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Happy Father's Day, Dear Dad

On Father's Day, I headed to the florist early to pick out flowers for my dad — champagne roses accompanied by yellow and white daisies.

Some might celebrate this day by taking their fathers to a great meal or sharing a drink. I, on the other hand, visited my dad at the cemetery. Yes, I also brought along a bottle of his favorite liquor. I took a sip and offered the rest at his tomb.

Time flies, and it's been fifteen years since my father left from us. The little tree by his grave has now grown into a flourishing cypress.

The last time I visited his grave was almost a decade ago.

Growing up, others often envied me for the kind of father I had. He was a typical Shandong man with thick eyebrows, standing tall at 6 feet. He gained a bit of weight at middle age, which made him even more imposing, like a mountain peak. His hair turned grey early on, similar to Richard Gere's salt & pepper look, complete with some natural curls.

My classmates envied me, mostly because he was our school's principal. He could quote classics and talk eloquently at school assemblies. After the meeting, my little girlfriends would laugh and ask me, “Gloria, how does your dad get that wavy hair look?” I would roll my eyes. He combs it carefully in the morning, no hair gel involved.If he spent more time on his hair and less on my non-academic affairs, I'd be over the moon..

But he insisted on intruding. No jeans allowed. No "frivolous music" like The Little Tigers. And dating? If he caught me, I would get slapped. Striding across the campus, he scared off my friends, sending them running for the hills.

Through much effort, I eventually managed to get into Qingdao No. 2 High School, thus escaping his controlling hands. On the day the admission list was posted, he secretly followed me, only returning home cheerfully when he saw my name at the top of the list. That day, he indulged in a few drinks out of his norms.

Once I got into high school, he loosened his control. Though we never became as close as” father and son like siblings”, he allowed me study Spanish, a curious choice as a major. I convinced him with the fact that writer Eco knew Spanish too. We would occasionally have a drink, and he would talk about "tolerance" by Van Loon while half-drunk.

Later, Dad fell ill. His beloved literature and music became distant memories. The once towering figure became an old man sitting on the sofa, listening to the radio. I would play Jay Chou's songs for him; he liked "Chrysanthemum Terrace" and "Sweet-scented Osmanthus." I drifted further from him. Eventually, his condition worsened significantly. Thankfully, by that time, I had my two little girls; he'd hold their tiny hands, looking nothing like the imposing figure from the past, just a kind-hearted old man. We didn't get to finish that summer.

Many years later, watching Disney's Coco, I realized he has always been with me, helping me with his wisdom as a Chinese intellectual.

When facing difficulties, I recall a card he once wrote for me: "To my daughter Gloria: Avoid arrogance, stay calm, speak with caution, and control anger." That card is long gone, but I still keep these pieces of advice in my heart.

I learned to do a bit of painting, as he taught me chinese calligraphy since childhood. I also love writing, though not as eloquent as him.

I also learned to play a bit of music. He was a self-taught piano teacher and played the Erhu and accordion. My guitar playing is still a work in progress, and I hope that one day I can perform on stage like him.

Sometimes, when I have to give an important speech, I think of how he used to speak eloquently without needing a script. This memory always gives me a little more courage.

Other times, when I look at my photos, I see his shadow. I look at my calves and ankles and imagine seeing my father sitting across from me, cross-legged, lecturing dramatically that I am like a blind man riding a blind horse, close to the deep pond in the middle of the night, needing to change immediately. Ah, my dad.

He never hugged me or said he loved me. In his eyes, I was never good enough; I could always be better. But I always knew deep down how much he loved me.

A few days ago, I visited my uncle, my dad’s elder brother, whom I hadn't seen for many years, now nearing ninety. A few days later, he passed away. My cousin told me that one night, he said he had seen my dad and my grandmother. I hope that heaven does exist, and they're all there, still reading, playing music, drinking, and waiting for our eternal reunion.

Dear dad, Happy Father's Day.

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