Yesterday my dad would’ve turned 61. It’s been 6 years since he passed away but it never really got easier. It’s a tough reality to accept. The only thing that is supposed to make you feel better is the idea that he’s in a better place now and that he’s watching over you and although that suffices some odd emotional bs emptiness inside, I would much rather have him here in person.
But that’s not possible anymore.
I lost him when I was a senior in high school. At the age of 17, nothing was ever absolute in my life. Whenever there were unforeseen situations that popped up, my dad always found a way to fix it. He was the living proof that when there is a will there is a way. No problem was ever too big to solve. No mountain was ever too tall to climb. He was our family’s Superman and the epitome of the immigrant dream.
I remember when I was by his side in the hospital. He was unconscious and doctors already pronounced him braindead. I remember being angry that he was leaving us. I remember how unfair I felt the whole world was. How is this fair? My dad made it his life mission to do good. How is it fair for my mom to lose her husband, her partner who she was supposed to grow old with? She worked so hard building this family…and now her husband is gone. How is this fair? I remember the anger I felt and the shittiest thing was that I had no one to blame but myself. I blamed myself for not spending more time with him and why I didn’t push him to work less and take care of his health. Sometimes, I wish this whole thing was just a shitty dream and that I still had him around.
I was also angry at the fact that my dad will never see me graduate high school. He will never be able to watch me graduate university. He will never be able to dance with my sister at her wedding. He will never be able to watch my future kids grow up. He will never get the chance to be called grandpa. I will never be able to call him up and ask him for life advice. In a very selfish way, when my dad passed, I was angry at him because he was supposed to be part of my future.
And now, in those milestones, I can only tell his story to my future family through old pictures and fading memories that one day I will not be able to recollect. It is now my responsibility to pass on his legacy. And it is now my job to share his story and that wasn’t the plan.
At the age of 17, I had to grow up quickly. All eyes were on me to take care of my mom and sister. I no longer had the luxury to mess up and fool around. Now my family’s well-being is my responsibility — and that pressure at that age was and still a heavy weight to carry.
And I get reminded a lot that I don’t have a dad anymore. In conversations, people will often refer ask how are my “parents” but I can’t use plural anymore because I only have one now. Small things like that can be tough and it’s those things that act as little needles of reality that I so eagerly want to deny.
I recently turned 24 and my dad still plays a key role in shaping me as I hesitantly transition into adulthood. I often question whether I am the son he would be proud of. And I don’t know that answer — and it definitely bothers me at a certain level.
And it is especially tough to know that no matter how hard I work, my dad will never be able to witness it. Regardless of my successes and accomplishments, I will never be able to see him in the crowd embarrassingly taking pictures with his camera phone or pointing at me and telling people “that’s my son”. I will never get the chance to show my dad that his sacrifice was worth it — and that’s a tough reality to live in. I will never be able to tell my dad I love him — and that’s the reality I have to accept.
It’s probably safe to say that losing a parent at a young age plays a key role in you as a person. Whether it is how I look at my career, how I take risks, how I act, how I approach friendships and romantic relationships, and how I view the world. But that’s the power of death. The idea that we are temporary is a reality we sometimes forget.
And I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by smart and resilient women. I can say objectively that my dad would be proud of my sister. She’s the reason I am able to work on the other side of the continent — because, in the grand scheme of things, she takes care of everything at home. I laugh sometimes because I give her such a hard time as her younger brother growing up. There hasn’t been a sister yet that I’ve seen who will use her full $20 that our parents gave her to buy her brother (me) his Wendy’s hamburger meal because the selfish prick of a brother wanted to save his $20 to play the arcade. What I’m trying to say is that I was an overweight kid because my sister kept feeding me — and not the fact that I was a selfish kid…but I digress.
And while my mom and grandma are getting older, more of my focus is to make sure they can spend the years ahead of them living comfortably. Whether that is buying the family a new house or being there emotionally, I hope I’m making them proud.
If you can take anything away from this long rant of a blog post, it would be to keep your love ones close. No money or success can amount to the time you can spend with family. I’m lucky in many ways that I still have family to call home and it is important that you don’t take that for granted. Don’t be a prick.
So call home.
Now, at the age of 24, I’m striving every day to be a better person and hopefully, through this whole process of growing up, make him proud. Or at least I’m trying.
Happy 61st birthday, dad.
From your son who hopes his future kids will be as proud of their father as he is of you,