On Fathers and Their Daughters

June rose
June rose

I celebrated twenty-seven Fathers’ Days with my Dad. He died in June when the roses along our fence were in bloom. I still have the card I bought  him for that twenty-eighth Fathers’ Day he never lived to see. It’s tucked away with a photo of me and him when I was about two years old. He’s proudly holding my hand and we’re all dressed up in our Sunday best.

Twenty seven years was not enough, but he left me with so much to remember him by including a deep love of music and an insatiable curiosity about all things. Most of all, he gave me the confidence that has made all of the difference in my life. My dad let it be known that I could do anything. Twenty-seven years was just not enough time to share everything life has to offer.

My friend Shengdong & Me
My friend Shengdong & Me

Yesterday morning, I was Skyping with my friend, Shengdong and his daughter Milanda. I’d met them a few years ago when Shengdong was  doing research at the University of Rhode Island.  We spent many happy hours learning about each other’s cultures.

Since they returned to Xiamen, we’ve kept in touch every week over the past  few years – in spite of the technical video and audio difficulties that regularly occur.

It struck me, as I watched both of them, that Shengdong reminded me of my father. He is one of the best dads I’ve ever known. Like many fathers, he is loving, patient, caring, protective and very proud of his daughter’s accomplishments; but, I’ve observed more than that over the last few years. With his whole heart and soul, he devotes his life to making sure Milanda has every possible opportunity he and his wife Mary can offer her. They are committed to this and have made very difficult choices in order to insure she will be afforded these opportunities.sep21 galilee

I met them at our Church when he was studying as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Rhode Island. Back home in China, he’s a department head at The University of Xiamen. His wife, Mary, is a librarian. Milanda was five years old at the time he was awarded the grant. They chose to let their daughter stay here with Shengdong when Mary had to return to her job.

Milanda was enrolled in West Kingston Elementary School and her Dad took over complete responsibility for her that year. And he was amazing! She learned English; swimming; ice skating; how to ride her first bicycle; how fish and how to make her first snow people and snow angels. She made friends, celebrated American holidays, tried different foods, traveled to as many places in the US as he could take her in that short time. They visited major cities; had fun in the White Mountains, at Disney World and  Sea World. They went to the beach, to colleges, museums, National Parks and even took an Alaskan Cruise. And I have the photos to prove it –  hundreds of them with Milanda front and center.

And now he and Milanda are there on my computer screen every Saturday morning (Saturday night in China). The two of them so far away and yet, for an hour every weekend, so close. We use the time to keep connected,  bringing each other up-to-date on our lives and they practice using their English. In spite of many efforts on Milanda’s part (She uses flash cards with English, Chinese letters and pictures.), my Chinese is still abysmal and I have yet to master the fine art of origami (although I do have a growing collection of sail boat hats in various sizes stored away in my desk.) We read and lately she has found a riddle book with which she tries to stump me every Saturday. But I happen to be quite good with riddles. Who knew?

Last week they celebrated the Dragon Boat Festival and Milanda carefully explained about the origins of the holiday. Qu Yuan was a poet and minister who lived during the Warring State Period of Ancient China. He tried to advise the Emperor they needed to become united to protect themselves. But no one listened to him and he was banished. Eventually, what he had predicted came to pass and his province was invaded and conquered. In sadness, he threw himself into a river and died. His poetry and wisdom is part of the Chinese curriculum.

Now, there could be an underlying modern social studies lesson in this for all of us. Maybe that’s why she took notes to share the story with me. And I found this YouTube Video for any bloggers interested in further information on the poet and the origins of the Dragon Boat Festival:

On Saturday morning we had a good connection. Shengdong and I were able to discuss what was happening in our two countries. There was a bombing in Shanghai that is under investigation. Not much has been released to the public. We spoke of the Orlando killings which is front-page news all over China.

Milanda shared her latest book with me. It’s about a Rabbit King and she likes it because it’s set in a series of stories just like A Berkshire Tale. Then there were the requisite riddles. I was a bit slow and needed some clues, but did manage to work them out. For this I was applauded heartily. Milanda believes in immediate, positive reinforcement.

Next week she has exams (Yes, in China second graders have exams and she is very serious about studying for them.) and then she will be on vacation for a few weeks. She’s decided to take swimming, piano and art lessons this summer. Shengdong feels strongly that her school work should be supplemented with non-academic pursuits she enjoys.

And she’s very exited. They’re going to go to Tibet in August. Shengdong worries about the thin air, but Milanda assures me she’s in much better condition than her mom and dad.

