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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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