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Peng to the Point

Goodbye, Dad

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Sheng Peng, Chao-Hsiung Peng
Sheng Peng & Chao-Hsiung Peng

This was originally published on July 26, 2020. Today is the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s death.

My Dad died four Fridays ago.

When I was a kid, he wasn’t around much. I was born in Taiwan, but when my family immigrated to the Los Angeles area when I was one, he stayed behind for work.

Growing up, he was an occasional presence in my life. He would visit a couple months a year. Essentially, I felt like I grew up without a father.

But when he passed, at 78, I couldn’t help but recall the pure joy that I felt as a child when he visited. I remember when I was nine, on seeing his car arrive from the airport, literally jumping into my older brother’s arms.

It’s obvious that I really needed my dad there and he wasn’t.

Instead, I played baseball by myself, tossing plastic bottle caps to myself, swinging for the fence between my house and Mr. Rudolf’s. I played hockey by myself, teetering on strap-on roller skates that didn’t have any straps, slapping a tennis ball with a curtain rod.

Coincidence or not, I became a lonely and sullen teenager. Not coincidentally, my Dad’s visits didn’t mean as much anymore.

We cremated my Dad two Fridays ago. He had long retired and was splitting his time between Taiwan and the US. Regardless, the gap between us had grown wider.

I never picked up enough Chinese to communicate easily with him. He became almost deaf, but refused to put on his hearing aid most of the time. Picture a 38-year-old man screaming, in broken Chinese, at a wall. That was most of our conversations.

I’d like to think that made him as sad as it made me.

It wasn’t always like this though.

When I was kid, he knew how much I loved sports. He bought me my first baseball bat. I still wear a soccer goalie jersey (it’s very warm) that he gave me when I was teenager. He played catch with me when I wanted.

That was my Dad, trying to bridge the gap between us, before he gave up.

Is it enough to know that he loved me, if not well? Is it enough, that I think he knew I loved him, if not well?

I’ll be grappling with these questions for the rest of my life.

It’s complicated — but that’s okay.

This much is not complicated: I’ll miss you, Dad. I love you.

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Kristian

My condolences, Sheng. I hope your perseverance in launching this site while going through a personal tragedy can become a token of connection to your Dad and will bring you some solace.

I feel immensely humbled by your willingness to share such a personal story with your readers.

nitetothemare

I have a complicated parent relationship, as well. This article speaks volumes to me. I truly feel for you.

I hope you find your peace within the good memories, Sheng.

Gary To

My deepest condolences Sheng…as a father for the past three years, I am touched and loss for words from you honesty in this post. Take care.

david barnard

one of the best lines from a movie (“A River Runs Through It”): [the Reverend Maclean] “…Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.” My father was very present in my life, but I don’t believe I fully appreciated him or that fact until I worked thru my own “daddy issues” as I believe almost every… Read more »

anon

I’m Asian American and also have a tumultuous relationship with my dad. Similar to you, there’s a hurdle in verbal communication that makes forming a positive relationship that much harder. The relationship I have with him has really changed my PoV on family and just the way I see humanity in general. While I can’t be sure if we can ever have a normal relationship, this piece is another reminder that I should eventually clarify things with him so that he knows where he and I stand, both good and bad. Instead of letting him wonder if I completely hate… Read more »

Alaskan_ice

Sheng, your honesty and openness are appreciated. I lost my father 25 years ago and I miss him dearly. I do all I can to be as much like him as possible.
I’m sorry for your loss.

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