This Sunday is Father’s Day, a time to honor dads, granddads, uncles, brothers and any one else playing a role in guiding us through life.
My father, Man Chong Wong, was the best quiet and steady presence throughout his 88 years. I think of him everyday. His unconditional love and support allowed me to spread wings and fly off in directions completely foreign to my parents.
Dad was a great role model. Thanks to Hawaii Public Library, he taught himself how to cook at the age of 60 after retiring from the Hilo Post Office. His mother Apo, visiting from Oahu, was shocked the first time she saw him in the kitchen juggling pots and pans but nodded her approval after tasting his tou see oxtail, bat kok beef tongue, kau yuk with taro. Man, he could cook!
And after cooking, he loved nothing more than watching us eat. He especially enjoyed feeding his favorite son-in-law who ate with noisy gusto, fork and spoon twirling with great expertise. This is my housemate of a hundred years who was assigned “favorite SIL” status and not just because he got hitched to an only daughter. I can still see the two of them sitting around the kitchen table, beer in one hand, chugging, laughing and digging into Dad’s Korean squid pupu.
Fathers. Everybody should have one like mine. And when Father’s Day rolled around, it was easy to find him a gift, usually some yard tool, and later, kitchen gadgets and utensils.
It was in the Pacific Northwest where I noticed that for some people, the go-to Father’s Day gift is a necktie. I know nothing about ties and will blame my ignorance on growing up on a tropical island. But once while driving to work right before Father’s Day, I heard a radio commercial from a Seattle bookstore offering a special deal involving previously gifted ties. It was referring to those that were not among the most coveted: the skinny purple and chartreuse striped, the wide psychedelic, the maroon paisley, the one with the hula girl (Whaaat?).
“Bring in a tie and take $5 off the purchase of a book…” My ears perked up and I thought: That’s a good one. But then it continued, “… and we’ll donate your ties to a worthy cause.” This is where I almost ran off the road. Ties for a worthy cause!
What could that be?
I know! Let’s send boxes of neckties to the United Pole Dancers of America to help them glide, slide and lasso gawkers! Or perhaps these neck danglers could go to the food bank, to wrap nonperishables into a pretty presentation. My choice would be to send ties to the Humane Society to outfit those unlucky dogs getting adopted by pupule pet owners who want to teach them how to foxtrot.
You can tell I have neither understanding of, nor appreciation for, neckties so when I asked the housemate to please explain the reasoning behind them, he solemnly replied that the original use of ties was to wipe your fingers and mouth while eating.
So the next time I see a napkin tucked into the collar of a shirt, I will acknowledge the forerunner of the tie. And when there are food stains on what I used to think was a useless piece of cloth hanging around the neck, I will congratulate the wearer on using it for its original purpose.
Happy Father’s Day to all! And for those who might be getting a necktie, I know what you can do with it.
Rochelle delaCruz was born in Hilo, graduated from Hilo High School, then left to go to college. After teaching for 30 years in Seattle, Wash., she retired and returned home to Hawaii. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears every other Monday.