From the drawer, my dad and I unleash the arsenal of pingpong balls and paddles galore. The table in the arena of our garage holds our raging pingpong battles that have molded our relationship.
The dim lights that illuminate the dust-caked room serve as spotlights for epic battles. When my dad and I have a problem, we take it to the garage and settle it the right way. The pingpong way.
We speak pingpong. When we’re arguing, we play more aggressively, but at the end of the game, we continue as if nothing happened. One time, my dad picked me up from school two hours late. I remember holding a grudge, but once we were in the heat of battle, I forgot the reason I was mad and engaged completely in the game. Once the game was over, I had forgotten about the issue and had moved on. The blood, sweat and tears that have gone into our furious matches fuel the competitive nature I share with my dad.
The cliche dad-son bonding consists of a warm, breezy day of fishing or an easygoing game of catch in the front yard. Pingpong has been our way of keeping a competitive yet friendly father-son relationship.
As a lefty, Chinese-gripped player, my versatility and unorthodox style continues to trump other pingpong players at school and at the YMCA, but not my dad. My dad only knows how to smash, launching explosive attacks to the left and right corners of the table. As I’ve grown, I’ve developed my unique style with an array of befuddling spins and shrewd combos. But no matter how hard I practiced my signature moves, I could never extinguish my dad’s perfect game.
The uncontested champion of the house, my dad, has held the pingpong throne for the longest time. Every game, I returned to my mother teary-eyed, wondering why bad things happen to good people. My serves were impeccable. My spins were unstoppable. My game was flawless. How did I lose every time? The firm handshake that ruptured my heart after every game left me crushed, making me believe that I would never beat my dad.
One night my dad and I were fighting while my mother was watching Desperate Housewives. Desperate to stop us from ruining her special night, she forced us into the garage to fight out our feud. This was the long anticipated night. The night I would take the title from my dad.
A game to 21, best of three. My sweaty hands could barely grip the paddle. As we did our traditional pregame warm up, I purposely did not showcase my key moves of the night. I wanted to take the sneaky approach. Exhibiting my newly acquired moves would only familiarize him, allowing him to conjure up counters for the game to come. When we did start the match, I maintained a strong lead throughout, but I knew my dad was notorious for clutch comebacks.
It was 20-16, and that was when the pressure settled in. The nerves were getting to me as I faulted on a serve. Every loss flashed before my eyes as I whipped out a lightning-quick serve to the left corner. An ace.
Did I actually do it? I remember repeatedly asking my dad if he went easy on me, but he kept telling me that I won fair and square. I went on to lose the second match but triumphantly took the third. As the youngest of the family, beating my dad at something carries a heavy weight.
Finally, I was considered as good, and possibly even better, than my dad at something. Although some may consider it childish, it was one of the happiest moments of my life, as I finally won the respect of my dad. For once, it felt nice being able to see eye to eye with my dad as if we were equal. This definitely changed the way my dad looked at me, because I earned his respect through a game of passion, humility, pain and love. A game of pingpong.
I shook his hand firmly, unable to suppress my gleaming smile and inconceivable joy. I raced to my mother to rant about my victory as my dad smugly watched. He might have lost, but as much as he wanted to win, he always wanted me to win more.