Dad, I miss you

October 2 seemed a normal day.  Around 8:30 PM Eastern time, right after dinner, I got a message from my brother, saying my dad was in critical condition.  That short message changed my life forever.

I was baffled by the message: “What do you mean dad is in critical condition?  I talked to dad about a week ago on the phone.  He sounded just fine.”

It turned out, suddenly my dad got severe aneurysm.  Two hours later, he passed away.  He was 77 years old.

This post is dedicated to my beloved dad.

A couple of days later, I rushed to my parents’ place in China, after the 32-hour air and train rides.  This familiar place seemed so strange and vacant without my dad around.  Sitting on his chair and using his computer and WiFi, I just couldn’t believe he was gone.  But he was.

A caring dad:

My dad was also my teacher.  He taught me for 5 years during the primary school.  At that time, I resented him being my teacher, as it was so awkward for me sitting in his classroom.  My freedom was very limited in the school, because my dad was there.

My dad knew that, education was the only way for me and my brother to leave this remote village.  As a result, school work was always the top priority in my family.  I had to study very hard, and excel academically, no other choices.

My dad was always there for me and my brother.  He taught me not only the school stuff, but also what he valued the most: honesty, and integrity.

The life in this village was very hard in 1960s and 1970s (It is still hard as of today).  People’s incomes were very low, and food was scarce.  But my parents did their best, borrowed money from friends, and sent me and my brother to high school, and later to college.  My brother was the first person in this village who went to college.  Two years later, I followed the suit.

To my dad, his proudest accomplishment was that, both of his kids graduated from college.  On the other hand, my brother and I are living so far away from them.  Their nest has been empty for over 37 years.  It could be very challenging for my parents sometimes.  But they handled gracefully.

A regular human being:

When I was very young, in my eyes, my dad was a hero.  He overcame lots of life adversaries, loved our family, worked hard, and marched on no matter how hard life was.  As a child, I thought my dad was always right.

After growing up, gradually I realized that, like any other human beings, my dad had flaws.  He could be wrong, too, sometimes.  Interestingly, I could see some of his flaws on me as well.  Like father, like daughter, not only on appearance, but also on personality.

This similarity of personality was not a great thing, as it caused conflicts.  I don’t remember how many times my dad and I were not on the same page.  Sometimes we argued, and it hurts.

My dad was a heavy smoker all his life.  As a result, he developed emphysema.  This chronic condition affected his life quite a lot during the last 10-15 years.  Many times, I encouraged, begged, and coerced him to quit smoking, as he coughed a lot.  He tried halfheartedly several times, but never succeeded.  Cigarette was my dad’s best friend for almost 60 years, till his last day.

In this poor village, most of the guys smoke.  Every time when a male visitor walks into my parents’ house, the first thing we’re supposed to offer is cigarette, as a kind of courtesy.  To me, it’s not courtesy, it’s assisted suicide in some sense.  This is insane.

During my dad’s funeral, 75 cartons of cigarettes were either consumed or sent out as gifts.  That is 750 boxes, and 15,000 cigarettes.  I couldn’t understand this, and refuse to understand it.

I miss him:

No matter how many times we disagreed with each other, after all, he was my dad.  He gave me the life, cared about me, raised me responsibly, provided me great education, and taught me values.  We both were imperfect, but loved each other in our own flawed way.

Do I have any regrets?  Absolutely.

In early 2016, I wrote an ebook “Dad’s Bicycle – Journey of a Chinese Family”.  But I never mentioned about this book to my dad.  Why?  My dad might not agree 100% on what I said in this book.  Any minor disagreement could lead to a big argument, which I tried to avoid.  The purpose of the book was to show the love, caring, and sometimes difference in my family.

I’ll stay with my mom in China for a while, and make sure she gets adjusted to this new life.  Life without my dad wouldn’t be easy, but we’ll manage to get through it.  Time will heal slowly.

I believe my dad went to a better place, with no worries, no emphysema, and no suffering.  I hope he is happier right now.

When my final day comes sometime in the future, I hope I could check out as quickly as my dad did: on the previous day, he was still working on the yard, biking around, and was relatively healthy.  The next morning, he was gone.  No dragging, no pain.

Dad, thank you very much for all the things you did for me.  I love you, and miss you.  I’ll see you in another 20-30 years.

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26 Responses

  1. Hi Helen, I’m very sorry for your loss. Most of us can relate in some way since we all have parents. 11 years ago we lost my mother at the age of 79. In a few days my Dad will turn 90. Although he is reasonably healthy, I know it’s only a matter of time until I get a similar message that you received on October 2. All the best to you and your family as you work through this difficult time. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thank you, Tom. Very sorry to hear your mom passed away 11 years ago. Sometimes life seems so vulnerable. We can never be prepared, no matter what experience we had before. It’s very hard to accept the fact, though we understand life is short, and death is inevitable. At least, my dad didn’t suffer. He had a good life.

  2. Caroline says:

    Hi Helen, so sorry to hear about your loss.
    My dad past away 7 years ago this month after a long battle with cancer. I was scheduled to arrive in France the next day:(
    He was definitely not a perfect dad but he gave us lots of love and I am so thankful for that.
    Sending you all the best to you and your family. I am sure your mom appreciates having you there. Caroline

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Caroline, thank you. Many of us have the tragic experience of losing loved ones. Fighting against cancer is a very tough battle. Sorry to hear about your story. To me, my dad was the fixture of this house. He was always here some where, inside the house, or working in the yard. Now suddenly, this house becomes so quiet. Let’s enjoy life, as it’s so short.

