I was doing housework and listening to golden oldies when the radio station played this tune: “Oh, my papa, to me you are so wonderful. Oh, my papa. To me you are so good …”
Memories of my dear papa flashed before me.
When I was 11 years old and waiting for the bus one day, the weather changed for the worse and there was a heavy downpour.
My classmate was waiting for the bus with me. I offered to give her a lift home because I told her that my papa would come and pick me up if the weather was bad.
The rain stopped and papa did not come.
My classmate then dropped a bombshell: “You know you don’t have a real papa … you were adopted so your papa is not really your papa!” So great was my shock at hearing this, that I was tongue-tied.
On the way back home, my heart was thumping extra hard and there were tears in my eyes. Upon reaching home, I went to look for papa, and told him what had ensued, with tears streaming down my face.
As cool as a cucumber, papa went to the cabinet and took out a file where all the birth certificates were kept – and there was mine, with his name and mama’s name written there as my rightful parents.
I breathed a sigh of relief and did not pursue the matter any more.
But truth be told, papa and mama had six biological sons and, fearful of getting another boy, they adopted me. Five years later, they adopted another girl. So all in all, there were eight of us. It did not matter that my sister and I did not look alike nor did we look like any of the boys.
Six decades ago, adoption was a breeze.
Love was bestowed on us girls, just as on the boys. In fact, not a hair on our head was touched although I remember the boys being punished often.
Later in our lives, we learnt that we were adopted. By then, my parents had already passed away. And the aunty who had knowledge of our adoption was stricken with cancer and was too ill to give us any information.
But we never saw any need to look for our biological parents. We were told by the aunty though that our biological parents were only too ready to give us away as that meant they had fewer mouths to feed. So be it.
Also, we never felt that we were adopted children. We blended into the family so well. Papa referred to my sister and me as “my daughters”, to one and all.
Papa spoilt us girls. When we were down with fever, no thermometer was used to see how high the fever was. Instead he kissed our foreheads and administered medicine accordingly.
Papa was a teacher. One day, when I was in Form Six, I had excruciating abdominal pain. My teacher called for my papa who was teaching in that school. He came hurriedly and diagnosed it as appendicitis. He carried me to the car and rushed me to hospital where his diagnosis was confirmed. I had an emergency operation. My classmates often reminded me that it was a sight to behold papa carrying me out of the classroom and into the car to send me to hospital.
All my brothers had tertiary education, and papa assured me that I too would be given the same.
He was a retired teacher when I finished Form Six. My exam results were good enough for me to enrol in a teachers’ training college, but papa would not hear of it.
He then started a kennel business, named after my sister and I, which sold pedigree dogs to add income to his pension. In my second year of university, I was on a “Doberman scholarship”. My father’s Doberman had had a litter of puppies that were sold and that financed me in my second year. Dear papa had such great foresight and I owe the success in my career to him.
Both my sister and I will never forget the month-end treat that we would get. When he got his salary, papa, mama and my sister and I dressed in our Sunday best and would go to the cinema for a show, followed by dinner. My brothers were already away from home pursuing their further studies at the time. We looked foward to this treat and, up to today, when my sister and I reminisce, a smile would be seen on our faces at the simple pleasures of yesteryear.
When I got married and left home to follow my husband, the most heartbreaking scene was after saying good bye I could see that papa’s eyes were red.
When papa passed away, in his will there was no discrimination between his sons and adopted daugthers. We were all given an equal share.
And so on Father’s Day, my thoughts turn to my dear papa: “Oh, my papa, to me you are so wonderful, to me you are so good …”