Have you ever seen your dad cry? 

Even if you have, you could probably count the number of times you’ve done so with one hand. It’s not the most Dad thing to do.

In my 27 years of life on earth, I’ve only ever seen my dad cry all of once – and it was at his father’s passing, not my mother’s.

My parents took 9 years to conceive me … only for my mum to take her life 3 years after giving birth to me. I still remember the moment right before she leapt off the ledge. She ended her life in front of me.

(In the centre) Gillian as a baby with her parents.

I remember my dad carrying me in his arms when the police came to her suicide scene at the void deck.

I remember him carrying me in his arms at my mother’s funeral.

For all the tough times my dad’s been through – dealing with my mum’s unstable mental condition for years, her eventual suicide, bringing my half-sister and me up and working on his second marriage – he never once shed a tear.

Instead, he cried sweat.

As if enduring the sudden death of the woman he loved for 19 years wasn’t already the lowest point of his life, my dad was later forced to wind up his family business of two decades, declaring bankruptcy and going from an entrepreneur to a cab driver.

It meant leaving me at a babysitter’s place every Sunday night so that he could work on the weekdays, even though it broke his heart to see me screaming and crying out of separation anxiety. Before the bankruptcy, he would take me everywhere he went. I’d follow him to his office and warehouse, riding in the lorry with him as he delivered goods by hand.

Gillian and her dad.

I hated the feeling of being away from him. Even at the babysitter’s, I’d call him every night and whenever he didn’t pick up the phone, I would be filled with worry that something might have happened to him. He was all I had left in the world and he was my safe place.

But to put me through school, especially an expensive university education, he drove the cab for almost 12 hours every day, with barely a break in between.

He was working himself to the bone but in my 10 years of competitive netball, he never missed a match. Even as I compete in Jiu Jitsu today, he’s still my biggest supporter. From fetching me to and from training, school, airports, work and everything else, he has always been there for me.

Gillian with her greatest supporter, her father, after a Jiu Jitsu competition.

Dad stopped schooling after his O-levels but for the past couple of years, he’s been learning how to trade in the stock market when he comes home from work. He goes for extra classes, seminars and online webinars to learn how to do technical stock analysis.

He reads the financial news in English, a language he picked up on his own and isn’t fully confident of. Till today, he still asks me to help him write simple emails such as unsubscribing from online services.

Looking back, I only recently realised why I always had to write my own letters to my teachers, while he simply signed them off. I used to think it was because he was lazy and would get frustrated with him. The truth was, he just wasn’t confident communicating in English.

My dad may not have received the best education, but he has definitely given us the best education yet – the importance of giving your all to the people you love.

Far from being lazy, he’s probably the most hardworking person I know. He has never complained to me about how tired he is, merely remarking that his body isn’t as strong as it was before, when he could drive for hours and not feel tired. And I’ve been selfish not to empathise well enough.

For all the tough times he’s been through, I’ve never really considered things from his perspective. I also forget he’s ageing; his head is now full of greying white hair.

He’s 62 this year, of retirement age in Singapore but far from being retired. My younger sister is only in her first year of Junior College and he wants to see her through her education.

My dad may not have received the best education, but he has definitely given us the best education yet – the importance of giving your all to the people you love, even if it takes your blood, sweat and tears.

Real men do cry. They just cry in different ways.

To my awesome Papa Goh: thank you for taking on the tough dual role and responsibility for the past 27 years. You’re my Superman and Wonder Woman all in one. I love you so much. ❤️