot tip, he will always have one.
As a young man he used to train junior rugby league and he is deeply passionate about rugby league especially the Rabbitohs. The year they won, I’ll always remember him sitting with his brothers in the pub in Zetland, Sydney, watching on with tears welled up and cheering loudly.
He loves music. When I was growing up at least one of those days was cleaning day. He would crank up the tunes and clean and sing along. This is why I have such a huge range of songs I also like to play and sing along to. Imagine the Crooners and the broom or vacuum cleaner his dance partner!
He taught me a lot growing up. He would put us to bed each night and would make up a story off the top of his head. Every. Single. Night. During the day he knew I wanted to be a journalist somehow. He knew I had an obsession with Superman and Sixty minutes. He would make me read the newspaper out loud to him like a news broadcaster.
He would randomly make us spell words. He would teach us to break up the words with syllables. Say it out loud. Sound it out. He would take us to the library every weekend. I do this with and for my kids now too. We would spend the whole day there scouring the shelves for a hidden gem. It was almost like meditation in the library cos it was so quiet in there. We would take some books home after feeling like we had found gold.
We had this kid size microphone that we would sing songs into. Dad would pretend he was part of our band or he would be clapping as our audience. We all went through the keyboard phase. The recorder phase. I tried the clarinet at one stage there.
Dad was quite involved in the Chinese community from a young adult age. There’s one photo that stands out for me, he is marching in front holding a staff in front and leading the Lion Dance troupe down a street. Since then we have all been a part of Lion Dance and the Chung Wah hall as kids. When we moved to Brisbane dad found a hall in Sunnybank and my brother Darren started kungfu and Lion Dance there. My son Noah continues the tradition. Now we just have Lion heads scattered around our home, a Buddha head and makeshift drums.
The Lion Dance is a big part of our family tradition and culture. We all go every year to watch at least once. The drums go right through you. I remember each of my babies crying the first time they heard it but now always ask are we going. That’s absolutely dad’s influence. I have a picture of me sitting next to a Lion Head with the temple in the background, I’m probably 3-4 years of age. It’s a snippet cut out from a newspaper in my photo album.
He loves the beach. Coogee beach is his heart and home beach but nothing can come close to that for him. But I remember going to the beach almost every weekend also. In Darwin we didn’t know the difference until he introduced us to so many different beaches over the years. Once you’ve seen other beaches that actually have waves, you realise you must have been so little to be impressed by the Darwin beaches. Although Darwin was picturesque and we understand why dad picked it for a home for so long.
His dad was born there. But also it had such a laidback and friendly culture. That was dad to a tee.
See what I did there - tied it back to his love for golf. He loved golf because it was a challenge and each game was like a puzzle. You have to really learn patience on a golf course. He taught me how to play when I was 15. He taught us how to drive! He really learnt patience then.
He was and still is a larrikin. Having fun is his jam. Trying new things is his mantra. I know I’ve spoken about him like he’s no longer here but that was intentional so I could get all my words out.
He is very much alive and well and about to reach the big 8-0.
He helped me discover a love for writing. It started with writing letters to family. Now we share this love and I had to hound him to write his “This is your life”, but you don’t know how much it means, dad. So I’m going to write it here. When I tried to read your words out loud to the kids I began to cry. This is because we love you and don’t tell you enough every day. We are lucky to continue having you in our lives. Especially my kids.
We love you dad for who you are - all the parts that make you who you are and for the best parts that you gave to us all.
We are a family of shopkeepers. We share our journey with the world, right from where we are. If we were to plot on a map where our family hails from, of course, the majority are from China and Indonesia, and now Australia, however we are still discovering the facts of our heritage so much is still unknown. We were raised in Darwin, Northern Territory, and when our ancestors arrived to Darwin, unfortunately, after the tropical cyclones Darwin is renowned for, a lot of our records disappeared. This journey we share is about documenting our lives now, for our next generations and also for providing the difference we want to make right now.