Monday, June 19, 2006

not-so-hallmark dad

when my grandmother was ill and the hostility within my family was at its worst, my aunts and uncles sat me down one afternoon and told me they have always tried to be extra nice to my sis and me because my father, despite almost single-handedly dragging the family out of poverty, hasn't been the best dad out there.

nevermind i knew that, at the time, they were merely trying to get me to "the other side", what they said still hit me right where it mattered.

i have to admit that as i was growing up, i often envied the kind of relationship my friends had with their fathers. one of my friends' dad cooked sunday dinner for the family and i imagined them sitting around the table, holding hands and saying grace before digging into a delicious meal he had prepared earlier. another schoolmate's father threw her a sweet sixteen birthday party and danced with her to roy orbison's "sixteen candles" that night, in front of all her friends.

i wasn't invited to that party but when i turned 16, in the usual no-fuss manner my family celebrates birthdays, i wished my dad were like her dad; the kind of father who would sing songs like "butterfly kisses" and be moved by the sight of his daughter blossoming into a young woman. i just wanted to have a hallmark/disney channel dad.

my father certainly didn't play the warm, fuzzy feeling kind of dad very well. instead of playing badminton or catch with me in the garden, he bought a house with a garden so i could play there with my friends. rather than admit he was wrong for losing my camera in china, he put a peach - a peace offering - on the table in the morning when i woke up and practically yelled at me for not using the other camera. he growls or grunts at my sister and me instead of talking to us and, when we were growing up, the most he ever said to us were words said in anger whenever we pissed him off.

but he made damn well sure that we grew up properly and would never be in want.

i used to worry that one day, when i grow up, i'll be one of those women who spend thousands of dollars a year to talk to a therapist about the void their fathers have left in my hearts. after all, he qualifies as an absentee father - a father who was never really involved physically or emotionally in my life.

however, i doubt there is a void, despite the fact that sometimes i still wish he were the kind of dad i can kiss good morning or give a hug to on his birthday, without feeling somewhat odd about it. he was never conspicuously there in my life, but he ensured that whatever hole he left in me was mended in many other ways.

that was probably why i found myself struggling through tears to defend my parents, especially my father, when my relatives were talking to me about his shortcomings last year.

it hurt to know that they were right when they said that he could have been more involved in my life or showed that he loves me in more explicit ways...but there was no real need for him to tuck me in at night or give me a pat on the back when i brought home a good report card.

there was never any doubt that he loves me and there still isn't any doubt about that today.

happy belated father's day, daddy.

lishun at 9:31 PM