  3. Samantha says:

    Hello Helen, I’m so sorry to hear about your father. It is so hard to lose someone we love. I am so lucky to still have both of my parents and I am really dreading the day when I will lose one of them. It is a good reminder to spend time with your loved ones now, and be grateful to have them.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Samantha, thank you for sharing your thought. Yeah, it is a good reminder to focus on what we have, and appreciate the time together with our loved ones. Right now, my brother and sister-in-law and I are trying to help my mom to go through this. She seems doing okay. I’m sure the healing takes time. Holidays may be a hard time.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I know my mom still remembers my grandmother’s date of death acutely every year. And her birthday. I don’t think the sting really ever goes away entirely, but at least he lives on in your heart (hopefully, that isn’t too cheesy).

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Abigail, thanks a lot. Yeah, everyone has his/her own way to remember the lost loved ones. It takes time to heal. When my dad was alive, many times I was wondering why we couldn’t agree on each other. Now he’s gone, and in my mind he is still a very good dad. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Joe says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. That’s the part of getting older that none of us like. Take care of yourself and your mom.
    Best wishes.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, that’s true. Aging is not fun. Now it’s more about my mom, as she is the person who will move on living in this house. We just try to do all we can to help her to go through it. Thanks for sharing the thought.

  6. Gaby says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. He sounds like he did the best for you and your brother and he must have been so proud of your accomplishments! I am realizing that there is no age where the pain of losing a parent decreases –it’s painful no matter what.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Gaby, thank you. Yeah, my dad did what he could as a dad, and was glad to see my brother and I left this village. There is not much hope living here. I have lived here for 11 days now, and still feel the backwardness every day. But, my parents love this place. I guess this is where they belong to, a closely connected community.

  7. Bob says:

    Hi Helen, very sorry for your loss. This is something I think about quite a bit with my dad now 84. We lost my mom over 20 years ago at the young age of 54 of an aortic aneurysm. Kind of makes you think, I will be 54 next year. Got to keep doing the things you love to do. It sounds like your dad was a good and decent man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. Bob

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Bob, thanks a lot. Yeah, aging is very challenging sometimes. Sorry to hear your mom passed away at that young age, that’s heartbreaking. After my dad’s death, I realized again that life is short, and yeah, we got to do what we love to do. Thank you for the thoughts and prayers.

  8. GYM says:

    Oh Helen, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Aneurysms are so scary and sudden… was it in his brain or stomach area? Your dad sounds like a good dad. I’m sure he is very proud of you right now for publishing an ebook. That is interesting to hear that cigarettes are shared in the village and given as a gift.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi GYM, thank you. Yeah, it was sudden, and the whole ordeal lasted less than 7 hours. It was in his brain. It was a shock to my family, and we’ll get through it slowly.

      Yeah, smoking is a very popular addiction here. And people smoke inside the house as well. It smells horrible.

  9. Dragon Gal says:

    Hi Helen, I’m so sorry about your loss. You have written such a beautiful and touching tribute to your dad in this post. It was a reminder that despite the ups and downs we experience with family, there is always a powerful connection. Sending big hugs to you.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi DGal, thank you very much. Yeah, my family is a double-sided sword. We love each other, and the differences exist sometimes.

      It’s kind of an irony. My parents provided me a good education, and I was able to leave this village and embrace the world. On the other hand, good or bad, I started looking at the family relationships in a different perspective, and sometimes challenged my parents’ authority if they were wrong. My rebellion and honest attitude definitely touched my dad’s nerves. If I were to stay in the village 37 years ago, I would be a daughter who would obey the parents unconditionally.

  10. Katrin says:

    So sorry for your loss, Helen. You wrote a beautiful tribute to your dad, and I’m sure he was very, very proud of you, you fulfilled the vision he had for you. No matter if you had differences in opinion – don’t we all have with our children? My own parents are 84 and 82 now, so the thought they will not always be around comes to my mind quite often these days. But at least I have more time (and patience to be honest) with them now than when I was in my job. So I’m sure you’re mum is very happy that early retirement puts you in a position where you can support her in the way you are doing now.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Katrin, thank you. I’m glad I don’t have to rush back to US due to the job responsibilities. Yeah, retirement gives me the choice, and probably patience (I hope). My dad and mom have been married for 58 years. My mom definitely was hit the hardest by my dad’s death. She has to live in the same house by herself. It looks she has handled it very well so far. I’ll stay with her for a while, and help her get adjusted. It’s good to see my parents are part of this small community, and people are willing to help each other when needed.

  11. Kay Lynn says:

    Helen, I’m so sorry for your loss. Having seen both my parents spent their last two weeks in the hospital without any quality of life, it is a blessing your father could live a full life to the end. Prayers of comfort to you and your family.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Kay Lynn, thank you for the thought and prayers. Sorry to hear your parents had to spend the last two weeks in the hospital. That was hard for them, and for you and other loved ones.

      My dad fell into deep coma immediately once the aneurysm happened. Yeah, he had a good life. The last couple of days, I found out his hand-written sheet music, and played some simple songs on his keyboard. I’m very proud of him.

  12. Steve says:

    Hi Helen, I’m very sorry for your loss. All the best to you and your family

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