I’m looking forward to the photos.

And lastly, from me and the children who dearly love you,  A Happy Fathers Day to all of the men out there who’ve made a positive difference in our lives. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Advertisements

81 thoughts on “On Fathers and Their Daughters

    1. Yes, Mary, I was thinking of you and your Dad when I wrote this. He was very special, oo and it showed in both his daughters’ care for him during his final years. I returned to the Goldfish Posts to look, once again, at the photos of him throughout his life. He was a proud and handsome man. Have a peaceful day. Clare

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Shengdong and his family look like lovely people and your friendship with them must bring you lots of pleasure. Your photos of them are perfect for Father’s Day. How sad that you lost your dad so early. I can understand the loss you must have felt. I was 38 when my dad died, and that was heartbreaking for us all, too. He certainly had a positive influence on my life. Lovely post, Clare.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have so many photos of them. I wrote a little book for her with some of the photos when she first returned to China. Maybe someday she’ll return and we can do a book together. She is a marvelous artist for an 8-year old.
      Thanks for your note, Millie.

      Like

  2. Aw, no, Ethel… Only 27 years?? He was very wise, and showered you with everything you needed to live on without him. But, I know it must be a constant ache.
    How wonderful that y’all have such a strong relationship! Do you ever get to see Mary?? lol
    Milandia is a precious little girl.
    Love, Lucy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When Mary has Saturday night off, she does join us to chat. But she works at the library most Saturdays and is not home until later. When they were here in RI, she spent the first few weeks and then visited at Christmas. They went to New York, Chicago and florida while she had her winter break. But much of the time she was in China and the separation must have been very hard for her. I find the Chinese a very strong people who will make sacrifices that Americans would never consider. Thanks, Lucy. Have a great week. xox Ethel

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely post! I remember reading about your friends in earlier posts, and it’s so nice you’re still keeping in touch with them, despite the distance and time difference. I also lost my father too soon (I was 25) and I also still think of him daily…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. What a beautiful relationship you have with Shengdong and Milanda and how wonderful that you make the time each week to remain connected! Yes the bond between a father and daughter is a special one, mine with my father is one that I cherish completely. I’m truly sorry you didn’t have more time with your father, no 27 years is not enough and yet you learned and remember so much. I too wish all the fathers a very Happy Father’s Day!! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. An absolutely lovely, moving tribute to your dad and to all dads out there! You have Father’s Day earlier in the year than we do. We won’t be celebrating for a while yet. However, I love these sort of tribute posts. Great photos, too, Clare! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been wanting to bring people up-to-date on Milanda. And I know we are a community of people who love chatting with bloggers from all over the world – Kindred Spirits. Your last newsletter has arrived and I will be reading it tonight. Thanks, Yvette. (These are mostly photos taken by friends of Shengdong with only a couple of my own.)

      Like

    1. Imagine having the opportunity to be involved in the lives of people from a foreign country? It totally amazes me that we have this wonderful relationship. Maybe we would have more peace and understanding in our world if we all had this opportunity?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Russ, It is definitely reciprocal for me, my friend. Happy Father’s Day to you and hoping you have a wonderful week. I will be finishing your Flash fiction book this week and doing the Amazon review . I’ll make sure I tell you when it’s posted. thanks for the book. I was unfamiliar with flash fiction and so it is a new area for me. I hope all is well with you and I’ll be visiting tonight. Take care. Clare

