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.”
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?