I look at him bent over the table; intently completing the dailies Sudoku puzzle and the adage ‘I am my father’s daughter’ could not have been any clearer than at this moment.
I have his hair; the wispy hair that grows too fast for its own good. It is the type of hair you need to keep together to create an impression that it is thick. He has combed and patted his hair for as long as I can remember. I wonder whether my hairline will recede as much as his has. I have his front teeth; teeth that jut out at an odd angle. When he laughs, attention is taken away from the two front teeth (and they do beg for attention) and focus shifts to the twinkle in his eyes. Eyes that crinkle from the joy of a bellowing laugh; that sound of his laugh and the sparkle in his eyes priceless. Then his fingernails; neat and trim. Clipped every Sunday at 7PM. Like me, he understands that the work of our hands can only get done with the fingernails well trimmed. His hands have aged over the years that he toiled away at his government job. Hands that disciplined without negotiation, and cared without question.
We both embrace the beauty of the written word. Despite his age, he still reaches out for the dictionary to check something up. To him, every day is an opportunity to learn. Even now in his retirement, he would rather spend what he has on a newspaper than on a packet of milk. He embraces logic and strives for understanding in everything, and I mean everything, that he does. Because of this, he is inquisitive to the point of being a bother to those who do not have patience for his intelligence. He subscribes to the maxim that a man is only as good as his word. That trust is far more important than the actions that separate a man from his word. That compassion and empathy are to be considered more than love and affection. That loyalty and respect is earned, and not instilled by fear. He believes that honesty and integrity supersede all other things. And he frowns in disgust at the absence of these values in our society today.
He has a taste for finer things, which is told in the things that have defined him to this day: his Cross ball-point pen. Black ink Parker pen. Suitcases and briefcase that are branded Samsonite. Woollen suits and pure leather shoes, shirts made of crisp cotton. He cannot be caught dead in a tee-shirt. Back when could afford it, he insisted on bed sheets that had a thread count of at least two hundred. Suffice to say, he can catch a whiff of quality (or lack of it thereof) from a mile away.
Travel thrilled him. Knickknacks from his days of seeing the world are dotted across the living room. Despite the dust that they gather, there remains a timelessness in the stories that they tell. He and I seem to be the only ones who realise their preciousness. He gathered the memories from his travels in his vintage Kodak camera. The photographs hold images of a younger man, with a head full of dark hair (recall the hair illusion I told you of earlier), grinning from ear to ear with that signature sparkle in his eyes. In the background stands the Eiffel Tower. Or the Pyramids. Or the temples from Sri Lanka.
He looks up to regard me when he notices that I am staring. He bends his head forward so that our eyes meet through the space at the top of his glasses. I anticipate his questions and make a mental note to get him a collection of those complex Sudoku puzzles. What could spell my love out more than the gift of a challenge on this day to you, my Dad?