Sunday, 22 July 2018

What kind of father are you?

Honestly, what kind of father do you want to be?

The late Michael Jackson's father, Joe Jackson (whose full name is Joseph Walter Jackson), passed away on Wednesday at 89 of pancreatic cancer. He was living in a hospice in Las Vegas.

If fatherhood has a unique blend of strictness and betrayal, Joe may just fit the bill here. 

He dropped out of high school, with parents divorced, worked as a steel worker, dabbled in boxing for a while, and also joined a R&B band before they disbanded. 

He also managed and led the Jackson Music Empire which produced the famous Jackson Five with Michael Jackson helming it and subsequently, Janet Jackson's music career also took off. 

When he broke away with Motown Records in mid-70s, that decision launched Michael's career to super stardom status. If not for that breakaway, MJ wouldn't be as successful as he is today, even in memoriam.

It was a casual start for the kids when Joe disbanded from his R&B band. He hid his guitar, afraid that his kids might damage it, but his sons found it, jammed on it and the rest is MJ history. 

But success for the Jackson came with a price. 

Although Jackson senior was strict, focused and bent on making his kids a success, which he has to be given credit for, he was also abusive and he took the opportunity to commit extramarital affairs when he toured with the Jacksons. 

His philandering ways were hardly hidden from his children and he treated it as a rite of passage for the rich and successful, an entitlement which the world should understand. It's almost like the price for fame. 

However, in 1983, led by Michael, the kids dismissed their father from being their manager and distanced themselves from him. Michael said: "It's not easy firing your father."

It reports that to the end, Joe insisted that he had raised his kids in the right way. 

He said: "I got a strict raising when I was young and I've been able to accomplished a lot because of that. And my kids have gotten a strict raising and look what they've accomplished. I think children should fear their parents."

Lesson? Well, I don't know whether kids should fear their parents, but I sure feared mine in the past. 

But my point is that fatherhood is never an easy road. The journey is twofold: marital and parenting. Both of them must be inspired by hope, fidelity and love. 

Hope that your kids are going to turn out well. Fidelity to keep keeping at it whatever the costs. And love to water the weary soul, refresh the spirit and strengthen the bond. 

Joe's experiences of fatherhood is more complicated than it seems. I do not see a point in commenting on it as different people from different perspectives may see it differently. 

Some may think that it is worth it, that is, the abuse and infidelity, if the kids turns out independent, rich and famous. 

Others may see it as highly questionable since he had broken many promises as a husband and father. In the end, his relationship with them, especially his wife, is essentially estranged. 

To me, fatherhood is much less complicated than Joe's. 

It is made up of countless of simple meals shared together with family. It is made up of unscheduled laughters, encouraging words at the right time, the holding of hands to affirm the bond, a smile of pride for the little victories and milestones overcome, rumble and tumble in the sheets for unexpected fun, a hug and a kiss to assure them of your devotion to them, and most importantly, to beat them at loving the love of their life, their mother.

Nothing about all that is about being rich and famous. For me, it is always about being truthful, honest and committed. These virtues are priceless and it takes a lifetime of stumbles as a human father to nurture and sustain them in my life. 

My philosophy is simply that you only have one life of limited span here on earth. So, what truly and enduringly counts is at its end. 

When you finally get to look back from the boundary of mortality, you want to know that you have been true to yourself, have given the best you can, have loved unceasing even when temptation is unrelenting, have never given up hope even in the worst of times, and having survey your bed death, you are surrounded by them, the ones whom you have given your life to, and they are holding your hands, hugging you with tears, and telling you repeatedly, "Daddy we love you". 

I think no fame or riches can compare to that when you finally leave this world as a very human father with all the flaws, but yet, an earnest dad with a heart that stays true, stays strong and stays hopeful. Cheerz.

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