Thursday, 24 May 2012

My dad

I got issues. I think every man has issues with their dad. It's become a stereotype-- it's so common. My dad is dead now, so I can talk shit about him and he can't get mad at me. Not that he would-- in his later years, he chilled out quite a bit.

My issues stem from the typical #whiteboy #firstworldproblems bullshit. He didn't love me enough, he never played catch with me, he was too busy working... After witnessing Korean family ideals, that are supposedly so tight-knit (one of the first Korean myths (like fan death or kimchi cures cancer) I heard when I got here was how "close" Korean families were), I had it easy. I didn't study 16 hours a day while my father worked 12 and then went out drinking every night with his co-workers, only to stumble home in the wee hours stinking of soju... I had dinner with my family every night at the same time for 20 years. The kids here, when they are done with public school, go a hakwon/academy until 10 pm. Their parents don't feed/eat with them, we do. The teachers. You know who teaches discipline in Korea? The teachers. Korean families are lucky if they spend more than 30 hours a week together. That includes the weekend, when the kids aren't at school on a Saturday, and a couple of hours during the week if they're not studying or sleeping or eating or shitting. I spent 40 hours a week as a teacher, with my students and co-teachers. I taught them a language and a culture and... how to behave. When 12 eight-year-olds are running around talking gibberish (not English), you learn some crowd control, or you die.

Anyway, this is not about me or teaching in Korea or family/cultural values. It's about my bat-shit, crazy dad. He didn't always look like this. When I lived with him, he was actually, pretty clean cut. He always had the beard. I saw him shave it once in my life, when we went snorkeling in the Dominican Republic. The mask wouldn't form a seal because of his mustache. He shaved that of first, but the "Abraham Lincoln" look, looked ridiculous, so he shaved it all off.

Crazy as he was, he was a fucking genius. He had a computer science degree from the 70s. I'm 40 years old. I have always had a computer in my house. How many people do you know who have had a computer for more than 40 years? The computer I used to make my school reports on in the early 80s (I think I got good marks just for the presentation-- how many other kids in the 80s were handing in nicely, typed reports?), was literally as big as a refrigerator. The disks used to save stuff on were 12 inches and held about 256K. 16 colours was a big deal. My dad had to program his own screensaver because they didn't exist yet. It was just a simple clock. The computer he liked to call portable, before the invention of the laptop, was really just a tower desktop computer, but there was a 6" monochrome display built into the tower. The full-size keyboard doubled as the cover to the front of the tower, protecting the display for transport. I learned how to program on this computer during the eighties. Way before Windows existed.

Since my dad was a computer guy, and surprisingly, back then, I was not. We didn't always see eye-to-eye. Computers didn't do all the fancy, Photoshop, CGI, stuff back then, that they do now. It was DOS, command-line interface and boring. Dad could tell you the square-root of any number of the top of his head. I knew how to draw Superman.

I miss him.