Today is Fathers' Day, and Facebook is full of warm and loving tributes to all kinds of fathers, both living and dead, as was the Sunday newspaper. As I read the interesting and often heartwarming tributes, I found myself suddenly catapulted into the dark place I inhabited after my father died, 20+ years ago. In Jewish tradition, a mourner "sits shiva" for seven days after the burial, and it is customary to sit on the floor or a low stool -- not for punishment, but as an outward indication of internal discomfort. I sat on the floor that week and tried to figure out how I could deal with the liturgical presumption of honor and love for a parent when I felt neither of those things for the man who had sired me. I finally figured out that while I felt nothing but anger and bitterness towards my father, who had betrayed me, I could genuinely mourn my daddy, who had given me life, taught me values he couldn't live up to himself, and encouraged me to be myself and stand up for what I believed.
My daddy was a loving man, quick to hug, who loved to play. We spent hours in the back yard, playing catch or badminton, and he seemed to enjoy helping me with school projects. He was funny and outgoing, and loved to argue about ideas with me. He believed that I could do anything I set my mind to accomplish and that the whole world was open to me, not just the parts officially labeled "for girls." He taught me always to tell the truth. He loved me unconditionally, or so I believed.
My father was a weak man, whose supposed principles were subject to considerations of expediency. He had great ideas and intense passions, but never followed through on them for very long. Our basement was littered with remnants of his previously all-consuming projects. He seemed to value a peaceful life above justice and fairness. Under the influence of my wicked stepmother, he stole from his parents. And he disowned me, not once, but twice.
Thank you, Daddy, for giving me life and helping me become the woman I am. On this day of reflection and remembrance, I miss you more than I can easily express, torn away as you were not by distance or death, but by your own misguided choices. I wish I'd had you longer in my life.
A hui hou.