Dads for Life pays tribute to all fathers, even those who are no longer with us, for the legacy that they leave behind for their children. We interview Gue Kah Wan, 25, on how he remembers his dad in the wake of his 10th year death anniversary.
Tell us about your dad. What kind of person was he like?
My dad passed away 10 years ago in 2003 at the age of 48 from a brain haemorrhage. I was 15 at that time. My family circumstances were quite different from others as my mum had been ill for some time and so my elder brother lived with my grandparents while my younger sister and I stayed with my parents at our old kampong house at Lorong Ah Soo. I remember my dad as someone who always placed others before himself. He stopped schooling when he was very young in order to work to help support the family. He had 9 siblings altogether and he was the third oldest child.
What are the fondest memories you have of your dad?
The kampong house we had in Lorong Ah Soo was pretty big and I spent 6 years of my childhood there. At that time, my dad had was running a construction company with 2 of my other uncles, and part of the kampong compound was used to house the foreign construction workers who worked for us.
I remember one neat trick that my dad taught me, and that was to make a housefly trap using the cover of a mooncake box. You fill a small matchbox with sugar, set it under the mooncake box cover and poke a hole by the side of the box. Pretty soon you will see houseflies trapped and buzzing through the transparent plastic cover, but they do not know how to exit through the hole they came from.
Even though my dad was busy running his business, I remember how he would make pockets of time for me. In between work, he would pick me up from school after my CCA. Almost every weekend he would buy the famous Hokkien Mee from Serangoon Gardens for me and we would both sit at the kitchen at home eating with each other, and we would have simple conversations with him asking me how my school was. Those were quiet and companionable moments that I had with my dad.
Even though your dad passed away 10 years ago when you were only 15, what are some of the ways in which he had influenced you? What similarities do you see yourself having with your dad?
Well, it wasn’t until recently when my girlfriend asked me why I was always going all out for others that caused me to pause, reflect and realise that my dad was exactly like this too – he put others before himself and went all out for them.
Do you aspire to be more like your dad in any other ways?
I really appreciate the kindness that my dad showed to the people around him when he was alive. Even up to now, my mum and relatives always tell me that my dad was a good man. It is important for me to hear and know that he had made such a positive impact on the lives of others. My uncles who used to work with him told me that not only was he a very patient man who shouldered his responsibilities diligently, he gave it his all to help them, and to help make the family business succeed. Once he was so tired driving home that he even forgot where he was and had to phone someone to help him re-orient himself. I value my dad for being so hardworking, doing much to help the family do well, and to provide for us. If it weren’t for him, I would not have been able to further my studies in Australia.
So even up to now, I reap the inheritances of his good and kind nature. Ten years after his passing, my relatives especially those he had worked with, still never fail to remind me what good a man he was, and they continue to try to care and provide for me in various ways, till today. This they did for me on my dad’s behalf and so I continue to be greatly blessed by him.
Is there anything that you regret about the relationship you had with your dad?
I regret that we did not get to spend much time together. In many ways, he was a typical Asian father, hard at work from dawn to past midnight. I appreciate his providence for the family, but now I wish we had spent more time together. If there is one thing that I learnt from my dad not to do, it is not to work ceaselessly and to make work-life balance one of my principles. This is something that I will make sure I stand by when I have children of my own in the future.
That said, I have also been very blessed to have a father figure in the small group in church which I started to attend when I was 15 (the year my dad passed away). My cell group leader was a close father figure to myself and a few other friends my age whom coincidentally were also fatherless for one reason or another. He would take care of us by spending time with us, giving us advice, and he would also guide us by telling us what or what not to do. Though he is no longer our small group leader in church now, the whole group of us still meet every Sunday for lunch to catch up. I am very thankful that he had been there for an important season in my life.
A picture of Kah Wah and his father taken when he was 6 at his childhood home at Lorong Rapat, shortly before the land was reclaimed by the government in 1994.d.
This is the only family photo taken together as a family, around the year 2000, during Kah Wan’s sister birthday party at Macdonald’s.
From left to right: Kah Wan, Dad Leong Seng, Mum Poh Yen, younger sister Ling Jie and elder brother Kit Wan.
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 12-06-2013
Categories: Dads' Stories