Not Ready to Make Nice

Every so often, I wonder to myself, “Why am I still not talking to my father?” After all, my parents are divorced, he is free to do whatever he wants. Shouldn’t I give him another chance? Shouldn’t I give him an opportunity to start over? I mean, if all children of divorced parents didn’t speak to their dads or moms because of adultery or bad behavior, there would be a lot of estranged families.

Perhaps there are.

My uncle and his family came to visit us this Christmas. This is the first time they have visited (other than for my brother’s wedding) in approximately twenty-five to thirty years. My uncle had refused to attend my wedding because my father was in attendance. My father was not invited to my brother’s wedding.

At any rate, I feel as if all my uncle and aunt could talk about was my father. Perhaps they simply have no one else to talk to about it. Or rather, no one else can quite understand their situation. It’s like a survivor’s club. But I couldn’t help but feel as if just by talking about him nonstop, giving an unending relational post-mortem, that we were still allowing my father to hold so much power over us. I suppose it is somewhat better than not talking at all about my father and the havoc he has caused. I often forget that my immediate family was not the only family torn apart by my father. He also tore apart his original family, with his brother, mother, and father.

There is a power in us never saying anything about my father. There is also a power in us ONLY talking about my father. Quite frankly, I was incredibly sick of the subject.

I understand. My father has now made it one of his primary goals to make my uncle’s life miserable. He has moved to the community where my uncle lives and has started to intrude in my uncle’s social and religious circles. My uncle is afraid and unwilling to do anything. He is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t know why or what exactly the problem is – but I have ever been the aggressor. Also, I know barely anything about the situation. Perhaps my father really does want a public fight – and the only way to neutralize him is to ignore him and pretend he doesn’t exist.

I don’t know. I have always butt heads with my father. We are very much alike in temper and temperament. Of course, I am much better looking.

I confronted him on all the small things (except the only thing that really mattered – his lying, cheating ways). My mother and brother rarely confronted him. They just let him bluster on, unwilling (and perhaps, the smarter for it) to engage in an argument just to be right or be heard. I still haven’t decided which strategy was better.

I want to start a new conversation.

I want my children to go through life completely ignorant through first hand experience (not necessarily ignorant in general) what it is like to have an absent, unreliable, and selfish parent. I want my children to have nothing to do with violence perpetrated against them or their mother. I want my children to know peace, stability, love, and freedom.

I spent so much of my life afraid and hiding. Hiding my true feelings and thoughts about my father, my mother, my occupation, my studies, my everything. Because my family was built upon lie after lie to protect our dark secrets.

Such a fucking waste of time.

It was like covering up a cancer or a gangrenous limb. How can we get well if we pretend there is no illness?

Ultimately, that’s what it comes back down to. If my father were no longer a plague or a cancer, I’d consider allowing him into my and my children’s lives. He is still my father. But since he still is bent on revenge and only looking out for himself, it is my job – my duty – as a parent to shield my children. I am like Gandalf fighting the Balrog.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

It seems a tad overdramatic and silly now that it is in gif form. But the sentiment remains the same.

Also, I am allowed some gallows humor, right? If anything, at least my crappy father has given me so much potential blogging and parenting material! Thanks, crappy dad!

I now have a blueprint for what NOT to do as a parent. I can now screw my children up in an altogether new and different fashion. Babies, consider yourself warned.

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Pattern Interuption

Prior to dating Hapa Papa, all my relationships were full of drama. When things were good, they were AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL and FATE and when they were bad, they were HORRIBLE and ALL IS LOST and ANGST ANGST ANGST. So exhausting.

Part of it was I was in my late teens and early twenties and my pre-frontal cortex wasn’t finished developing. (Yes, yes… that’s it! Blame it on the pre-frontal cortex!) Part of it was me learning how to navigate my own needs, wants, and desires as well as healing from the ways my parents (in particular, my father’s abandonment) broke me. Also, I was crazy. And emotionally unstable. So, there was that working for me.

Since I was always playing out the drama that unfolded only in my head, I was constantly pushing my boyfriends away, expecting them to chase after me and beg me to stay. That was how I confirmed I was valuable and loved. I was the damsel in distress needing the hero to run after and save me me from myself. Needless to say, it was tiring for everyone and eventually, the “passion” as I thought it was (vs the incredibly passive aggressive co-dependency that it truly was) burned out.

Well, when Hapa Papa and I started dating, I would pull that crap on him and he would have none of it. More to the point, he was completely oblivious. I was so confused. One night, I was so pissed at him, I slammed the door to our apartment and left. We lived in a sketchy neighborhood so I fully expected him to come running after me, begging me to come back and stay and to be safe. Nope. The man had the nerve to fall asleep almost immediately.

