To me, Mom was always Mom, and Dad was always Dad. It was rude to refer to them as anything else, such as their names, and over time, I began to see them as only Mom and Dad. I lost the ability to see them as people who had lives of their own before they became parents. I realized I never really knew them at all, and that made me angry.
I was angry at Mom for never going to PTA meetings, refusing to go see the school projects I completed for open house and not knowing how to write an absence letter for the school whenever I got sick. I hated that for as long as I could remember, my mother blatantly refused to appear in any pictures, and whenever I took an unanticipated photo of her, she would recoil and demand I delete it immediately.
Blinded by my anger growing up, I forgot that Mom isn’t just Mom. Mom is also a daughter like me — she once took her first steps, was once 2 years old, was once a naive teenager curious about the world. She is a daughter who couldn’t even go to her father’s funeral in South Korea when he passed a few years ago due to her uncertain immigration status in the United States. I forgot that, like me, Mom is a younger sister, who hasn’t had her siblings’ shoulders to lean on during times of emotional and mental stress for more than 20 years.
Mom always said she was lonely, even though I would be sitting right next to her. This used to make me so angry because I am her daughter, and I expected that I would be enough for her. What I didn’t realize was that what she missed was being a daughter, a sister, an individual other than Mom. In this sense, I don’t know anything about this person who was once a young girl, a middle school student, a young woman and a newlywed. I don’t know, when she was my age, what kept her up at night, what her favorite dance moves were, what her pet peeves were, what her worldview was.
I was angry at Dad for never being at home. As an immigrant, he had a hard time finding a place to work that would allow him to provide sufficiently for our family, as my mother was unable to work. He couldn’t find work in the United States, so he had to work in another country while Mom raised my brother and me in the United States. First, it was Guatemala, then Nicaragua, then Korea and currently, Vietnam. I always felt embarrassed telling people that Dad didn’t live with us, so I would always say he was on a long business trip. He comes home a few days out of the year, but it’s never enough or at the right time. He has missed more of my birthdays than he’s been there for; he couldn’t see me walk across the stage at my high school graduation and wasn’t there to help me move in when I came to UC Berkeley last year.
The short-sighted anger I felt toward Dad while growing up is incomparable to the sorrow he must have felt. I didn’t realize how much it hurt him to have to watch his children grow up through photos that Mom sent him. It hurt him to sacrifice his goals and dreams for our family, constantly having to work around the clock. He works so much that he doesn’t even have time to eat or sleep a lot of the time, but he still makes sure to thoroughly read every single article I’ve written for The Daily Californian, as I’m sure he will read this one.
Dad, I’m sorry I always asked you for so much and gave you so little. I’m sorry I always compared you to other dads who bought their children nicer things, showing their love through material possessions, when I knew how hard you were working to provide for our family. I’m sorry time has passed by so fast, and I wasn’t able to grow up before your eyes.
Mom and Dad, I’m sorry. I never knew how badly you were hurting, how tired you must be. I didn’t understand that this anger came from a place of sorrow, grief and sadness for the struggles you went through to make sure your children had a chance of rising above the heavy cloud that you have been forced to live under. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to do what you couldn’t do. I will live not only for myself, but also for our past and future. I will reignite the possibilities that withered away with your struggles. I will live fully for our family.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the summer semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.