Valley Voices

Jeanne Liao: My father was my rock

Jeanne Liao
Jeanne Liao

There are rocks in your life, and there are pebbles. Rocks are the life-changing moments. We all have them — life experiences that rock your world, some in good ways and others in heart-wrenching ways. Then there are pebbles: simple moments that occur throughout each day.

If you combine rocks and pebbles, life is an assortment of love, death, health, births and birthdays, weddings, graduation, school, work, health, hobbies, family, friends, vacations, travel. A variety of all of this is basically life’s makeup.

In another sense, there are other types of rocks and pebbles in your life. There are pebbles: people who have minimal impact.

Then there are people who rock your world through their actions or words. You may see them daily or rarely, but they live in your heart every moment. These are the impact individuals who influence, encourage consistently, love unconditionally, and believe in you every step of the way in life.

A father is all of this and more.

Fathers are rocks. They are solid. They are strong. These are the masculine elements. But what intrigues me about good fathers is that they are masculine, yet gentle in the heart, loving by nature and protective by instinct. The mixture and combination of all these elements describe good fathers throughout the world.

If you blend the rock in your life — the person, and the rock in your life — the experience, the first thing that comes to my mind is my beloved father, Dr. Samuel Yu Liao. Dad was my rock; solid, steady, foundational.

The rock experience was the day he passed away, but he continues to be my rock. Though I cannot see him, I feel him every single day. On the day he died, my world turned upside down.

It taught me that life would never be the same without him, and I would have to accept living without Dad guiding and protecting me, smiling at me, holding my hand, telling me everything would be OK and gently cupping my cheeks in his hands.

It’s what Dad always did; it’s what dads do.

My dad taught me the meaning of working hard. He showed me the value of education. He was my favorite author even before I knew I had one.

He wrote daily, and published numerous engineering textbooks about microwave devices and circuits — books that are beyond my scope of comprehension, more like a foreign language to me.

As a writer, I have followed his path minus the equations and formulas that filled his mind and were scribbled in red pen in his manuscripts.

I still have the solutions manual with Dad’s handwritten notes. There is nothing more personal than his handwriting. His writing is distinct, personal and makes me feel like he is still alongside me.

When I need a heavy dose of Dad, I pull out his handwritten letters he sent to me while I was teaching in China. Despite teaching half way around the world all by myself, he was with me, never allowing me to feel alone.

He was with me while riding my bike in a small village, with me on the Great Wall of China, with me at Tiananmen Square.

When I need a boost, I simply read Dad’s salutation, and instantly I feel his love. It is the enormous dose of encouragement that reminds me that my father’s love is unique and irreplaceable. A father’s love just is. I would hope for every person on the planet that their father is what mine was to me.

As a professor of electrical engineering at Fresno State for 35 years, his impact was substantial.

On a day that I was on campus, Dean of Engineering Dr. Ram Nunna kindly showed me my father’s unique contributions to the university. When I entered the high-security room with Dad’s incredible creations, I felt his closeness, and I felt proud to be his daughter.

I never paid enough attention to all of Dad’s smartness and ingenuity because I was too engulfed in my own life. To see it was a gift, to realize that I would not be able to hug him and tell him I was proud was the ache in my heart.

When you lose a father, somehow you enter a circle with all others who have lost their fathers. There is a common bond and mutual understanding, a feeling that can only be understood by those who have lost their rock.

Maybe it was the pebble moments that contributed to Dad being my rock. It was the simple things that made all the difference.

It wasn’t anything grandiose or extravagant that permeates in my heart. It was the little things that added up that were meaningful; showing me he truly cared, being present, standing alongside me, believing in me, treating me with kindness, yet strategically being stern when needed, loving me for me.

To every father, all those living, and all those remembered fondly; your life means something to every one of us.

You may not hear it enough, we may not show it enough; but your worth is beyond words. In the maze of life, when we feel depleted and lost, we rely on your strength and example.

For many of us, your existence may be from heaven, your presence remains in our hearts.

You are the rock; always will be. Every day, every holiday, every birthday, every Father’s Day, every significant rock moment in our life, you are with us.

Thank you to every father for being the rock in our lives.

Jeannie Liao is a mother, writer and educator. She is a former administrator for the Fresno County Office of Education and Clovis Unified School District. www.jeannieliao. Write to her at