My dad turns 61 years old today, and now that I’ve actually stopped to think about it, that’s a really long time.
What a lifetime it seems, six decades plus one year – more than double my age, and so many memories created.
I’m sitting here at my desk typing away this afternoon in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and thinking about my dad, who’s probably asleep now back in Singapore – and I smile.
It’s weird how growing up, the last thing I wanted to do was to chill out with my dad – perhaps because of the generation gap or the puberty-induced bad tempers I was experiencing – but now, as I feel rightly grown-up and more mature, I miss hanging out with him.
I had a pretty tumultuous relationship with my dad, whom I call Daddy, during my teenage years.
I couldn’t understand his thrifty ways and insistence that we work hard all the time – there were times that I felt he wanted our lives to be all work and no play, and I would sulk and scream and throw tantrums when I was younger, and then argued when I was better able to form more rational statements at an older age.
I’d secretly wish sometimes that I had a dad who was more fun, who would be a bit more spendthrift and knew how to enjoy the pleasure of doing nothing.
I think I never really understood my father until I started working.
That was when I realized that his thrifty ways were a result of the fact that he had to scrimp and save all his way through higher education, and then had to study while working full-time in order to make ends meet.
Because he understands the value of money (especially when he’s had to earn every cent of it and not inherit it), he tried to instill that same principle of saving money and not being unnecessarily spendthrift unless it was for a special occasion. I’m glad he brought me up that way, because I’ve learned the importance of not taking money for granted.
I understand that now, but growing up, it was difficult to deal with it (particularly so when I wanted the latest Baby-G watch, then the latest iPhone, or a new computer.)
Daddy would also constantly repeat the importance of expanding our knowledge and using our time efficiently.
It isn’t surprising to find him deep in reading till the wee hours of the morning, and sometimes, he’d knock out from tiredness in his armchair, the open book still cradled in his arms. Because he tries so much to maximize his time, I barely see him relaxing and doing nothing – he has to be reading or doing something productive all the time.
I know now that he was also very involved in various social activities – golfing on the weekends with some close friends was common; he helped out a lot with church activities, and was an active member of an MBA committee for various years, with roles ranging from Treasurer to President. He also spent a significant portion of his time managing his investment portfolio, constantly aiming to improve capital worth through the stock market and property market.
It’s amazing how Daddy managed to squeeze time for all these other things on top of work and home and constantly improving himself.
Daddy’s also very serious by nature, and it takes a pretty long while before he warms up to new people.
Even within the family, conversations tend to be limited to practical questions and answers before he returns to the newspaper article (or iPad) he was preoccupied with before.
While he could strike an outsider as cold and odd (and when I was younger I definitely questioned his indifferent attitude), I’ve come to accept that that’s just the way he is – and that his lack of communication does not in anyway equate to a lack of love. I’ve come to terms with the fact that he is like that because he didn’t have a very communicative relationship with his father, my grandfather, but despite it all, he still cares.
Now that I’m older and more mature, I understand that my father’s method of showing love is through acts of service, and less so through communication.
Despite the fact that we don’t have long phone conversations or write lengthy emails to each other, Daddy has always made certain that he provided for the family. He’s always made sure we have food on the table, that we each got a good education and that we never lacked any material necessity.
Daddy also made sure that we had yearly holidays to different countries – and in that point, he was definitely generous. Because of the fact that Daddy always organized a trip overseas every year, we got to visit places like Australia, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and Europe at a very young age. And I think being exposed to various different cultures shaped my way of thinking and being open to differences in the world.
We did also spend many beautiful weekends as a family at East Coast Park, where we’d rent bicycles or rollerblades and soak in the salty sea breeze and relax. And while I didn’t realize it back then, as I do now, those weekends are precious memories to me.
Mostly, I also appreciate all the good values that he’s instilled in us. I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today if not for how my parents brought me up.
And I don’t tell him this often enough, but I love my dad – for who he is and what he’s done for us.
So today, in honor of his 61st birthday, and in honor of the amazing dad that he is (imperfections and all), I’m presenting a twist on a breakfast he used to eat most mornings when I was younger.
I remember coming downstairs from my room on the third floor of my house, and the sight that would greet me every morning was Daddy eating oatmeal porridge with the newspaper spread out wide in front of him on the kitchen table (there he goes maximizing the 10 minutes of breakfast time).
In fact, I’ve seen him eat oatmeal so often that it’s probably the only breakfast I remember him eating (apart from other Singaporean foods).
So today’s recipe is a spin on Daddy’s favorite Western breakfast.
The great thing about this flax breakfast porridge is the fact that it’s grain-free, gluten-free and is also high in fiber (thanks to the ground flax seeds). With a banana thrown in, you get natural sweetness and almost no other sweetener is required (if you have a sweet tooth, you can always add one teaspoon of honey after the porridge is cooked).
This makes a really tasty and filling breakfast, and topped with fresh fruits and a sprinkle of chopped nuts, you’ll have enough energy to maximize your entire day, just like my dad does!
Today, I wish I could be there to hang out with my dad in Singapore, and have a bowl of this flax breakfast porridge with him. Maybe add a birthday candle on top of it too. Since I can’t do it literally, I’ll do it virtually!
Happy Birthday Daddy! I love you!
GRAIN-FREE FLAX BREAKFAST PORRIDGE (Serves 2 )
Lightly adapted from: A Tasty Love Story
1) 3/4-1 cup milk (whichever type you prefer – could be dairy milk or almond milk)
2) 3 tablespoons of ground flax seeds
3) 2 eggs
4) 1 ripe banana, mashed
5) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6) 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7) A pinch of salt
8) Cut fresh fruit (for topping, optional)
9) Sliced almonds (for topping, optional)
10) A teaspoon of honey* (for topping, optional)
1) Add all the ingredients for the porridge into a medium-sized pot and mix together
2) Whisk it free of all lumps and turn stove on to medium to high heat
3) Use a whisk to stir continuously while it slowly thickens, keep stirring all the time to avoid burning, about 5 – 7 minutes
4) Serve the porridge warm in two small bowls or mugs and top with your preferred topping
Note 1: I didn’t use honey for the topping as the banana in the porridge made it naturally sweet. But if you have a sweet tooth and like things a little sweeter, add a teaspoon of honey drizzled over the fresh fruit and nuts.
Note 2: This porridge is very versatile because you can eat it warm as I did in the cooler seasons and chilled during the warmer months!
P.S. If you’re wondering why I’m trying to eliminate wheat from my life, I strongly recommend Wheat Belly – a book that will empower you and make you determined to get rid of wheat and it’s terrible health effects!