I’ve been trying to decide how to start off my blog posts up in here! My husband said to just write whatever was in my heart. So, let me start with my Dad, Iosefa Oka Afualo. He was born on November 2nd, 1937 in Tufutafoe, Savaii, Samoa and celebrated his 74th birthday just over a week ago. He celebrated it back home in Sydney, Australia surrounded by my siblings, my nephews and nieces & my Mum. I celebrated it nearly 15000 miles away, here in Denver, Colorado… but mate, what I would’ve given to have been able to be right back there in our humble little home showering our Dad with funny & frivolous gifts, cooking him his favorite dishes and just enjoying the day with him, shooting the breeze and cracking up with the rest of our family! Oh why hasn’t someone made Scotty’s Teleportation device on Star Trek a reality yet?!
So it was that I spent the day reminiscing about my Dad as I went about my routine: class & lab all day, home to prepare dinner for Rodney & I, then attack of the textbooks! Fortunately, I got to skype with my Dad & family around 11.45 that night, thanks to my kid brother’s recent purchase of the iPad! After he handed the iPad over to my Mum, she proceeded to carry it around with her as she had everyone say hello to me! Of course Mum kept it angled so all I could see was a section of her chin, her left ear and a section of her pouffy hairdo (which I inherited from her, as evidenced in this photo from 1993!) I could hear everyone’s voices, but didn’t get to see any of them! Finally one of my neices stepped in & helped my Mum prop the iPad up against something on the dining room table so I could look right into my Dad’s face.
Of course, as soon as I saw him, it was all over! I up & bawled for at least 3 minutes straight, and then just kept saying over & over again in our native tongue, “Oh my poor, dear Dad… I love you so much Dad, how I’ve missed your face!” My now teary eyed Dad responded with his ever calming reassurances in Samoan, “It’s okay Wanda, we’re all good here. I’ve missed you too dear. I love you too. Don’t cry dear, it’s okay. How’s Rodney?” Dad always knows how to calm me down and get me back to communicating in a level headed manner. “He’s good thanks Dad, here he is…” Rodney and Dad chatted for a few minutes while I pulled myself together. They’d have spoken much longer, however my Dad has a very limited English vocabulary, and my Florida-born husband has no command of the Samoan language whatsoever! I’ve tried to teach him, but you know that saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Yeah, they weren’t lying on that one!
My Dad is the man I’ve judged all other men in my life by. Thinking back to all the wonderful memories I have of him, what stands out the most are the many profound truths he taught me over the years, and the manner in which he encouraged me to live my life! He taught me that respect is garnered by how you walk and talk and by the way you treat others, no matter what their lot in life. He also taught me never to be afraid to stand up and/or speak out when something isn’t right. He showed me what a good, honest, trustworthy & faithful man is like with the people he loves. My Dad came into our lives when I was just 10 years of age. He had moved from Tufutafoe to Auckland, New Zealand in his early 30s. About 10 years after moving to New Zealand he met & fell in love with my Mum – a divorcee for over 5 years with 5 daughters under the age of 12! He married my Mum and took us girls in & raised us as his very own daughters. He never once raised his hand to any of his children, and trust me our teens years – were horrible, with a capital “HORRIBLE”!!! I have no idea how he managed to keep his sanity with all that crazy, hormone-packed estrogen flying around in our household of five daughters & one emotionally exhausted wife! My kid brother, Joey, was born when I turned 18, so he was fortunate to bypass all of that loony-toons business in our home; but my poor Dad was there for all of it!!!
My Dad is not what one considers a traditionally “educated” man. He received some formal education back in Samoa up until he turned 12. Then he got pulled out of school & was made to work as a farm boy for the family, harvesting cocoa beans, bananas, coconuts, taro etc. When he moved to New Zealand he barely spoke English, “I’m woss not effan aple to speak a comblete sentences at first you know” was what he’d tell us. Fortunately his cousins and friends helped him assimilate into New Zealand culture & he quickly grasped survival English. He eventually got a job in a manufacturing plant as a machine operator, and then when our family relocated permanently to Sydney, Australia he got a job working for a company that cut windshields for cars. There he worked until he retired, never once getting a promotion but remained happy with his occupation and a devoted employee of O’Brian Windshields & Glass Manufacturing. Even though my Dad didn’t get to go to junior or high school, he is one of the most intelligent men I know. Of course, I’m biased in that respect, but believe you me, my Dad knows a boatload of things. And when I say “boatload” I mean the “Titanic”! There’s a saying that goes, “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad” – well Dad, thank you for being that someone special in my life!