Saturday, May 1, 2021

Tribute to my dear old dad (repost)

My father in 1981, en route to Melbourne for bypass surgery

Lee Hong Wah was born May 1st, 1916, in Johore Baru, the fifth of six siblings. In his youth he played saxophone and drums in a ragtime combo. He also rode around on a BSA motorcycle and kept a pet cockatoo, which perched nightly on his bedstead (and was trained to turn around and shit on a newspaper).

When I was 12 my brother Lanny bought me a cockatoo which I promptly named Kiki, after the cockatoo that often appeared in Enid Blyton's Famous Five stories. In the early 1970s I bought a 1948 BSA from a friend and often rode it to work (although it was a bitch to kickstart). A friend named Arthur Lam gave me his drum kit and I used to bang away on it, driving the neighbors crazy. Another friend donated an ancient alto sax to me and I was able to play avant-garde jazz stylings on it (à la John Coltrane).

Only much later did I realize how much like my dad I actually am. The main difference between us was that I decided to grow a mustache when I was 19 - and he was cleanshaven throughout his life. I also took up smoking (like my mother) when I was 15, while my dad never went anywhere near tobacco (and thus never discovered the dubious delights of potsmoking).

Dad always wore his hair short and greased it down with Brylcreem. As soon as I could, I let my hair grow long and hated the feel of greasy kid stuff.

Like my dad, I can sit in one spot quite contentedly for hours. But unlike him, I'm not particularly handy with tools and household repairs.

And, like my dad, I have always been a keen worshiper of the Sacred Feminine. He enjoyed photographing his girlfriends in the nude (with a Kodak Brownie camera he borrowed from me, taking care to develop and print the negatives himself). When he was in his mid-eighties, he fished out his secret photo album and enjoyed watching me gasp in astonishment at his many "conquests."

"Where did you find the time to date so many women?" was all I could ask, marveling at how my dad had mastered the art of "camwhoring" 50 years before digital cameras became the rage.

I've opted to share a few of the more "discreet" photos here because the girls are probably all grandmothers by now... or a few might even have left the planet. If any of you happen to recognize any of the pretty ladies in these photos, please leave a comment or email me. I would love to know a bit more about them. After all, they all loved my father.

Lee Hong Wah was a simple down-to-earth man who enjoyed life and good food and beautiful women. Even on his deathbed, he was flirting with the nurses - and with one of his nieces-in-law who visited him almost daily in hospital. Yet he managed to stay happily married to my mother for nearly 60 years.

Around dawn on 14 October 2004, whilst he was being sponged by several pretty nurses, my father breathed his last. I'm sure there was a real sweet smile on his face.

[First posted 1 May 2010, reposted 2 May 2014 & 1 May 2016]