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Happy Fathers’ Day: A Special Tribute To My Dad

My Favorite Pic Of My Dad

It's Fathers' Day and today I just want to pay tribute to my dad.

My dad doesn't show his love through words and hugs. Probably it's an asian thing… or maybe it's just a difference in our love languages (My primary love language is Physical Touch and my secondary love language is Words Of Affirmations). That's why when I was growing up, I wasn't sure how much he loved me.

I remember when I was around 4 or 5 years old… I got really excited because I just completed a drawing which i was very proud of… and I ran to show it to my dad… and maybe he was just teasing me… maybe he didn't realize how important his words were to me… especially at such a tender young age… I couldn't remember the exact words he used… but I knew it implied that my precious creation wasn't up to his standards and I remember I was so angry and so sad that I just ripped the whole drawing apart… and I just cried and cried and cried… I was so desperate for his approval… to know that he loved me just the way I am… but I didn't get it.

Then as I grew a little older, I began to realize that the way he showed his love was through acts of service. I don't come from a well-to-do background and my family couldn't afford a car (Cars are REALLY expensive in Singapore) but I remember that my dad used to ferry me around in his beloved scooter. Rain or shine, he would give me a ride to school so I wouldn't be late… he would come fetch me from obscure locations in the middle of the night… when I was a teenager hanging out with my friends past midnight and wasn't sure how to get back home because there were no more bus or train services. He would do all these things for me out of his unconditional love but I just took him for granted because we spoke different love languages.

In 1997, the asian financial crisis hit. My dad was heavily leveraged and I discovered that he lost 6 figures due to contra-trading. We ended up having to downgrade to a smaller flat and I began to resent him deeply because I felt that he was being irresponsible to the family. But actually I was being selfish… I was blaming him for losing all the money he was supposed to have set aside for my university fees and the fact that I had to borrow 5 figures and put myself in debt so that I could attend college.

In 1999, dad was involved in a very bad traffic accident… He was riding his scooter and making a turn at a cross-junction when he was hit by a lorry that beat the red light. He was hospitalized for a couple of months and I only visited him a couple of times because of the deep resentment that I had built up towards him previously. Looking back, I feel so ashamed becasue I realized how young, ignorant and selfish I was…

In december 2003, dad was hospitalized again because of an asthma attack. However, he ended up in hospital longer than expected… The doctors were running test after test to figure out what was wrong with him… They said there were complications after his asthma attack and it was compounded because of his previous automobile accident. Finally, in March 2004, they diagnosed him with Churg-Strauss Syndrome and told my family that there was no cure for this rare illness and he had only 3-5 years left to live.

That was when I finally woke up. I guess this is human nature… When you're about to lose something or someone that you've taken for granted, then you will start paying attention… and you will start to appreciate them.

The years after wasn't easy at all. But I watched with deep respect and awe as my dad slowly fought the illness and started walking again. And soon, it was as if everything was back to normal…

Then in 2007, dad had a relapse. We were having a major argument over money. Dad's medication was really expensive and it was tough for my family to cope with it… (Remember that I still had my university loans to pay off as well…) and it wasn't uncommon for our tempers to flare up because of the frustration of handling the financial situation. So dad decided to stop taking his medications without our knowledge and soon, he was bedridden again and I thought he was going to die.

Then I made one of the hardest decisions in my life. I quit my job and became an internet entrepreneur so I could stay home and help take care of him. I told him that he needed to continue to take his medication and that he needed to recover because the family needs him. You must understand that at that point, his self-esteem was perhaps at the lowest point of his life. He was forced to retire when his illness hit and he wasn't working anymore. A man's pride, ego and self-esteem is tied to how much he can provide for his family. And he felt that since he couldn't contribute financially anymore than there was no point for him to carry on and be a burden to the family. I told him that just by staying alive, by continuing despite the odds that he's an inspiration to us all. It was time for him to pass the baton on to me… I will figure out how to sustain the family and how to pay for his expensive healthcare. I made him promise to continue taking his medication. And by hook or by crook, I'm going to make my internet business work… all he had to do was trust in me and trust in my abilities.

He believed in me… and that was all the motivation I needed.

I took a leap of faith and borrowed over $20,000 in credit card loans to attend self-employment and entrepreneurship seminars and built up a 6-figure internet business but in late 2011, I made the same mistake my dad made. I invested all my money into the stock market and I was leveraging on contra-trading too.

The debt-ceiling crisis hit and I was completely wiped out… In fact, I not only lost 6 figures really quickly, I took on a short-term $25,000 credit card fund transfer loan to cope with liquidity. What made it worse was that I was facing major business challenges… (My business model back then was totally dependent on traffic from google adwords to work and my adwords account was shut down when google decided to have PMS)

I decided to tell dad what happened. After all, he did go through something similar during the 1997 asian financial crisis.

He just looked at me with a comforting fatherly look and asked, “Why did you do it?”

“Because I thought that I could grow the money faster so I could provide better for you and mom,” I answered regrettably.

“Now you finally understand my intentions previously…” He patted my shoulder and replied with a look of understanding and empathy.

I broke down… And at that moment, all the resentment I had towards him my whole life just melted away… because now I know what it was like to be in his shoes.

“It's not your fault, son… It's just money… I'm sure you will make it back… even if you don't, as long as you are safe and sound, that's all that matters… We love you no matter what…”, he told me reassuringly.

I did make it back and rebuilt a 6-figure online business based on making a positive difference to millions of lives worldwide… but that's because my dad's inspiring battle with his illness (He's still alive, Praise The Lord!) gave me the courage, perseverance and motivation to fight my own battles.

I now know and have no doubts that my dad loves me… even if he doesn't always show it the way I expect him to…

Thank you daddy for everything… I love you… Happy Fathers' Day!

Yee Shun-Jian
Founder & Chief Happiness Officer,

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