Today I turn 30 years old. And while this is a milestone birthday, I also am aware that Sunday is Father's Day.
So the subject today is one that is very near and dear to my heart, My Father Manuel Heshiki.
While he may never see this, it's important for me to share my thoughts with Father's day right around the corner. My dad came to this country like most parents of first generation born minorities with practically nothing but the clothes on his back. He shared with me how he had been deported TWICE and somehow made his way back. I guess they were a lot less strict about the whole thing back then, if you somehow made it in, they'd let you stay so long as you behaved.
After marrying my mom, my brother was born and he ended up worked two jobs: at a Benihana style Japanese restaurant and at the Ford Motor plant outside of Edison, NJ. After I was born he simply worked two shifts at the Ford plant. I remember growing up and wondering why I never saw my dad and when I would give him a kiss (this is if I somehow managed to stay awake on Friday nights) he always had a really rough face. Later I realized of course he woke up to go to work early in the morning with a clean shaven face with the same disposable Bic razors which he still uses btw, that by the time he came home his beard had started to grow back in. A lot more than a 5 o'clock shadow.
This was my life until we moved out to California in 1991. There my parents both went to work with my Uncle at our family Peruvian restaurant in Los Angeles. This was the beginning of The Bulls dynasty and I was a HUGE Basketball fan. I always wanted to go to the park to play, but my parents were always working. I used to think why can't I go play. Why do I have to spend every moment outside of going to school, here in the back of a restaurant folding menus and eating Peruvian food!?!? (which in hindsight wasn't so bad, Lomo Saltado ftw)
I would whine about not being like every other kid I went to school with. Why did I have to wear Payless shoes and hand-me-down discount clothes. I can never recall my Dad raising his voice or disciplining me about my incessant complaining. (It's quite obvious I was a punk and will pay dearly as a parent in the future)
Instead on weekends he and I would leave for the restaurant early in the morning and he would take me to shoot around with an $8 plastic basketball from K-Mart. My dad was in his late 50's at this point. He somehow found the energy to work 10 hour days, 6 days a week and then put up with me!
While I of course love my Mom, I'll never forget all the amazing things my Dad has done for me. Not just the insane amount of hours he'd work but how he NEVER complained. A trait that as I turn 30, I wish to emulate moving forward. He always seemed to have a goofy smile and tried making a joke even when I was an annoying moody teenager. Little did I really understand what my Dad did for both my Brother and I. The sacrifices to put us through school, to put food on the table and provide for us what little luxuries we could afford like McDonalds after school on Fridays or nose bleed seats to a Lakers game at The Great Western Forum.
If you are fortunate to still have your Dad in your life today, give him a hug and tell him you love him. I hope that in my lifetime I can even be half the man my Dad is. I will forever be grateful to him for showing what it is to be a real man and an even better person.