I can’t believe it’s nearly Father’s Day. With the pandemic and lockdowns, I’ve lost track of time but I’ve never lost the beautiful memories of my dad.
He died of ALS in 1996—a cruel, ugly disease that took him too soon. He was such a soft, gentle soul–a true gentleman. I don’t ever remember his speaking ill of anyone.
We came from entirely different generations. Being the 7th of 8 kids there was more like two generations between me and dad but it didn’t matter.
I’m sure he didn’t always understand my reasoning for doing what I did but he was always supportive and never doubted that I’d succeed.
In 1990 I decided to apply for a job in Japan. What? Japan? Where did that come from? People didn’t just up and leave a good government job like I had to move halfway around the world. For me, it was not only a dream but an adventure into the unknown.
I’d never traveled to Asia and it was my sister, a teacher, who told me about the opportunity to teach conversational English in Japan.
Hey! I was single, no kids and I liked to talk–so why not? I felt long overdue for a life style shakeup so I jumped in with both feet.
I went to Vancouver for three separate interviews—all of which were intense and formal. I had to demonstrate sample lessons and show them I was right for the position.
They offered me the job, I accepted and the rest is history.
Now you have to remember, this is long before the internet and cell phones. I didn’t speak Japanese, knew very little about the culture, and really had no idea what I was doing.
The Gulf War had just started and weeks before there’d been a bomb scare at Narita Airport in Tokyo. One good things though was that there was no 24-hour news cycle like we have now though so it didn’t really phase me like it probably would today.
Well, the day finally came. I took my six—yes six—full to the brim suitcases and checked in. I flew from Vancouver to Narita, then to Osaka for an overnight layover and the next day I went south to my final destination of Fukuoka.
I was so unprepared for the fast-paced Tokyo airport. My head spun as I sought out an information booth. I grabbed a bag of chips at a newsstand and with a dinner of the ever-popular worldly potato chip, I finally arrived in Osaka along with my luggage.
I’d been told to call the hotel where a reservation had been made for me and they’d send a car to fetch me. I pushed a huge cart with all my worldly possessions and went outside. To my disbelief, it was snowing. People scurried in all directions–many wore surgical masks. I’d never seen anything like it before and had no idea what it all meant.
The car never came.
I guess I can’t really say whether it did or not because I had no idea what to look for. I called again and finally connected with the hotel driver. I was past the point of exhaustion when I finally arrived at the hotel and called my parents.
My dad answered the phone. This didn’t happen often as mom usually got there first but not this time. In hindsight, think this was a very good thing. As soon as I heard my dad’s voice I burst into tears.
It was an ugly cry. Snot freely flowing and words being choked on as I tried to talk through the sobs.
“I…I…I…wanna come…hoooome…” I told him when he asked about the flight.
I remember saying it over and over again as I relayed my stress-filled day. He simply listened.
“You’ve had a tough day,” he said unhurriedly, “tell you what—you go get a good night’s sleep tonight and tomorrow, if you still unhappy, I’ll send you money and bring you home.”
I nodded my silent agreement. I’ll never forget it because it was then I realized he was always with me even across the ocean. I can still hear those words today.
The next day I woke ready to take on the world and stayed in Japan for over a year.
There’s such a special way that dads deal with issues–pragmatic and head on. I don’t think they get enough credit for just being dads.
I’m so glad my Dad answered the phone that day so many years ago. I took what he said and tucked it to the back of my mind like a secret weapon I could pull out at any time. I knew, no matter what, he’d be there and would always bring me home at a moments notice if I needed.
I miss him so much. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and dad-like influencers out there.