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UNSUNG HERO: My father, David Owen, raised his two small children all by himself, realising that no one could ever replace the love and presence of a parent
DADDY was a single parent from the time I was 1 till 9. When I was 1, I lived with my grandma (Mak) and aunt (Busu) in Seremban, while Daddy worked in plantations in Kedah, Penang and Kelantan. After I finished kindergarten, he decided that my brother and I should stay with him. He was then stationed at the Bukit Kledek rubber estate in Malacca.
We did not have a live-in helper those first few months, so Daddy would wake us up at 5.30am every day (which was a really tough task, trust me!). He made sure we brushed our teeth, showered and put on our clothes. By the time we came downstairs, breakfast was ready. Breakfast was either cornflakes, half-boiled eggs, sausages or burgers. He would also have two mugs of Milo ready for us and a mug of black coffee for himself.
After breakfast, he saw to it that we put on our shoes and during the first few days of school, he taught us how to tie our shoelaces right. Then, off we went in the car, with the driver at the wheel, on a 45-minute drive to Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Air Baruk in Jasin.
We would look back and wave at Daddy as he waved back and went into the house to get ready for his morning walks around the plantation.
Daddy would come back from work during lunch hour and cook. I have never really seen him doing this and I have never really known at what time exactly he came home to cook. What I know is that every day, when we reached home at 3pm, lunch was ready.
Daddy was never around for lunch as he would have gone back to the office but the food was always there on the table. He never cooked rice. Instead, he made us roast chicken, baked fish, mutton pie and the like. He was an awesome cook!
After lunch, my brother and I would change into our T-shirts and shorts and play (er.... homework? What's that?).
My brother would play with his toy cars while I pretended to be a young lady pouring tea into my little teacups. Our favourite spot was the balcony and often, we'd end up playing with my brother's cars instead because, I have to confess, main masak-masak was really boring for me.
By 5pm, Daddy would be home and we would run frantically to the front door to greet him. He would carry us both down to the kitchen. Yes -- it's tea time!
For tea, we always, always had toast with butter and jam. These were simple food but they tasted so delicious because they were served with lots of love -- the love of a father who sacrificed the carefree life of a single man for the life of a single parent with two school-going children.
Then we'd play badminton or Daddy would just sit at the verandah reading his book while we rolled down the hill around the bungalow, climbed trees or even fiddled with the generator that supplied us our only source of electricity from 7pm to midnight daily, much to the chagrin of the generator jaga.
"Kids! Time for your bath!" Daddy would scream for us to come in. So, we would race back to the bungalow and compete to see who would get to Daddy first. He would have his palms ready to raise the winner up high.
Of course, then, he would carry the other sibling up as well and we'd end up giggling.
As we took our shower, Daddy would start preparing dinner. Nope! No leftovers! Dinner was always freshly cooked meals.
Daddy loved to have his meals at the table -- a proper sit-down meal. He said it gave the family more opportunities to chat about what went on in their daily lives.
After dinner, we would watch some TV and by 9.30pm, Daddy would prepare two mugs of hot Milo for us. We took that as a sign for us to go to bed.
So, that was Daddy's life during those months when we did not have a helper. Now that I am all grown up, I realise how much of a sacrifice it was for him to take care of us back then. He could have chosen the easier path -- leave us with Mak and Busu. But he did not, and I love him dearly for that.
A parent's love is an amazing thing. But sometimes you do not spend enough time with them. You often think they'd grow old, become grandparents and dote on your children. But some don't. Some leave before their time. And when they do, you're left with a hollow in your heart that may never go away.
So, Daddy, for all those times that I should have and could have spent with you, but I did not, I am sorry. I only have these stories for you, from here, to make up for those lost times.
Love from Daddy's Girl.