i’m sure many asian kids experienced this growing up but my dad was not affectionate or communicative. he was very stern and a man of few words but i can’t blame him since he was raised the same way; that’s all he knew. he is the middle child of 5 – an older brother and sister, and 2 younger brothers. it’s funny … until i was older, i thought my dad was the very scary short-tempered crazy one but when my uncles and aunt came to america, they told me he was actually the softie of the bunch and was my grandfather’s favorite for mainly this very reason.
growing up, my dad’s way of showing us he cared was making sure we were taken care of. he was a great provider and all about family – not in the way where we had fun boardgame nights or backyard camping trips – but he always wanted his family around him. on those very rare occasions we went out without him, he was highly anxietal and fretted all night until we came home. unusual for a korean man of his generation but he cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, gardened, always checked the cars to make sure there was gas and if there wasn’t, he drove our cars and filled it himself. i don’t think it was until i was in college that i first pumped my own gas. but we butted heads HARD, boy did we spar. screaming, yelling, some stuff i wish I could forget. blame it on cultural differences, similar personalities but we made one another’s lives miserable for quite a while.
my grandfather lived with us for a few years. there wasn’t much interaction between them that i remember but i’m sure they loved one another in their own way. the first time i ever saw my dad cry was when my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. all his siblings came to our house. they were in my grandfather’s room, my dad was leaning on his dresser, and as he was breaking the news to them, he was crying so hard he couldn’t speak and he was wiping his eyes with his forearm … you know like when a little kid cries and wipes his tears. it was so … strange to see my strong emotionless hard dad like that.
two years later, my dad was watering our backyard lawn while my grandfather was exercising. i remember hearing my dad scream for my mom. we went outside and my dad was leaning over my grandfather as he lay there on the ground. my mom was a nurse, so she began administering CPR. while my mom was pumping his chest, she asked me to do mouth-to-mouth. i was scared and i couldn’t, i froze. to this day, i regret that moment. to this day, i hate myself for not being able to do it. instead, my dad ran over and started blowing into his mouth. i remember seeing my grandfather grabbing at the air for something … like he was trying to catch bugs. my next memory is of firemen at our house trying to revive my grandfather while my dad watched from behind, once again crying but this time with both hands covering his face.
my brother was only 4 when my grandfather passed away, so we told him that he went back to korea. for a while, every time my brother saw an airplane flying in the sky, he’d say, “there’s goes harabuji (korean for grandfather).”
after my grandfather’s funeral, my sister and i went to the kitchen for some reason. it was late at night. on the way back to our room, we saw our dad in the living room, kneeling in the dark, facing the wall, holding my grandfather’s picture in his arms, rocking back and forth and weeping quietly. i will remember that forever.
since then, i’ve only seen my dad shed a tear or two here and there – when i got married, when he found out he was finally going to be a grandfather for the first time.
some men get more stubborn, mean spirited as they age. the opposite with my dad. he’s become softer, nicer, more affectionate. he calls me often and yells, “you facetime me.” he makes sure every single time we end our conversation to say i love you and he won’t hang up until i say it back. in person, he hugs extra hard. i really love him. what was once so annoying and irritating about him now makes me laugh – he is singularly the most repetitive, stubborn, suspicious, blunt person i know but i find it hilarious.
to my husband. i always knew he was going to be an amazing father. he is patient, kind, hands on, fun, caring and he relishes being a dad. in every way, he is involved in their lives. from the moment i was pregnant with our first, he was so excited. i saved some emails and IM’s we exchanged during that period; i can’t wait to show my daughter when she gets older.
especially now, i am so thankful for him. as you know, i’ve made a very big change in my career. i was working full time before but mainly from home; it was like that for 3 years. now, in the last 3 weeks, i’ve come home average 8:30 pm, sometimes 10:30 pm, and this week, i came home at 5:45 … in the morning. but he has never complained, in fact he enjoys that he is now the main caregiver.
he works full time too but on top of that he drops and picks the kids up from school, makes them dinner, washes the dishes, makes their lunches, gives them baths, plays with them, puts them to sleep. there are so few husbands out there that are like that.
i want to thank my dad and my husband both – for being great fathers in their own very different ways. thank you for providing, being there, taking care of us, loving us, helping us, making our lives easier, making our lives better.
i love you. i appreciate you. happy father’s day.
live long and prosper.