Planning my wedding was two of the most emotional years of my life. On top of the usual wedding drama and stress (i.e. guest list, budget, vendors, decor and details, etc.), I was mourning and grieving the loss of two father figures in my life, plus a father-in-law I was looking forward to spending many years with. I asked God many times why he took away all the men in my life who mattered to me. I thought perhaps it was a sign to finally make amends with my biological father.
In the two years leading up to my wedding, I only heard from my father when he needed confirmation from me that I still acknowledged his existence. This came in the form of phone calls–rare and infrequent, and (thankfully) short and brief. He never asked how I was doing. He just wanted to make sure I picked up the phone when he called.
At my Uncle Gan Jon’s wake and funeral, my father showed up dressed in khakis and sneakers. That was only one example among many transgressions committed by him in my adult life. It especially stunned me that my father did not shed one tear at his brother’s funeral. They had spent the majority of their lives together, migrated to the US together, lived together as adults for many years, and then lived across the street from each other. My uncle was always there for my father no matter what he did. Yet, at my uncle’s funeral, my father did not show an ounce of gratitude or pain.
As the anger I’ve harbored my entire life against this man was stirred and reawakened, I was also not the least bit surprised. By now, I had learned not to expect much from a father who disappointed and hurt me for most of my life, especially during my formative years. He was the man who would use force on me when I acted out, dragging me across a room or down the stairs with a tight grip on my arm. He was the man who would throw food and plates at me during dinner for no apparent reason. He was the man who not only assaulted me, but also my mom and my brother. He was the man who cheated on my mother more than once. I remember how he would flirt with my mom’s best friend whenever he thought he was alone with her.
For most of my life, I resented my mom for not leaving my father. Although I still don’t understand her reasons for staying with him for 22 years, I realized I don’t have to make the same mistake she did. Unlike my mom, I refuse to remain a victim.
That was how I realized that making amends with my father was not–should NOT–be the plan. Instead, I did the complete opposite. Right before getting married, I had my last breakup; and it was with my father. I broke up with him by blocking him on my phone. When he found me on Whatsapp and sent me messages (and a voice recording) demanding that I respond and call him, I blocked him there as well. I cut all ties with him without any hesitation. I finally took back the one thing he had on me–control.
There was no question about whether he was invited to the wedding or not. For the ceremony, I walked down the aisle by myself. First, to make a statement that I’ve had to stand up for myself for my entire life until I met my husband. Second, I did not belong to anyone to “give away” or “to take.” Third, if I had ever wanted to follow the tradtion, the only two men who I would consider asking to walk me down the aisle were now gone.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve ceased all communications with my father and I feel like a weight is lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I can breathe again–the same way I used to feel after getting out of an unhealthy relationship with a guy I was dating. It was the best decision I could have made in my premarital phase.
Finally, some happier memories are resurfacing, such as how my father was present at all of my school graduations with his camcorder in hand. How he used to take me and my brother to the park on Sundays to fly kites. How he always knew what my favorite dishes were and would cook them up for me on his days off (which was only one day a week). How hard working he was; when he owned his carry-outs, he worked 7 days a week, including holidays. How he encouraged me to develop my creative talents by buying me art supplies and a typewriter (later on, computers).
On this Father’s Day, I’m remembering all the father figures in my life I’ve been blessed with, including the birth father who was not a good person but did the best he could as a father.