“Oh Father…You never wanted to live that way. You never wanted to hurt me. Why am I running away?”
“Oh Father” by Madonna
Two years, two months, and 20 days have passed since I last saw my father. This weekend commemorates Father’s Day, a sobering reminder that my father has not been physically present in my life. However, he still remains occupied in my thoughts on a daily basis since then.
My last moments with my father came when I hastily loaded all of my belongings into my car. My mom had just moved out the month before, and I was the next one to leave the house that was a part of our family for 25 years. My father, motionlessly, sat down in the kitchen as he gazed out the window. He looked away from me as I was retrieving nearly all of my lifelong possessions that decorated my room since I was 4. He didn’t say a word as I was hurrying up and down the stairs. As I grabbed the last of my possessions, he said to me, “I feel so lonely.” I went into a rage, and screamed, “THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED!” I slammed my car trunk down, and drove off. As I looked into the rear view mirror, I saw the garage door closing. It was the final chapter of my life in Westmont as I didn’t bother to say goodbye to a home that carried many joyful moments, but also the toxicity and darkness that permeated within our family, specifically with my father.
As the days, weeks, and months would pass since I left Westmont, I couldn’t escape the anger and resentment that I still have towards my father. To deal with a man whose life was marred by endless tragedies (I.E. losing his mother as a child, Vietnam War, escaping the Cambodian genocide, among others), and forever scarred by it, comes with great sadness that I have for him. Yet at the same time, his inability to process through the trauma has hurt the many relationships he had in his life, including his family. His rampant negativity, verbal abuse, and difficulties in dealing with others have made him far less accessible as a person, and nearly impossible to keep my relationship with him intact. Like many folks that suffer from PTSD, he also has a lack of awareness in the harm that he’s created towards the people he loves as he displaced his own past trauma onto us.
It’s Father’s Day weekend, and again, I am emotionally triggered by my past experiences with my father, and the reality that I am still nowhere near the point of wanting to communicate with him. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Khmer New Years–those are also quite inconvenient triggers for me when I am reminded that my family is not there altogether. Forgive him? How could I if he hasn’t apologized or not even recognize the harm he’s done? As I scroll down my Facebook feed and see the photos and loving posts of my friends’ fathers, I can’t ignore the void of not having my father in my life, and knowing that he is, both unwell and mentally inaccessible. For me, to communicate with my father is like remembering the feeling of my old wounds that have not healed, and the fear of creating new ones.
The truth is, that I still love my father but my fear is protecting me from saying that to him. To love him is like injecting new pain into my consciousness. I have watched my mom who loved him for all those years, and had to deal with his abuse, nearly losing her life for him. As another Father’s Day passes, and the holidays that will soon follow, I am uncertain if my dad will ever wake up from his lifelong nightmare, and know that I’m out here waiting for him.