Remembering My Dad on Father's Day.

Above: Dad with the catch of the day which includes a parrot fish in his right hand, a trigger fish in his left, some octopus, and a few other little fish to feed the family...for free.

Looking back on my life, I appreciate the many times my dad spent time with me. There was a time when he was hardly around because he was always working to provide for his family- like any father should do. But when he was around, he would be so creative in spending time with his children. We didn't have much money growing up so every Sunday, we would go to the beach. I used to grumble at dad and asked him why do we go to the beach every Sunday. Dad said "because its free". But he always made the best of if for us and gave us variety.

First love- fishing.

Dad was a master at spear fishing his diving techniques date back from old Hawaii in which he's learned from other relatives and friends who spear fished to provide for their families. He shared his love for spear fishing with his children and taught all of us how to spear fish at a young age. I learned how to spear fish by age 8 and would fish with my dad for hours. He would teach me every part of the reef that was in front of my Aunty Pu's house at Puiki near Haleiwa, a small surf town frequented by tourist. He would teach me exactly where the huge brain coral was located, where I could find octopus, and where the honu, or sea turtles, would swim and eat. Dad was a master at his craft. As I got older, he would take me and my sister, Leila, in deeper water where the green hues would slowly turn into dark azure blue. You could see the ocean floor drop to a deep blue. He would show us where the large fish would swim along the reef ledge. Although it was sometimes intimidating, it was very calming yet very cold. I would be in awe when my dad would lift the water over his head and take in air to drop to the ocean floor. He would have his spear gun in hand instead of his standard spear for reef fish. His spear gun was handmade out of koa wood. He would float in an upright position and watch for the big Ulua, a certain type of fish that you can find in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. Dad would slowly creep up to the fish's profile and would shoot his harpoon like  spear gun that had a line attached to pull the fish in. Zapp! He got him and would pull the fish toward him. 

I would think that my dad would have gills behind his earlobes because he could stay under water for a long time. He would then come up for air, pull the floater that held the fish towards him, and attach the big fish to it. This is what my dad did best- provide free food from the ocean for his family. If dad caught a lot, he would freeze the fish to use later for fish soup or sell the fish to get money for groceries. No matter how little we had, he always provided.

My first bike.

When I was eleven years old, I would play outside with my friends in the parking lot where we lived in Waikiki. We could only afford an apartment and it was easy access for me to attend school which was two blocks away and for my parents to go to work. Mom worked at a local Hawaiian clothing store for tourist called Watumull's and Dad worked as a limousine service run by a company named Holiday Tours. That afternoon one of my friend's dad came home from work and surprised him with a brand new bicycle. His dad worked as an attorney wearing an expensive Aloha shirt and shiny shoes. My friend was so excited and hopped on his new bike and rode down the parking lot while I just stood there with a smile on my face feeling happy for him. At that moment, my dad came home and saw what was happening. I looked at my dad, gave him a hug, and told him that I was tired and was going in the house to get ready for dinner. 

Later that week, while playing outside with my friend and his new bike, my dad came home riding a brown, rusty bike. He told me that he went to the junk yard and with the little money he had, he got some scrap pieces together and put together the best bike ever. It had a banana seat with torn vinyl which he had patched up with duct tape and a little thumb bell to ring. He told me that he was planning on spray painting it the next day but was too excited about the bike that he just had to show me the bike as soon as possible. He was so proud of that bike because he made it for me- his one and only son. I didn't care how it looked or that it wasn't like the other new bikes I saw in the neighborhood. I was happy that my dad made it for me. 

Above: Me and Dad spending time together at Tripler Army Medical Center.

I'll See you again soon, Dad.

When my dad's health started to fail him, I had the best time taking care of him for the last time. During his stay at Tripler Army Medical Center I would be the evening shift. My sisters would spend time with him during the day and I would stay with him throughout the night because I didn't want him to be alone. So each night I would sit next to his bed and we would talk or watch television. He would tell me how proud he was of me and for being a good son. Dad was always proud of me in whatever I did in life. He never really told me how proud he was while I was growing up but he would always brag to his friends and church members how proud he was of me. But those last times with him he said it to me personally. 

One night he asked me when I was going to fly home back to Dallas. I told him that I didn't have to go home if he didn't want me to. But he insisted that I fly home and continue with my plans to go on my scheduled cruise to the Bahamas. I told him I would cancel it just to be with him until he took his last breath but dad said "No! Go on with your life. I'll be fine." So I honored his wished and made my reservations to flight back to Dallas later that week. The last time I saw my dad, he was staying at the hospice that Tripler runs in a separate building from the main hospital. My family were there with him enjoying him sing for us with his ukulele. We fed him anything he wanted and he thoroughly enjoyed every bite of what he ate. Anything from lychee fruit to Hawaiian delicacies like ahi poke or lau lau. That night, I said my good byes. I gave him the biggest hug, kissed him on his cheek, looked in his eyes and said "I love you, Daddy. Thank you for being the best dad that any little boy could ever have. I'll see you when I come home again soon, Ok?" And he said "I love you, son. Don't worry about me. I'll see you again soon." I turned towards the door and walked out of that hospice with my sister who was going to drive me to the airport.

I saw my dad at his funeral services which were held about a month after his passing on August 5, 2014. He took his last breath on his own after saying "I love you, Ma" to mom before she left for home with the family. He's now home with our Father and I look forward to seeing my dad again soon. We'll go fishing again, bike riding, and everything you could imagine any son and father would do.

On this father's day, tell how much you love your dad. And if your relationship with him isn't as strong as you want it to be, know that in the end, he'll always love you and be there for you. To my dad, happy father's day. I miss you immensely. I love you, Daddy!

Disclaimer: I apologize before hand if you find any grammar errors, etc. I still need to edit this but wanted to publish it for father's day. Thanks. :)

Walter AfallaComment