by Jay Kim
It’s one of my favorites because it’s one of the very few I have that includes both of my parents. But really, these are just strangers in this image. That’s my father. We don’t have much of a relationship these days but that’s him, holding me in his arms. That’s my mother, younger than I’ve ever known her. She smiles much more in pictures these days. She smiles much more in real life too. Maybe she’s happier. I like to think she is. And that’s me, small and innocent and mesmerized by the novelty of life, the newness of all things. My hair still sticks up like that if I don’t keep it under control. There we are, one family. Together. This was a completely different time. Probably 1980. I’m not really sure.
My father wrestled with demons throughout his life and lost most times. Maybe he was weak or just weak-willed. Maybe he had no discipline. I’m not certain. I don’t really know the man. From what I’ve heard, he’s still wrestling some of those demons today. My mother left him and took me with her when I was very little. And from what I know, he didn’t put up much of a fight. He never came after us. He never visited. He never showed up dramatically at one of my games or watched me in a talent show from the shadows of the back row. He wrote me a few letters and we shared a few synthetic, monotonous conversations over the phone when I was in high school. He simply let us leave.
I wish I loved my father. I wish I loved him more than I wish he loved me. My mother is incredible. She’s a nominee for sainthood in my book. And she loved me with the love of two parents and then some. She still does. I’ve never felt unloved or not loved enough. My life from as far back as I can remember was filled with love and affection. So I don’t feel cheated or slighted that my father wasn’t around to love me because my mother loved me enough for the both of them. But I wish I loved my father. I don’t though. All I feel is apathy.
I am beginning to realize that this apathy I feel toward my father is a harsh reminder that I am indeed my father’s son. You see, I’ve never gone after him. I’ve never visited. I’ve never shown up dramatically at his doorsteps or watched him from a distance, debating what to say when I finally mustered enough courage to say something. I wrote him a few cards over the years on holidays and shared a few synthetic, monotonous conversations over the phone with him when I was in high school. I’ve simply let him be.
I am indeed my father’s son. I care far less than I should. But today is Father’s Day and I am inspired to change. I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Maybe I’ll write him a letter. Maybe I’ll get his number and call him. Maybe my wife and I will plan a trip to go see him in the next few months. I believe fathers and sons are reflections. Sons see their fathers, reflect their fathers, and become their fathers. But maybe it works the other way around too. Maybe a father can see his son, reflect his son, and become his son. Maybe we all have demons we’re wrestling. Maybe my father and I are in some ways wrestling the same demon. And maybe, after all these years of wrestling with alcoholism, addiction, and apathy, he and I, my father and I, can beat this thing together.