I think, often, about the fact that my relationship with my husband is the primary and most influential relationship my son and daughter have upon which to model their own future “significant other” relationships. Our marriage, is the way they will learn to communicate – or not. By watching how we interact and soaking in our marital energy, they will learn to be kind and patient with their future significant relationships – or not.
My parents are divorced. My Korean parents, also divorced shortly after I was given up for adoption. Even from the new beginnings of my life, I did not have the best role models on how to function in a happy and healthy marriage. Divorce is so complicated. Yet, it is so common nowadays, that it seems to me the effects of it upon the children of divorce, is taken less seriously than it should be. My parents divorced when I was in my twenties, yet, I still wish that they never did. Family gatherings would be so much easier. Perhaps, healing and forgiving would be easier too. But, this is not the case, so the healing and forgiving has to come from a place deep within.
My relationship with my (American) dad is one that has sometimes been complicated. It started that way. My parents tell me that for a long time after I arrived in America, at the age of three, I would not go near any man, including my new father. (And to my dad’s dismay, the first man I warmed up to was a shoe salesman!) Thus, my dad and I started our dad/daughter relationship upon the insecure foundation that was laid via my Korean father and his lack of loving kindness. I’ve been told horrible stories about the way my Korean dad treated my Korean mom and family. Not a very good modeling of a significant other relationship. I can still recognize the imprint that my first three years of life had upon the way I am in my marriage. I struggle against that imprint, still.
My dad comes from a large Italian-American family and was brought up in a strict Catholic household. Love was shown through basic needs being met; food, clothing and shelter. After his mother, my grandmother died, my dad told me that he wished he had been more loving to us, his six children. I told him it wasn’t too late. But this is the imprint that my dad struggles against, still.
I don’t speak with my dad enough. I’ve gone for months and not spoken to him in the past. Not because we were in a fight – just because it was the norm. Since having my own kids, it bugs me out that we don’t speak often. I think about when my kids are adults and I hope and expect that I will see them and speak with them, regularly. I see friends with relationships like this and I know it’s what I want for my own family.
I have some heroic memories of my dad. One time when I was about eleven years old, I was using the bathroom in our home. One of my typically blockhead preteen neighbors came in to wash his hands while I was using the bathroom. I screamed at him to get out but he wouldn’t. He kept washing his hands and pretending not to look at me. As I continued to scream at him, both my neighbor and I were surprised when, seemingly out of nowhere, my dad came running into the bathroom and snatched the blockhead neighbor out of the bathroom. He came this close to getting a whooping by my dad. Heroic.
My dad and I differ in a lot of ways. Yet, there is something about our relationship that allows me to be more honest with him than many others. Though we may not speak all the time, I know that if I were to need something, he would more than likely be there for me. He’s a clutch dad and that’s a good thing.
No one is perfect, most especially me. Despite, the bumps in the road of our dad/daughter relationship, I know that my dad loves me. I don’t think he ever imagined he would have a Korean daughter before he actually did. And he certainly never imagined that he would have a Black son-in-law and grandchildren. But he has evolved and continues to and what more can I ask for? I believe he is more sensitive than he likes to show. His heart is bigger than we have seen sometimes but I acknowledge that he is human and whether we like it or not, to some extent, we all struggle against the early imprint of our lives.
I never got to re-meet my Korean dad. He died before I found my Korean family when I was 22. I often wonder why he struggled so much with his inner demons. What was the early imprint of his life that he could never overcome? It’s been hard to get answers to these questions. I hope that his spirit is unburdened now.
I had two dads in this lifetime. Neither one perfect. One gone. And one here in the now that I know I can count on. He is Papa to my children, Dad to me and clutch when I need him.