I stormed back in after about fifteen minutes and roughly shook Hapa Papa awake, demanding him to explain himself. He looked up at me, blinking sleepily and said, “I assumed you left because you didn’t want to be around me. So I let you be by yourself. I just figured if you wanted to be with me, you’d come back. Was I wrong? I’m not really sure. Is that the way relationships are supposed to work?”

I was floored. I think I stood there, mouth agape, opening and closing like a fish. My brain stuttered to a stop.

“Well?” Hapa Papa asked. “Was I supposed to chase after you? Is that what you want? Should I do that from now on? Because that seems really stupid to me. If you wanted me to be with you, why would you leave?”

*sigh* I hate it when he’s right. I thought about it for a bit, my brain frantically churning through all these scenarios about what I wanted and what would be the best response and I gave up. I told him that he should continue what he was doing. If I stormed out, he was absolutely not to chase me.

Turns out, that was one of the best decisions I ever made. With that pattern of victim/hero disrupted, we were able to proceed on healthier grounds. Of course, there were still times I still bolted because I was pissed off beyond all reason, but I did so knowing that Hapa Papa was not going to be chasing after me. I tested him a few times, but he never did. After awhile, it just got lonely and stupid so I stopped.

Now, of course, we still fight every now and then, but I can honestly say that I have never had a healthier relationship. It also helps that Hapa Papa is what my brother calls The Most Patient Man in the World. Thank the Good Lord for that!

Plus, Hapa Papa is so quick to apologize and admit when he is wrong that just by doing so, it immediately diffuses most volatile situations and stops me from going to DefCon 1. Even I am now able to look past my immense pride and sense of “Look Out for Number One” (a lesson I inscribed onto my heart once I watched my father walk all over my mother for the majority of my life) and have come to apologize as quickly as possible. He has been good for my soul.

All because that one night, Hapa Papa let me walk out that door. I am utterly grateful.

About My Father

It has been a over two years since I told my father he and his mother are dead to me. Since then, I have had two additional children, caved on letting my grandmother see Cookie Monster, and though my parents officially divorced in March of this year, have yet to contact my father.

I don’t think I will.

In general, I don’t think of my father much, and when I do, it is rarely a good or happy memory. Of course, I have those types of memories, but mostly, they are buried under decades of disappointment, anger, and grief. But when I think of my kids and how my father has never even asked my mother about them (even before the divorce), I kick myself for allowing any of his actions to hurt me all over again.

My mother occasionally asks me if my father has tried to contact me since I more or less told him to fuck off and die. When I told her he hadn’t, she expressed surprise.

“Why would he contact me when I explicitly told him not to?”  

“If you think that, then you truly don’t know what being a parent is yet.”

“I think it’s the first time he has ever done anything I wanted.”

“A parent doesn’t stop contact with their child just because the child doesn’t want them to anymore. That’s not what love is like.”

“Hmph.”

I’m not sure I agree with my mother. I can’t decide whether or not it is a good thing my father is honoring my wishes. However, I honestly think that he just doesn’t think about or care about me, so it’s not that he’s abstained from emailing me or calling me out of any altruistic feelings of love. Oh, he hasn’t forgotten. He conjures me up as an example of how I have wronged him and how my mother has turned every one against him, but that’s about it. The reasons why I have cut him off have been rewritten into a narrative in which he is the victim and betrayed one.

Before my parents divorced, I would occasionally wonder what it would be like if my father actually repented of his actions, changed his behavior, and returned as an actual husband to my mother and father to his children. I seriously couldn’t even begin to fathom what life would look like. I simply lacked the appropriate imagination. My mind could not reconcile the fantasy with the truth.

Here’s the truth. Even if my father contacted me tomorrow and genuinely apologized (he has never once apologized to my mother for what he has done), repented of his action (I have no idea what this would even look like now that my parents are divorced), and somehow, became actually trustworthy versus just saying things to get me to do something for him (which he has done to my brother), it is too late.

Nothing my father does from this point forward can undo or fix the damage he has done.

He will always be the man who almost smothered my mother with a pillow in a Chinese hotel during the ’89 earthquake. That is what I always think of every October when my friends are posting about remembering the Loma Prieta Earthquake. He will always be the man who held a butcher knife to my mother’s throat on Father’s Day, forcing me to call the police. After which, he told me that when I point a finger at him, judging him, three fingers are pointing back at me.

Yes, there are many happy memories of my father as well. But they are made all the more bitter when I think of what he has become. The happy memories taste like ash in my mouth. They mock me because I don’t ever really know if the memories were genuine, or if they were just my father manipulating and lying to us as he has been wont to do.

It is too late.

I ask myself if I would even want to be restored to my father. Of course I do. My children only have my mother and my mother-in-law as involved grandparents. (My father-in-law died three days before Cookie Monster was born. He was a good man and would’ve been a good grandfather.) It grieves me that they have no grandfather in their lives. But because I love my children, I will never allow them to know my father unless he truly changed his life. Even then, I doubt I would believe it. Even then, I would require years of careful proof before I would consent to the possibility of him being in our lives. Even then, I would feel as if I were betraying my mother.

