That was the phrase my dad would always use every time he finds out I’m going for new adventures, trying a new sport or rekindling an old one. Heck, he says that each time I leave the house, and over the phone when I’m out.
Most of my friends would know my love for basketball, but not many would know that badminton was the first sport that I took up quite seriously when I was a little kid. Driven by heroes like Foo Kok Keong and Rashid Sidek, my evenings were normally spent playng badminton with my dad and brother at the compound of my paternal grandmother’s house. I’ve even lost count the number of times the shuttlecock would end up on the roof or get caught in the branches of our majestic rambutan tree.
My first badminton racket was a black Carlton that weighed a ton. My dad wanted me to develop more strength so that I would be able to play better in the future. When we outgrew the space at my grandmother’s porch, we would play at the squash court at our place. Sometimes, dad gives us a treat by booking a real badminton court so we could get the real experience as much as possible.
Alas, being the kid with short attention span, soon enough I decided to try my hands at tennis instead. So when we were in Sydney for a holiday, dad got me a white Prince tennis racquet that was at a sale. And then basketball came along. While the sport was not as gentleman-ly at tennis and boasts a lot of rough body contact, my parents gave me the green light anyway. In fact, all my basketball shoes were picked and bought with my dad. And though he didn’t know much about the game, he and mom would still attend my tournaments, even if it meant standing in the rain!
After massaging the unlucky finger-for-the-week that was in the shade of purple and blue from being strained during a basketball game, my dad would still tell me the same thing,
“Make sure you be careful ah.”
Floorball came along, a court version of ice hockey, and that got me excited as well. It was a relatively new sport in Malaysia and not many people knew about it. I told my dad I just wanted to give it a try and he never said no. My dad’s incredible sense of direction (which I don’t have) means he would always be able to send me for trainings no matter where they were. Badminton, tennis, basketball, floorball – he was with me every step of the way.
My dad’s life philosophy is very simple: Just do your best, and do no evil. And whatever you start, make sure you finish.
I’m not sure if I’ve finished all the things that I’ve started, but the things that I know I must, I have. If it wasn’t for dad, I would’ve dropped out of university even before I started. I might not have liked it then, but I’m very thankful that I persevered and finish a journey that has made me a stronger and more resilient person that I am today.
I still like the look on my friends’ faces when I tell them, “My dad’s climbed Everest before.” Sometimes I think my dad wishes his passion for hiking would have rubbed off on us. Once in a blue moon, I would accompany him for a hike when I’m home. It’s not a pretty sight, seeing a man in his late 50’s surpassing his daughter who’s in her 20’s. But he never once rushed me, nor was he ashamed of me (although he did tease me a few times in front of his friends for good fun). “Slowly…just step by step…” was how he encouraged me until we made it to the top.
Today, while I was playing badminton with my colleagues, one of our security guards who was also playing began to coach us. His patient, serious and no-nonsense manner made me feel like a seven-year old who was being given pointers by her dad again.
How apt, that such a scene would take place today, because it made me miss my dad a little bit more.
Because it’s my dad’s birthday today.
As I packed my stuff and headed for the car after a good game, I picked up the phone and called mom (because my dad is one of the only living specimens who has survived this long without a cellphone). They were out for a nice Thai dinner, on my tab. I spoke to my dad and wished him, and joked why aren’t they taking the advantage of having abalone at my expense. His reply made me smile.
“We’ll wait for you and your brother to come home and we’ll have that together.”
It wasn’t about the abalone that tugged my heartstrings, but it was the sentiments of my dad who has always ensured that good things are shared within the family. We didn’t have much, but dad always tries his best to make sure we have everything we needed.
We spoke a little bit more, and he knew that I had just finished playing badminton. And true enough, just before we bade goodbye, he ended with his usual sentence,
“Make sure you be careful ah.”
Happy Birthday, Daddy. May your years always be blessed, and may you and mummy have many many more happy years together. I love you, and we’ll be home soon.
And yes, I’ll be careful. 😉