This past Christmas, my father spent the festive night getting his gallbladder removed at Kawiia Delta Hospital. Despite being about ten or so years older than Baby Yoda, his health is not the ass-beating Asian father of nine he once was. I remember seeing my father stumble towards the front door the night before Krampus came for his inside cookies. I was sleeping in the living room when I woke up at 4 am to a thumping sound. Thinking it was my brother who was still drunk from a holiday party he and I attended a few hours before, I got up and yelled, “What the fuck you still doing up?” To my surprise, I saw it was my father, pressed against the wall. Between heavy breaths, he told me he was in pain and was making his way outside to meet my sister, who was taking him to the hospital.
I rushed to my father’s aid, escorting him outside by the arm. The early morning was cold as balls. I could feel my father shivering as we carefully made our way down the rain-drenched driveway. When I opened the car door, my father immediately sunk his body into the passenger seat. His eyes were closed, one arm clutching his stomach as the other found its place on the “Oh Shit” handle above the door. Seeing the man, who I thought was the toughest SOB growing up, in pain woke me up to a possible future where my father would die thinking I am a failure.
Growing up, my father was hard on me. Not to sound like the stereotype, but my father is the “typical Asian dad.” Like most Tiger Dads, he yelled at me when my grades fell below A’s (because B is for bitch); instead of getting grounded, I would get my ass beat; and, of course, he wanted me to become *enter my bad impersonation* doctor. He had a plan . . . until I (his firstborn son who had the opportunity to be the first of the family to attend a 4-year university) told him, “fuck all that.”
Of course, I gradually disappointed my father with a soft lie of wanting to become a teacher. If I dropped the news like napalm, he would have had a heart attack from all the shame.
Even if my father wanted to voice his concerns for my questionable career choice, it would have been difficult because of our cultural differences. Typically, an Asian American son would know how his Asian father was feeling from the strength of his backhand. (JK…Kinda) Our relationship was(is) no different. So you can see why I avoided those father-son chats; my ugly face can’t take high-fives anymore. But when we did have our chats, the conversation would usually end with “You could do better,” or “Stop fucking up, dumbass.”
Looking back at it now, it’s probably not what my father intended for me to feel. He was trying to raise me how he knew best, learning from his father before him. But, needless to say, the constant fear of disappointing him put a lot of pressure on me.
Eventually, I stood up to my father and told him how I really felt (like them white kids on ABC Family). Haha PSYCH, no fucking way. I listened to my Asian side and ran away from my feelings, limiting my communication with him and avoided any conversations about my future.
Once my father got the hint, he started backing off. Then my twenties took OFF! Without having to worry about being the perfect Asian son, I was free from the guilt as I frolicked aboutsss in college. All it cost me was a healthy relationship with the man whose sack I swam from.
When you are young, you’re stupid. For real, think about being in your early 20’s and in college. I didn’t give a fuck about another person’s opinion, nor did I care about being some “model minority.” I was living the American Dream, baby. My ego had a BBC, and it was just swingin’ it in the air.
But all of that big dick energy went away on Christmas as I reverted back to a prepubescent teen who was afraid of disappointing his dad.
It’s a shame that it took an exploding gallbladder to make me realize how much of a child I’ve been, a thirty-year-old man-child who thought he could put a pause on time until he was ready to become an adult. But time doesn’t wait for anyone (unless you’re hella rich, then you can do whatever you want). Growing up isn’t a choice for me anymore; it’s a sobering reality.
Facing my father’s morality made me reflect on what I want for my future. I can’t change who I am and all the choices I’ve made in my life. And though I don’t want to be a bad Asian boy anymore, I cannot deny my hopes and dreams as an individual. I suppose, now, all I can hope for is to use the remaining time to make my dad proud by my standards. Or at least pay off my student loans. Come on, Liberal Arts Degree! Digivolve into a money-making machine!
PS, I know I’m not alone when it comes to immigrant children and daddy/mommy issues. Good luck to those out there who are going through the same struggles of finding your own identity.