      Like

      1. I’ll need more classes than once a week on Saturday. One of my blogger friends, Andy Smart, is from the UK but lives and teaches in China. He may be of some help to me, should I ever make plans to visit. But “flawless”? Never happen.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I wrote the post about Shengdong and Milanda after I’d skyped with them onSaturday morning and then decided to add in the section on my Dad Sunday, just before I posted it. You never know where your mind will go when you are writing a post.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a beautiful friendship spanning the continents, your warmth and care for each other shines out. How interesting too to share news and events from each other’s countries and cultures. Milanda seems a wonderful young girl full of energy and enthusiasm for life – so precious. So sorry for your loss of your father so young; my niece and nephew lost their mother recently in their early twenties and my heart broke seeing their pain, disbelief and unreality. Hopefully the years will ease this for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It seems that here in England we acknowledge Father’s Day less so than Mother’s Day, and wonder if it is the same in the U.S., Clare? I gather that Father’s Day initially became celebrated in the U.S. in the early 20th. century, although in Europe it dates back to the Middle Ages, amazingly enough. As a child here in the fifties and sixties, there was always the feeling that mothers’ somehow warranted a day of privilege, whereas father’s, well, they had 364 of them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. President Nixon made it a National Holiday in 1972, but supposedly, it had been celebrated in the United States since 1908. That year there had been a mine disaster in West Virginia and over 400 men had died leaving almost a thousand children fatherless. They had a memorial service for the men and celebrated in June each year, thereafter. I understand you celebrate Father’s Day in August, but you are absolutely right – every day should be Father’s Day. Mothers always seem to have it better here in the US on their special day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Clare, that’s interesting. I was rather pointing to how things felt so incredibly patriarchal 50 years ago, and how fathers’ enjoyed privileges over mothers year ’round.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I grew up in the fifties and sixties, too, and it was patriarchal as you say. We even had a few television programs centered around fathers. I remember one called “Father Knows Best” which was very popular here. Mothers stayed home and cooked and cleaned and sewed and took care of the children, and they all waited for Dad to come from work at 5:15PM. It was very male-centered here in the US.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a great post. I felt rather upbeat reading it. Thank you. I loved the stories but best of all the lovely Chinese family, who often are rather suspicious of ” westerners” and don’t even smile much. You have shown the other side. Its wonderful, also, that you take time to keep in touch with them rather than say goodbye when they leave the shores. All in all, such a super read.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, They always seem to be smiling when we’re together. I have so many pre-conceived ideas tucked away that I didn’t even realize I had. Having friends from a country so foreign to me helps me see through to the human factor of it all. Milanda is like my child and Shengdong is a brother. I don’t know why we were brought together, but it has enriched my life in many ways that I want to share with other people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My place has been in hiatus for the last month or so, but I’m back. During my limited lurking time I noticed I missed a few of your posts, so expect a longer visit soon!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I was fortunate to have my dad for 56 years, but when they pass away the empty feeling does not go away. The thing that is unfortunate is having them around and not really appreciating them until they are gone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, you always want just one more year; even one more day. I was happy that Shengdong was able to read the post. They are quite strict in China and although he could read the text and see the photos, he was not able to view the Youtube video. He enjoyed the memories it brought back about his stay here in RI. I hope that he will be able to get another Sabbatical. They’re allowed one every five years. It’s something to look forward to. As of this moment, I have not done a post for this week. Perhaps later tonight something will inspire me? I’ll visit with you in the mean time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I take the freedom we enjoy in the western world for granted sometimes. Until I read your account of Shengdong’s experience in China. I’m glad he has made friends like you and Charlie, especially for his daughter’s sake. Morning here. Cold and overcast. No doubt you are slumbering or close to it?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Midnight and still wide awake. I may write a short post about clouds. I was thinking the same as you about our freedom. I believe Shengdong enjoys many benefits, being an academic. He travels and as he lives in Xiamen (an island off the coast) , he does not have to deal with many of the crowding or pollution problems in mainland China. I have a British blogger friend, Andy Smart, who lives and teaches in Beijing. After reading the book he wrote about his first experiences in China, I couldn’t imagine him choosing to settle there. But he really seems to have acclimated very well and seems to love it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh dear! Another sleepless friend. Sometimes unloading your brain onto a page can help settle you down for sleeping.
        I would be interested to read your friend’s book on China. It’s a place that’s always fascinated me having come from that stock on my mother’s side. And yes, being an academic would give Shengdong more options.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Andy’s blog is very interesting. The book, Turn Left At the Mountain, was written years ago and could have benefited from some severe editing. It was a diary he kept on the road. But he is traveling around some of the provinces working on another book right now. I think this will be much better because of all he has learned while living in China and the writing he has been doing in his blog.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Claremary. How are you? I had read this post earlier in my email. But the pictures were not downloaded and i also wanted to comment. So i marked it unread and read it again today 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, I just posted my piece on Clouds, so, I’m a bit up-beat right now. Thank you for asking. And how are you? I was just about to go to your site to see what you’ve been up to. I’m hoping your day is going well in your part of the world. I haven’t bothered to read the newspaper or watch the tv today, so the US could be self-destructing and I am blissfully unaware.Not a bad state to be in from my perspective. See you in a minute. Clare

        Like

      1. Thank you. Shengdong was able to read it in China and that made me really glad. I have to be careful, because I would not want to cause him any trouble with the authorities. He told me that he could not access the Youtube video in the post, because it is not allowed. But he did see the photos and read the text. He’s a wonderful person and I’m blessed to have him in my life.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s