You know, before I had children, I was a little more sympathetic to my father. I could see how he felt as if he never got what he thought he deserved. How he strove and grasped for his ambitions and his lusts. But as soon as Cookie Monster was born, I ceased all my sympathies. Once I laid eyes upon my beautiful boy, I could not fathom abandoning him the way my father abandoned us. The thought of hurting Cookie Monster, even when trying my best to do good to him, was inconceivable.

That’s the thing though. My father has only ever thought of himself.

The problem is, once you get married and have kids, you give up that privilege to only think of yourself. This is not to be confused with being a doormat and denying your own needs, etc. But much of marriage and parenting is selflessness – a daily dying of your self to serve the other person.

There is no way Hapa Papa would put up with a 3 hour commute, long hours, and constant travel if it were not for the fact that he sacrifices his own pleasures for the sake of our three kids and I. He purchases nothing for himself (except food and gas) all in order to provide as much as he can for our family. I’m sure there are plenty of things Hapa Papa would rather do with his time and his life, yet daily, he pours himself out for us.

That is love.

What my father does? That is the opposite of love. He may claim he loves our family, but for someone to continually choose himself over others, that tells me that the only person he truly loves is himself.

Why would I ever want to put my children in the way of that?

Generational Poison

I hate to admit it, but it is incredibly hard for me to like folks from Mainland China. This is stupid since my father’s side is from China even though he was born in Taiwan. My grandfather escaped from the Communists to Taiwan after serving in the army. My paternal grandmother is also from China. We still have cousins and grandaunts and granduncles in China. Yet for me, I now identify mostly as Taiwanese after spending most of my life spouting that Taiwanese people were obviously from China unless they were the indigenous Taiwanese people. Now, I consider myself Taiwanese (if only because my mother’s family has been there for several generations.)

Unfortunately, my father’s numerous affairs with his secretaries in China have soured my feelings towards the country. I hear so many stories of women who don’t care if men are married and have families and become home-wreckers. Anything to get money and/or leave the country. It doesn’t help that the newspapers are full of stories featuring corrupt officials, corrupt food, and status seeking real estate, car-buying hordes of people.

Obviously, an entire country cannot be painted en masse just because of a few horrible people. The people I’ve met from China have been perfectly nice and friendly, loving and wanting the best for their children just as I do. We are not so different. Yet I hold them at arm’s length, convinced that they are, deep down, an immoral, ruthless, greedy people. I find it difficult to look past my prejudice and be warm and inviting. I’m not rude, just not kind or super friendly. This makes me sad.

If I want to be intellectually honest, though, I would have to hate Taiwanese women, too. My father had affairs in Taiwan, in the US, and who knows what other countries. While I’m blaming huge swaths of people, perhaps prostitutes, strippers, and all secretaries, too!

Part of me knows it is partially classic “blame the mistress” syndrome in order to distance my father from his evil. I mean, his latest woman is particularly fucked up and conniving, but let’s be real. My father didn’t just trip and accidentally have his penis fall into her vagina and make a baby with her, buy her multiple houses in China and Texas in an effort to hide assets from my mother before the divorce, not pay alimony, and in general be a sociopathic, narcissistic, grade-A asshole. Sadly, this is just the minor tip (see what I did there?) of a fucked up iceberg that tore through my family and ripped it apart.

Not that I’m still pissed about this or anything.

But try telling that to my brain when I interact with Mainland Chinese people. I know. My Taiwanese snobbery is showing.

I bring this up because this past Monday, a woman was so desperately happy to attend our Mandarin playgroup. She had been so isolated because she didn’t speak English very well, lived in a neighborhood without many Chinese people, and couldn’t drive (at least legally in the US). She has a 14 month old son who rarely meets other children because again, this woman cannot drive. Now, when she arrived at my house, of course I was nice and polite. I’m not THAT much of a jerk. And I felt bad for this woman – I know it can be very isolating and lonely after having a child – especially if you’re basically under house arrest. Yet, as soon as I found out she was from Mainland China, part of me shrank back and did not want to be as open to her as I had been originally.

Part of it can be rationalized by saying that as an ABC (American Born Chinese), my experience is vastly different than hers as a new immigrant. Also, Taiwanese culture can be very different from Chinese culture. But ultimately, that is crap. I can lie to myself all I want, but I know, deep down, it’s because I’m a racist bastard.

Anyhow, since I often post about racial issues, I wanted to be honest. Just because I’m a minority (in THIS country, anyway) doesn’t mean I’m exempt from racist thinking and actions. I don’t have any easy answers. I am not about to go out of my way to make friends with all the Mainland Chinese people in my neighborhood. But I do think that being aware of my tendency to be aloof and to actively be more engaging with folks from the Mainland is a good beginning.