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Saturday, June 16, 2001

JAPAN LITE

No one can replace this man in my life


I admit it -- I forgot about Father's Day. But before all you fathers start wagging your fingers at me and threatening to send me to bed without dinner, I'd like to redeem myself by writing a Father's Day column.

Father's Day is a day to thank our fathers for teaching us the values and morals that now enable us to put off cutting the grass, fixing the sink and changing the oil in the car. Thanks to fathers, we know how to start projects and never finish them and to always leave our tools out in the yard.

Fathers teach their children at an early age how to do various tasks such as to "Stop playing with your food!" "Apologize to your sister!" or "Get that silly grin off your face!" -- all before they count to three.

"Yes sir, I've finished all of my peas. Now may I be excused from the table?"

As children, we never questioned our fathers. Like the time my father left us with a baby sitter for a week and we had to watch her eat every meal with her fork turned upside down, something he taught us to never, ever do. Horrified, we watched and wondered what she would do next -- spit out her milk?

"But Dad, the baby sitter said it was OK."

We owe much to fathers for their wisdom about cars. My father taught me to always drive more carefully when someone else is in your car and to never leave a car door standing open. If the engine starts making funny noises, ignore them. If the funny noises are still there in three years, see a mechanic.

My father taught me to always take the scenic route and that no one should ever exceed the speed limit, unless it's him.

"Hello, Dad? I ran out of gas. Yes, I know, you're not going to bail me out next time."

Thanks to my father, I know how to sound like an elephant when blowing my nose and how to appear to be reading on the sofa when I'm actually snoozing. I can sing "Five Foot Two" to the ukulele and "Suzanne is a Funny Old Man" accompanied by whistles, grunts and other bodily sounds.

"I'm sorry I stayed out too late, Dad. I'll never do it again. What -- I'm grounded? But I'm already grounded."

My father taught me that it is possible to instill philosophical wisdom and free-market values in children by paying them to read Rand, Hayeck and Hazlitt. And that the most important survival strategy is to have a good supply of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

"Dad, I don't know how to say this but, I want to take a year off college and be a ski bum. Really? You want to come too!?"

I've learned that some of his stories weren't true, like the one about the mole he got on his forehead when he was almost hit by a bullet in the Korean War. Ha ha ha! Or when he told me that all the vitamins in a loaf of bread are in the crust.

"Dad, I can't stop laughing."

He taught me to reach out to others, to volunteer-teach and to deliver "Meals on Wheels" to the poor. "Hey Dad, I'm moving to Japan. Promise you'll come visit?"

And I never even laughed that time his chopstick went zinging across the restaurant, making revolutions like a helicopter blade, before bonking some poor guy in the head.

Most important, my father has taught me that to make it in life, you need to be completely and utterly over-optimistic, have faith in yourself and other people, and to go at God's speed, which is surely way over the speed limit.

And to think I learned all this from a guy who thinks all beer tastes the same.

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com


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