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Father's Day: Lessons from My Father

By Gina L. Caliboso

This Sunday is Father’s Day. Out of celebration of my beloved father, I put together this list of lessons that my father Phil has taught me over many, many years – okay, maybe just my 41 years. It’s honest for me to say that the past few years have been challenging. I’ve managed to endure tough economic/employment challenges, suffered a break up, but on the flip side, I’ve managed to do quite well for myself. And yes, fans, I’m still single. It bears relevance here. So, yes, here are a few lessons from my father – little nuggets of wisdom that only a father could give his daughter.

But first, a little background. Born here in Los Angeles back in 1934, he, along with his mother and yet unborn brother, went back to the Philippines to bury his aunt. My grandmother Diana took a boat to go to the Philippines and meanwhile, my grandfather, like most Filipinos at the time, was away from Los Angeles, following the harvests (rumor has it he may have been in Washington or Alaska). If the time period doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the Depression era and pre-Japanese occupation of the Philippines. My father, an American citizen, grew up in Japanese occupied Manila.

He remembers that he had to bow to Japanese sentries. He remembers the sound of B-52 bombers. He also remembers having to learn to speak Tagalog. My Dad stuck close to his grandfather with strict instructions, “No English because the Japanese soldiers will take you away.” So, that is Dad’s childhood. I’ll jump ahead here. My grandfather eventually was able to get to the Philippines and get his family back since he had been a steward in the US Navy. Back in the States at 14, Dad didn’t take long to be on his own. At 17, he joined the United States Marine Corps. In just that brief history, my Dad is my hero. In his lifetime, he survived the Depression, Japanese occupation during World War II, AND the United States Marine Corps. Fast forward again, Dad got married to my Mama, earned a living as a mechanic, bought a house, raised a family (two daughters and a son), lost houses, lost a wife, but again, as he is now, he’s gained a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and two wonderful grandchildren, my niece and nephew. I’m in there, trust me.

With that, again, here are a few lessons and with many, many thanks to my father. As you read this, see if there’s anything that your Dad may have said that sounds the same.

Lesson #1 – “Check the Oil”

Being the daughter of a mechanic, I’m very spoiled about automotive repair. Before my dad taught me how to drive, I had to go through auto maintenance 101. I had to know all the gauges. Tire pressure, check. Check the tire pressure in the spare. Oil, check. Transmission fluid. Brake fluid. Water. Windshield wiper cleaner. Belts. Run your A/C. Keep the mirrors clean. Change the lights. Keep a spare key somewhere in your purse. Check your brakes. He was especially tough on me about oil changes, leaving me with this, “If your car were a horse, would you not feed it hay, oats, or water? Think of your car as a horse that you’re taking care of. Your horse will die if you don’t feed it or give it water. For a car, you’re talking at least $300. That ain’t hay.” Love you Dad.

Lesson #2 – “He won’t let you go.”

Several years ago, I suffered a really bad breakup. We’re talking on the floor in a fetal position crying every day, wearing the shirt that HE gave me. FYI, the shirt was a black shirt that had Darth Vader’s line “I find your lack of faith disturbing. There was tissue everywhere. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I was a wreck. I functioned daily, but the weekends were especially tough. My dad was on watch with me every weekend during my post-breakup mourning period. He’d politely knock on the door, “Gina, there’s coffee. Bacon and eggs. Breakfast.” And he’d see how swollen my eyes were and told me to put a cold cloth and cucumbers on them so the swelling would go down. Dad made sure there was tissue available in the living room and kitchen. In a daze, when I did come out of my room, he’d ask, “Do you plan on washing that shirt at all? How about your hair?” Yeah, it was awful. At least for my Dad.

He’d talk me down in my moments and offered me some words of wisdom. During one of my breakdowns I said, “I just thought he cared. We were together so long, I thought he was the one, I thought he and I would be there, together,” I sobbed. All he could do was hand me a box of tissue, touch my shoulder and say, “I don’t know that much, I’m divorced from your mom, been engaged, broken engagements. It sucks. But I know one thing, if he were the one, he won’t let you go.” I smiled a little, cried a little. “Yeah, I know, it stinks doesn’t it?” He made me smile. Which leads to lesson #3.

Lesson #3 – “I’m going to kick that SOB’s a$$”

After watching over me during that particular dark time, one of the kindest things my dad ever said, just out of anger, and maybe to get it out also, “I’m going to kick that SOB’s a$$. If I ever see him, I swear.” Bleep, bleep, and bleep.

Lesson #4 – “Don’t get a salad.

When a man takes you out to dinner, eat something. And if the man pays, you make sure you eat everything you order. But since you lost weight, don’t eat so much because you don’t want to get fat.”

Yes, Lessons 2-4 have to deal with my dating life, but I suppose it’s where I find my father’s take on things to be priceless. Looking at that point in my life in Lesson #2, I’ll readily admit that due to my tears and apparent loss of appetite, I had lost some weight and my breakup diet worked well for me. But in this lesson, it’s where I’ve learned a bit about respecting yourself and any man you decide to go out with. It’s my dad’s way of telling me to give the man the opportunity to impress you, as he should, because he should be honored that you chose to spend time with him. As a woman, my father said, respect and act kindly to the man that makes that kind of effort. It was also his way of making sure I didn’t gain weight. Yeah, Dad’s old school, but in a good way.

Lesson #5 -“A good jab will get you every time.”

Did I mention that my dad was a boxer in the Marine Corps? Flyweight. He got knocked once on the jaw and he decided it wasn’t for him. I came home from sparring one particular day and I hadn’t got a black eye or anything, but my face was red and I put a cold cloth on it. Here’s a shining example of the wisdom that is my father.

“My face is burning Dad, got hit in the face,” I say, holding the cloth to my head, mostly my left eye.
He looked at my face. “Yeah, a good jab will get you every time … You do know you can move and slip right?”
“Of course I know that. I was hitting back,”
“Really? Well, try moving your head more,”
“I did,” I answer angrily.
“Well, do it better next time,” Then, he sat down, “Yeah, Gina, a good jab will get you every time. As you know now,”
“Thanks, Dad,”
“What do you want me to say? There’s ice in the freezer, maybe that’ll help.”

As usual, his words were very helpful, practical, and also tactical to a degree. For this lesson, I am in extreme gratitude to my Dad, because as you can guess, it is through my father that I have a genuine love for boxing. It’s my Dad that has passed on a tremendous passion for boxing. We watch fights together. Talk about the fights when I DVR them. My father’s gift to me, aside from the lessons I just happen to mention here, has been to maintain a genuine love for anything and make me aware of my self-worth when I was not at my best. He continues to do so and I love him for it!

And with that, RSR Readers, those are a few lessons from my father. So honor and remember all those father moments – they are priceless. As for my Dad, I took him, along with my sister and nephew out for an early celebration this past weekend. But, this Sunday, this Father’s Day, I’m making him coffee and breakfast, as he so rightly deserves. Happy Father’s Day Everyone!!!

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